New York's oldest estate winery invites the public to enjoy a Sunday morning walk among the grapes.
Frederick Johnson Jr., owner of Johnson Estate Winery, with his wife, Jennifer, the former president of the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, are inviting guests to get to know the place where the magic of winemaking happens.
The duo are hosting numerous events throughout the summer for wine lovers, and they also keep the tasting room open seven days a week for those who just want to pop a cork and say "hi."
Johnson Estate Winery owner, Frederick Johnson Jr., is pictured with guests on a Sunday morning vineyard tour.
One event that guests can enjoy through the summer is the Sunday Vineyard Walk. It is a 2 1/2 mile walk around the vineyard with Johnson. On the tour he will answer questions, and show guests the process of getting grapes from the vine to the bottle. The walks are scheduled on Sunday mornings at 9:30 and run through August. Current scheduled dates include July 15, 22, 29 and Aug. 5 and 12. Reservations are required.
"These walks are a little less formal," said Johnson. "People often wander about winery tours, and to me they aren't that interesting. But, we have a very beautiful farm that looks out over Lake Erie. So, to meet that demand of tours I figured why not work it into my Sunday morning walk. I do my 2 1/2 mile lap every morning to check on the grapes, so why not have guests walk along with me on Sundays? The tour is mostly about people asking questions, and there are no dumb questions. So, it usually keeps the conversation going the whole way round. If you're not going to church Sunday morning, it's as pleasant and nice a way to meet Mother Nature as you can imagine."
After taking a walk through the vineyard, guests are invited to enjoy a brunch with refreshments and wine tasting. Bring appropriate shoes for this event.
There is also an 'in the vineyards wine tasting' called the 'What's Terroir' class. The class is offered through a special studies program of Chautauqua Institution. Interested participants may register at ciweb.org. A bus starts at Chautauqua Institution with geological historian and naturalist, Mark Baldwin, from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, as host. The event includes an afternoon walk with food and wine pairings in the field.
"We set up tasting tables at three or four places in the vineyards," said Johnson. "The winemaker and I go around, and I explain how the grapes are grown, and he explains how the wine is made, and then you can taste the wine that's made from that particular vineyard."
The class is usually held on Thursdays with the next few scheduled for July 12, 19, 26 and Aug. 16.
"It's the full thing of wine making," said Johnson. "The fellow from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute gets on the bus with everybody at the Chautauqua (Institution), and he gives them a lecture on geology and micro-climate. Then we give them a little bit of the history of the place, a wine tasting and a walking wine tasting. The idea is that by the time they get out we've shown them 'What's Terroir,' which is the French word for the character of the land in the wine. A landscape painter will give you a representation of the spirit of the place through a canvas and paint, and a winemaker and a grape grower will give you the same thing through the taste of a wine."
The event is a great opportunity to learn more about how wine is produced locally, for budding winemakers and wine fans alike, according to Johnson.
"Plus people who just like wine and want to know more about it, or want to know about grape growing or wine making in this region," said Johnson. "Or, if they are at the Institution and want to get out to see what the wine industry here is all about. We get people who are very knowledgeable and people who are just out for a walk in the vineyards and like wine."
There is another event scheduled for July 27 entitled "Summer Locavore Wine Pairing Supper." Guests are invited to stroll in the gardens and vineyards at Johnson Estate Winery with a glass of locally grown and made Johnson Estate Wine. At 7:30 p.m., guests move into the renovated tasting room where tasting stations will present a series of six food and wine pairings from local sources. Examples include: local beef, chicken, fruits and vegetables. Tickets are $35 per person.
For a full calendar of events at Johnson Estate Winery visit johnsonwinery.com, or for more information call 326-2191.
Johnson Estate Winery is the oldest estate winery in New York state. Johnson's grandfather, Frederick Johnson, bought the farm from the original owners more than a century ago in 1908. Johnson's father, Frederick Spencer Johnson, then established Johnson Estate Winery in 1961. And, according to johnsonwinery.com, he was amongst the first in the area to plant wine grapes on a commercial basis, securing the position as the oldest estate winery in New York state.
Now in its third generation, Johnson continues the traditions his ancestors started, and improves upon them when needed. One improvement Johnson and his wife have brought to the winery is the renovated wine-tasting room in celebration of the winery's 50th anniversary. The tasting room is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and includes complimentary samples with the exception of a $1 fee for ice wines, port, sherry and sparkling wines. A wine tasting menu is available on the website.
Johnson Estate Winery is located at 8419 West Main Road, (Route 20) in Westfield.