Winemaker Robin Ross
Leading the way on the Niagara Wine Trail
Photo by kc kratt
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards
4746 Town Line Road, Lockport, 434-8030
You’d be hard pressed to find a better Buffalo Niagara region booster than Robin Ross. For starters, there’s her cooperative attitude about providing grapes to start-up wineries near Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, the farm, wine production facility, and tasting room she and her husband run. That’s backed up by her happy assertion that the region’s burgeoning craft beverage scene also benefits winemakers and winesellers. Put it all together, and she’s a one-woman crusade for making the region a more appealing tourist destination and a better place for businesses to start and grow.
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards is located in Lockport, on the Niagara Escarpment, in a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA). There, among about twenty other wineries in the area, she and her husband Duncan are nearing completion of a brand new 7,000-square-foot facility, increasing production, storage, tasting, and retail space by seven times. They’ve also recently purchased an additional twenty-three acres of land.
They grow cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, riesling, syrah, and tempranillo grapes. And they make cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, ice, meritage, pinot noir, riesling, rosé, and syrah wines.
“We’re doing well. We also want to help the region, so we needed more space all around,” says Ross. “It is an investment to plant and grow; compared to Canada and the Finger Lakes region, there’s not a lot of vinifera [traditional wine grapes] growing here. It can be up to five years for a new winery from planting to being able to sell your first bottle. Because we already have the land and equipment, we can produce more grapes to help supply others who may be starting out.”
As for the new building, the hope is that it will increase Arrowhead Spring’s visibility, as well as both drop-in and scheduled traffic. “Before, our tasting room was at the end of a long gravel driveway; larger busses couldn’t navigate it, and some tourists couldn’t tell it was there. Now, more people can notice the building; it’s closer to the road,” she notes. “About 3,000 people a day drive past here.”
Noting the growth in the city of Buffalo, she welcomes new businesses. “The Buffalo region is being noticed. And it’s great if people are visiting for the breweries, architecture, and waterfront—wineries are part of the equation,” she says. “When there are more wineries, and more people coming to stay in hotels, using local transportation, going out to dinner…that’s to all of our advantage; it boosts the region. I’d like to see them stay a week or two because there’s so much to do, see, and taste.”
The growth of the craft beverage industry, specifically brewing beer and making spirits, is also symbiotic, believes Ross. “When people go out to try craft beverages, there may be wine drinkers in the crowd,” she says. “We’re selling to more local bars, restaurants, and stores. Resurgence and Big Ditch are carrying our products. It’s been wonderful.”
While Arrowhead Spring wines are gaining recognition in other parts of the country, and winning points with judges in competitions they enter, it’s harder to get big-time media attention. “The New York Wine & Grape Foundation is working to build interest in New York State wines,” she notes. “You used to be able to just submit your wine for review to magazines like Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast. Now it’s by invitation. In the future we will see wines from our area in those publications.”
Jana Eisenberg is a frequent contributor to Spree.