Medina Journal-Register — A potential change of the Niagara WIne Trail would allow both Orleans County wineries to reap many of the same benefits that their partners in Niagara County receive.
A bill currently being considered in the State Assembly’s transportation committee would alter the scope of the Niagara Wine Trail to encompass Route 18 and Route 104 between the western end of Niagara County and the 390 in Monroe County. The State Senate passed an identical measure this week.
Such a change would greatly benefit Schwenk Wine Cellars, the oldest winery in Orleans County. The Kent winery sits in the short distance between Route 18 and Lake Ontario, the perfect spot to grow and harvest eight acres of grapes but far removed from the current 16-member trail.
According to officials from the Niagara Wine Trail, pushing the trail eastward would bring more visitors from both Buffalo and Rochester to local wineries and allow for bigger events. The trail has shifted four times to adapt to a growing crop of wine producers along the good soils of the Niagara escarpment.
“It would bring in more people, give them more to do and keep them here longer,” Wendi Oakes Wilson said.
Winemaker and owner Paul Schwenk, who has operated the Bills Road winery since 1992, said he’d like to expand the winery’s tasting room, a decision that would be made far easier with more traffic.
“We have a small tasting room, Schwenk told county legislators Wednesday. “Too small.”
Thursday, Schwenk had a few visitors stop by, including a couple from Texas making their way to Niagara Falls to see Nik Wallenda’s cross-falls tightrope walk.
“They didn’t know there’s anything like this up here,” Schwenk said. “I told them they ought to see what there is in Niagara County.”
The addition of more road signage and teamwork between wineries would expand on that type of recommendation. According to Margo Bittner of Marjim Manor, there’s something unique to find at every local winery.
“We all have a different take on wine,” she said.
Schwenk combines rieslings grown on 32 acres in Dunkirk with red grapes he grows in Kent in addition to a variety of ruit wines.
“We have 19 wines, I wouldn’t want to be much bigger,” Schwenk said.
But an expanded tasting room and a larger trail is change that he and wine trail members support.
“We want it to be a wine country ... one of the ways Orleans County can grow is agri-tourism,” Wilson said.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.