Road Trip to Westfield, NY – A Visit to 21 Brix Winery

We woke up on our second day in Westfield to beautiful, sunny skies.

After a great night’s sleep and a tasty breakfast at Barcelona Lakeside B&B, we decided to cross the street, and take in the views of Lake Erie

….and the historic lighthouse.

But we didn’t dally for long, as we had a full day scheduled. First up, a tour and tasting at 21 Brix Winery. Then we were planning to drive into Jamestown to visit the Lucy-Desi Museum. Wine and Lucy sounds like a fun day, huh?

We passed rows and rows of grapevines on our drive. Just like back home.

When we saw Ella, we knew we had arrived at the right spot.

The history of 21 Brix dates back to the 1960’s, when the Jordan family purchased a 12 acre Concord grape farm. Under the name of Olde Chautauqua Farms, it has grown to become one of the largest wine grape farms in the region. They manage over 225 acres of grapes and sixteen varieties, which include: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Cayuga, Seyval, Vidal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Noiret, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Lemberger, Pinot Noir, Niagara, and Concord. There were a couple of grape varieties in this list that were new to me  – Cayuga and Noiret. I discovered that both were developed by Cornell University, with the Noiret just being released in 2006

I was looking forward to trying some of these new-to-me-wines, and tasting the 21 Brix version of my cherished Chardonnay.

We were welcomed so very warmly by Kris Kane, the winemaker at 21 Brix.

I knew Kris and I were going to get along very well, when he mentioned his love for Chardonnay. Something about this particular grape brings out the passion in those of us who love it, it seems.

But I think all of his grapes bring that out in him, and his enthusiasm for his chosen profession was evident from the moment we met. This dedication was rewarded when he was recently listed as one of the 100 most influential winemakers in the United States.

Funnily enough, Kris didn’t intend to become a winemaker. Though his family owns Olde Chautauqua Farms, and he had worked there for years, he went to college as a Biology and Pre-Med major, with thoughts of becoming a chiropractor or massage therapist. However, as he kept working on the farm during school breaks, he realized that his true love was to be in the vineyard.

His schooling still comes in handy, I’m sure. Those massage therapy skills could still be put to good use after a long day in the vineyard.

Kris gave us a fantastic tour, and he was such a pleasure to chat with.

But the part that definitely was the highlight for me?

Sampling his Chardonnay right out of the tank.

He even let me get my own sample.

It was quite cold in the tank room, so Kris suggested we let the Chardonnay warm up a bit. As it did, we talked some more about our love for Chardonnay….

….and about the other wines they produce. 21 Brix produces a variety of red and white wines, plus some fruit wines, and a Vidal Icewine. Now, the Icewine has an interesting story. When I met Nicole, Kris’ wife, she told me that Icewine harvest even played a small part in their engagement story. The night that Kris proposed, he ended up having to quickly dash out to help with the Icewine harvest.

The life of a winemaker.

It’s certainly a  dedicated one – for both Kris and Nicole. Maybe especially Nicole.

As we continued to warm our Chardonnay, I asked Kris about the story of Ella.

Ella the Elephant is the mascot of 21 Brix, and is the pink elephant that stands guard in front of the winery. She also is the face of their House Wines – Ella’s Red, Ella’s White, Ellatawba, and the Thirsty Elephant.

Well, I imagine she would get thirsty, guarding a winery all day, right?

I was getting a bit thirsty, myself, so we finally sampled the Chardonnay. Even at this stage, just out of the tank it was lovely.

Seriously, friends. All Hail Cool Climate Chardonnay.

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you.

Yes, I love my Chardonnay. But I also wanted to try some of the grapes that are new to me, so Kris poured his Marquis for me to sample.

This one was very interesting. Made from Marquis grapes – which are a seedless white grape – that I had never heard of before. The wine was refreshing and fruity, and would make a really nice patio sipper on a hot summer day. Extremely budget-friendly too, at just under ten dollars a bottle.

I also got to try the Noiret, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, both from the 2015 vintage.

Then I had the tough decision of what to buy and bring home. I knew I could only take a few bottles, due to the border crossing in a couple of days.

That’s a whole other issue though, isn’t it.

I settled on the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Marquis. If I didn’t have the border to contend with, there definitely would have been more.

One other thing I’ll mention about 21 Brix is the vibe. Relaxed, welcoming, and friendly, it’s a spot you’d definitely want to hang out in. They have lots of events going on, including their popular Soup Sundays in the winter, and Beats at the Brix, which is a monthly music series. Then there’s their Easter Egg Hunt, which is a much sought-after ticket in the area. This year, tickets were all sold out in just over 24 hours, and I’m told it’s an incredible event, full of wine, laughter, and of course, Easter eggs.

If you’re ever in the area, you really need to stop in. Make sure you say hi to Ella too.

At this point, we had to say our good-byes and get on our way, with the drive to Jamestown ahead of us….

…but this will be continued. I’ve got one more post to come about our Westfield adventures.