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Saturday, September 7, 2019

From Vines to Wines in Lake Erie Wine Country, PA

Mazza Winery
A few weeks back, I was extremely lucky to explore the beautiful Lake Erie Wine Country in Pennsylvania. We toured, sampled and learned everything that goes into the delicious liquid gold (wine) we drink. After spending a few days with the Mazza family, they truly made our small group of writers feel like part of their family. They started with a small single vineyard and have grown to five locations featuring dozens of products, including wines, spirits and craft beers! Their various locations sit on the largest contiguous, farm to farm of vineyards, east of the Rockies!
I was hosted as part of a Press Trip to help facilitate my review. I was not required to write a positive experience. All thoughts, opinions and photos are my own. 
Our first stop was to visit Micheal Moorhead, on his 100 acre vineyard. He was extremely passionate about his crop, as he showcased, demonstrated and walked us around some of his blooming rows of grapes. It is so vital we understand not just the packaged version of a drink we consume but also the many hands in which prepare it for us. From climate change, pesticides to the different variety of grapes, he was willing to entertain our vast questions while still managing to captivate us with this years yield. 
A life of a farm is never easy. Some years the soil, weather, area conditions fall into place and others years farmers struggle to make ends meat. It is so important, as consumers, that we remember farmers are key to our livelihood. Simple things like buying local can mean the difference between a flourishing community and a ghost town.
 From these vines, grapes are transported to the Mazza Wineries and made into different varieties of wine. We tasted some Sparkling Wine (pictured above) on our very first day. I have to say each are enjoyable but if I had to pick my favorite I would recommend, South Shore Sparkling Chardonnay. 
Fun Fact: "Mazza was the first Pennsylvania winery this side of Canada to pioneer ice wine, a rare and distinct wine that results from pressing grapes while they are still frozen."
Have a sweet tooth?? Some of the states still do not have the luxury of Ice Wine or Late Harvest Wine, like many of us Northerners. I will let you in on a little secret it's delicious! In order to procure such a sweet liquid dessert one must allow the grapes to chill on the vine under 17F or colder before harvesting. While visiting the Mazza Winery we tasted several of their Ice wines and I have to say the 2016 Ice Wine was my favorite!!
 Vines to wines to a brewery and spirits?? The venture from wines to a brewery is not completely unheard of but in this area it was pretty new. Our final stop on the trip was to their last (newest) location, Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing located in Westfield, NY. It may seem odd that we jumped the state border PA to NY) but I assure you it is a simple drive maybe 20 minute between locations. The Wine Country trail continues down into Dunkirk, NY if you are interested! 
Rather impressive to see the next generation of the Mazza family help grow with the times and add beer and spirits to their extensive list of products. What impresses me more is the absolute desire to source locally, and put out little to no waste in the process. Meet Chester Copper pot and Dr. Van-done (pictured above) the magic machines behind the brewing and spirit making. 
 The human masterminds behind the new innovations are (left to right), Paul Alessi – Brewer, Mario Mazza - General Manager, Enologist and Joe Nelson – Distiller. This crew is passionate, inventive and determined to keep with the times by tasting, making and supplying new creations. All while making sure quality is at the forefront of their daily operations. The locals have even named this particular location as “The Westfield Wonder.”
While at Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing might I also suggest a stop into the seasonal Bird cafe? Chef Dan Kern is by far one of the most talented young culinary chefs to grace my palate. From his innovative flavor profiles, to his passion of authentic ingredients, his plates are both delicious and visually creative! Seriously, pull up a chair and let him whip you up a little tasty treat....you will thank me later!
 Sourcing locally just does not seem to be enough, The Mazza family takes it a few steps further by caring about the environment. Our very last stop consisted of a stop at the TimberFish Technology, Aquatic Ecosystem setup. While I will be dedicating a full post explaining a more in depth explanation of what this actually does the shear ideal of taking waste from the brewery and making it into something viable is ground breaking! 
I took so much away from the experiences and places we visited. There is far more going on behind the cellars at the Mazza locations than just alcoholic beverages. It was inspiring to see generations working along side one another to create successful innovations. Each person on the Mazza team are passionate about the business, products and community they operate in. 
Why not road trip and visit them?!
What kind of wine do you prefer??
Ever been on a Wine trail (let us know in the comments below)?
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