The Stephen T. Colbert Memorial: Better Know an AVA

Niagara Escarpment AVA

Yes, I know… in theory we should start with Augusta in Missouri… but there is a method to my madness.

The Niagara Escarpment is the area that I grew up in. At the time of my childhood, the majority of grapes grown were for eating and juice, but there were individuals making wine for their own personal consumption… everyone in the semi-rural area that I grew up with knew someone making wine, whether it was from their own grapes or not. In my case, it was my father, who worked diligently to make his own selections of wine and sherry stored in leftover glass bottles and even Tupperware for any number of years… Where it suffered the warm summers and frigid winters of Western New York.

The Escarpment is a almost ideal as a terroir as the French have defined. The region has shared qualities of elevation, geology, geography, mesoclimate and soil type. These are the defining characteristics of location… From the French perspective, we Americans fail in issues of aspect, vineyard management practice and vinification, but these are less important than place to the ATF or as we refer to it now, the TTB.

An escarpment in general is a transition zone between zones of different geology. The variations in the zones are observed as cliffs that age at their own individual rates. Western New York is unusual in that it is crossed by two separate escarpments, the Onodaga which runs from nearly Albany to Detroit through New York and Southern Ontario approximately 25 miles south of the Niagara

Niagara is more prominent, and runs from Rochester through Niagara County forming the cliff over which Niagara Falls flows through Canada’s Niagara Peninsula and then up through Ontario into Lake Huron, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lake Michigan, Door County Wisconsin and finally to the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

The Niagara Escarpment AVA was created in 2005. The region has always produced large amounts of fruit including grapes and wineries have existed there since the 19th century. Since the 1990s the number of wineries in the AVA and the surrounding area have increased and include:

The Winery at Marjim Manor

Schulze Vineyards & Winery
Chiappone Cellars Winery
Warm Lake Estate
Niagara Landing Wine Cellars
Spring Lake Winery
Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms
Freedom Run Winery
Eveningside Vineyards
Honeymoon Trail Winery
Arrowhead Spring Vineyard
Chateau Buffalo

Over the weekend, I will hopefully visit as many of these Escarpment wineries as I can fit in while attending my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

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