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A Grape Guide: What goes into our wines

Our region may be one of the most diverse grape-growing regions in the world


It wouldn’t be an overstatement to declare that between Niagara USA and Ontario, the Finger Lakes, and Lake Erie, our region may be one of the most diverse grape-growing regions in the world. Every season brings new varieties and more hope that established varieties will help the region infiltrate the consciousness of the global wine world. Here are a few examples of what goes into our wines.





This grape achieves greatness throughout our region, since our cool climate preserves the fresh acidity and delicate fruit flavors we’ve come to expect from the noble grape of Germany.



Cabernet Franc

This grape’s polarizing nature works for our region; it consistently draws the line in the sand between savory, earthy, vegetative flavors and ripe and ready fruit bombs.



Pinot Noir

The heartbreak grape doesn’t discriminate between the Finger Lakes or Ontario. Many have tried, but so few (though ever growing) have convinced the rest of the world that our region could be the scene of the next gold rush for pinot.




We give the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd some fuel for the fire with traditional and unoaked versions of the world’s most ubiquitous white grape. Our chards have less alcohol and more natural acidity.






The grape so nice they named it twice, Niagara from Niagara is vitis labrusca—a whole different species than those European grapes. Its natural acidity is usually made tolerable by adding sugar.




Think pink. Whether it’s Red Cat, Rosebud Red, Ruby, or the groundbreaking Catawba Block Three Icewine from Schulze Vineyards, Catawba is the most recognizable grape in the sweet wine game.






The workhorse of the Canadian icewine movement has spread to New York, with some unconventional interpretations in the form of off-dry table whites and even dry sparklers.




Negative twenty degrees is no problem for this University of Minnesota-bred grape whose wines may be as close to drinking the blood of a Viking as any of us will ever get.




Move over gewurtztraminer, this French-American hybrid is a Cornell alum, can stand much colder temperatures, and has an immune system that puts its parent grape to shame while still expressing its essence.





Blaufrankisch, AKA Lemberger

From Austria, this peppery red grape yields dark, juicy, soft youthful wines.




The grape whose name translates literally into “paint, die” makes up one of the most sought-after wine-club wines in the region—McGregor’s Black Russian Red. Chateau Niagara Winery is also experimenting with this Georgian-born red grape.




Schulze Vineyards on the shore of Lake Ontario may be one of the only wineries in the states to commercially produce wines from the Geisenheim-bred grape, whose wines are similar to riesling with more apple and confectionery flavors.   


Winemaker Bryan Calandrelli writes on wine for several local publications as well as for Spree.



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