IF YOU GO
WHAT: The “Wine Train” to the Railroad Museum in Medina and the Spring Lake Winery in Lockport
WHEN: Trains depart at 10 a.m. the last Sunday of every month through October (reservations required)
WHERE: Michigan Street and Park Avenue, Lockport
MORE INFORMATION: Call 439-5253
By Ed Adamczyk
It was an evocative and romantic adventure involving a ride on an old train, an alfresco lunch on a sun-swept estate and a glass of wine.
A memorable experience, it unleashed the sophisticated European in me and occurred last week in an exotic and mysterious land known as Niagara County. It’s known as “The Wine Train,” a monthly production of Lockport’s Spring Lake Winery that includes breakfast, lunch, music and wine sampling, steps away from the vineyard of Riesling grapes growing behind the winery.
And, yes, you arrive by train. A train with aluminum-sided 1947-vintage railroad cars, still marked New York Central Railroad, pulls away from the small station at Michigan Street and Park Avenue in Lockport and comfortably heads east across Niagara County for a 17-mile trip to the Railroad Museum in Medina.
Along the way is a spectacular overhead view of the Erie Canal’s Locks 34 and 35 from the notable “Upside Down Bridge” built in 1902. The train then travels back to the winery.
That’s when a you’re-in-Tuscany-now vibe sets in. Departing the train, which has tracks that run behind the winery, visitors walk past 12 acres of grapes to the main building and to a bucolic greensward sloping down to an eight-acre lake. It’s time for a meal and an opportunity to sample some wine.
The Spring Lake Winery, one of 12 in Niagara County, provides an impressive setting for a day-long excursion such as this. On what was once a gravel pit, grapes are growing, music is playing, wine is being made and consumed with lunch. It feels like a scene from some Italian movie.
It’s what’s considered a “boutique winery”.
“We make 2,000 gallons a year,” said Dr. Nicholas Varallo, who operates the winery with his family. “Four different kinds of Riesling and a pinot noir. New York state makes an excellent Riesling and a good chardonnay. In the next three years, we hope to make 10,000 cases a year to market to Asia, among other places.”
There is also ice wine, the sweet delicacy appropriate to the late growing season in Western New York. “No one can make ice wine the way we can,” said his wife Tamre.
On a warm and sunny day such as this one, no one was thinking about ice wine. We were wandering around the walking paths, hanging around the “tasting room” and strolling through a beautiful and pastoral surrounding, wine glasses in hand. There were chairs on the lawn aimed a gazebo, from the two weddings that had occurred there the day before.
We eventually wandered back to the train, wondering if we dreamed this and already making plans to return.
Ed Adamczyk is a freelance writer from Kenmore.
Ed Adamczyk, Spring Lake Winery, Niagara vineyards
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