I’ve always loved just getting in the car and driving off for an adventure.
This is something that goes all the way back to my childhood. When I was little, my parents used to take my sister and I on extended summer car trips. For these mini family vacations, we would all pile in the car and ramble off to places like Ottawa or Kingston, or hop across the border to small cities like Watertown or Corning. One thing that stands out in my mind to this very day was how my parents always made these road trips sound tremendously exciting. I remember sitting around the dining room table, listening to them planning and discussing possible places to visit. There were always lots of brochures scattered around, and I would happily eavesdrop while they talked about the pros and cons of several possible locations. I was certain that I was about to head off on the greatest adventure a five year old could have.
After the itinerary was finalized, I remember asking my mother exactly how many more sleeps until we left on this fascinating expedition. I remember telling my friends that I was going to “Watertown!” or “Ottawa!”, and they would confirm that I really was the luckiest little girl. I also remember my mother packing sandwiches, snacks and flasks of Kool-Aid to sustain us on the car trip. Hey, it was the ’70’s – we always brought our lunch with us, and I thought Kool-Aid was pretty awesome.
And to this day, I still love road trips.
I just don’t bring Kool-Aid along with me anymore
So a couple of weeks ago, Ken and I ventured off on a road trip of our own across the border. Our intended destination was Westfield, New York which is about an hour outside of Buffalo.
Why Westfield, you may ask?
Well, first, because it’s a central location for discovering Lake Erie Wine Country.
There are twenty two wineries in the region, and as I only had a couple of days, I barely scratched the surface. The three spots we visited, though, were all unique in their own way.
The first was a combined winery, brewery, and distillery.
Mazza Chautauqua Cellars and Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing are all under one roof here. Isn’t this brilliant? That’s one of the things I find so interesting in travelling to other wine regions. I love seeing people coming up with new ideas, being inventive and creative. I’m pretty sure we’re not able to have things like this here in Ontario due to government regulations, but I wish we could.
You may want to know how this beverage collaboration came about.
Mazza Vineyards originally opened in 1972, and has been producing Lake Erie wines of distinction since it opened its doors. In 2005, Mazza Chautauqua – its sister winery – was established, with a small craft distilling operation attached to it. This was done in order to produce eau de vie, grappa, and spirits for Mazza’s fortified wines. Demand for the these products grew, so it seemed the next logical step was to expand the distillery. They expanded even further in 2015, with the addition of the brewery to their facility – So Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing was born.
The winery, brewery, and distillery operations work with area farmers to source local products, and they proudly follow a “grain to glass” approach. Small batch production is their focus, which enables them to be creative, flexible, and attentive to every detail. Their grain to glass model also makes them able to provide a true taste of their region in their wine, beer and spirits.
I was very eager to visit and get a taste – literally – of all the goodness they offer.
But I’ve gotta tell you, there was one surprising thing that happened.
….I didn’t get to sample much wine.
I know. You’re shocked. So am I. It’s not that I didn’t want to – I mean really, ME, not sample wine? But as I had the pleasure of talking to Jimmy, their brewer, and Joe, their distiller, I got a little carried away in the brewing and distilling side of things.
But it was a good thing to get carried away in.
Jimmy and Joe were right in the tasting area as I arrived, so we quickly got to chatting.
Jimmy poured me a sample of his Rhiskey Business Pale Ale to get me started. This is a Rye Pale Ale, which is aged for seven months in freshly emptied Five & 20 Rye Whiskey barrels.
Let’s all stop for a minute and swoon a little.
Gosh, it’s good. If you are intrigued by the idea of using whiskey barrels for aging beer – as I am – then you might like the sound of their Stout Lucia too. This is their stout, which is aged for six months in five, seven, and nine year old dark St. Lucian rum barrels.
With my Rhiskey Business Pale Ale in hand, I went into the production area with Jimmy and Joe. Joe walked me through the distilling process
Jimmy joined in, and explained his beer production process too.
We entered the room of gloriousness.
The storage area, which smelled utterly, utterly incredible. All that Angel’s Share wafting around the room made it a heavenly spot, indeed.
I wanted to pick up a harp myself, and join the celestial chorus.
Alas, there were no harps around, and I didn’t want the guys to have to listen to me sing. So we went back into the tasting room.
Where I started off with their Bier Schnapps, which I was looking forward to sampling. I hadn’t had bier schnapps since my last trip to Germany.
Then I had small samples of their different whiskeys.
I really wanted to try the bourbon too, but between the beer, and the schnapps, and the whiskey, thought my palate might not be so fresh for it.
Next visit, I’ll sample the wine and the bourbon.
If you’re in the area, I definitely recommend you stop in for a tasting.
More to come in the next post….