Beth and I drove out to visit my sister and her family last week. It’s a good 7 hour or so drive from our house to Amherst, NY. For the last couple years, we’ve flown, but this time, considering we were on vacation, we decided to take our time, enjoy a road trip, and a visit! Plus, we’d have our car with us when we got there. But these days, with COVID and travel restrictions, we couldn’t be certain of our trip until the last minute. But Massachusetts’ travel restrictions allowed travel to NY so off we went. There was also the discussion about whether or not to stay with my sister. We could do a hotel, but it definitely cuts into a budget! Thankfully, her family is keeping pretty strict with stay-at-home orders, and my nephew has been wearing his mask and getting tested regularly since he attends outside events and rallies. So we felt safe!
Family adventures, always fun!
It was so nice to get together with family! A few steps we took that weren’t as much fun: no hugs, and we ate meals at separate tables. But being able to sit and chat, play Jackbox with the whole family, and drive around various neighborhoods, felt like SUCH a break after being pretty much isolated since March. My sister also informed me that a few of the local wineries were now open. So we planned a must-visit for the second day we were there (the only day predicted to be without rain). Saturday afternoon, we headed out to Niagara Landing Wine Cellars in Lockport, just a few minutes drive from my sister’s house.
Niagara Landing Wine Cellars
If you’re not a wine drinker, this post may not be as interesting, except for the recipe at the end! But these wineries are beautiful at this time of year, so the views alone are worth stopping in. Niagara Landing is a small winery. They offer cute magnets, t-shirts and hands down have the most beautiful wine bottles we’ve seen anywhere. So do you judge a wine by it’s bottle? If you do, this is the place for you!
Wineries during COVID-19 Lockdown?
With travel restrictions, and many limitations places on restaurants, bars, etc. there weren’t a lot of people there, even on a Saturday afternoon. But a rowdy bridal party was enjoying the outdoor seating, taking photos on the gazebo, and a few glasses of wine, and just before we left a large group celebrating a 50th birthday had arrived. The comment we heard was, “This is our 7th winery!!!” Thankfully, at that point we’d already had our flights and purchased our favorites, so we headed out to the next winery. If you’re in the area I can recommend Niagara Landing. It’s not a huge place, named after a local airport, and they do carry a lot of fruit wines, which aren’t to everyone’s taste, but we enjoyed (and purchased) the following:
- Pina Colada Rosebud
- Peach Rosebud
- Cranberry Rosebud
- Chocolate Dream
- Mango Tango
Arrowhead Spring Vineyard
We then headed a bit further out, to Arrowhead Spring Vineyard. This is a huge vineyard, with a beautiful event space, a variety of snacks (NY requires food be purchased with wine, and usually it’s pretzels, peanut butter crackers, or cookies). This winery offers a menu that includes charcuterie or cheese boards, so if you’re going to spend some time outdoors enjoying the vineyard, it would be worth it. For us, it looked like it might rain, so we just did cheese crackers and a quick flight or two. To be honest though, we returned to this winery the next day. We loved their Reserve Chardonnay and the Cherry Cider they carried from a local brewery.
Get a flight, you know you want to!
While we each tried a flight at Niagara Landing, we also decided to try a flight here. We’d actually had a few we didn’t drink at Niagara Landing, so it’s not like we were tipsy at this point. I did their Flight of White, which was slightly different than what they’re showing on the website, but I can say hands down that my favorite was the Reserve Chardonnay. That’s the bottle we bought that first afternoon, along with a few cans of Cherry Cider from Blackbird Ciderworks. And we went back the next day to buy more of the same, because we finished that wine and the cider as soon as we got home!
Sustainable farming, wind turbines, a responsible winery in every way
And that’s not all they offer. There is a beautiful event space, plenty of tables outside, and they practice sustainable farming and production, and take advantage of the windy Niagara Escarpment by using wind turbine to provide about 50% of their power needs! Pretty cool. We chatted a bit with the owner on that second visit. So friendly and welcoming. She even said if we moved to the area and invited her for dinner, she’d bring the wine!
So what is the Niagara Escarpment? As we drove around it was apparent that it’s a “right to farm” community. Meaning people can’t sue their neighbors for noisy chickens and roosters, or the smell coming from the local piggery, or the sound of tractors running on a relaxing summer evening. It’s a way to maintain farms, and agricultural lands as land is developed more and more for housing, retail and industry. But more familiarly, it’s the long cliff of land that eventually runs to Niagara Falls, and yes, that’s the cliff the falls actually run over! Also, according to Wikipedia, and Kelly, Peter (2007-05-31)
“The Escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It has the oldest forest ecosystem and trees in eastern North America.“Kelly, Peter (2007-05-31). The Last Stand: A Journey Through the Ancient Cliff-Face Forest of the Niagara Escarpment (1st Ed.)
Very cool place for sure. If you check out wikipedia, it’s actually an area that used to be the floor of a tropical sea! Makes me want to get out there and dig around to see if I can find anything unusual in the dirt. And that totally reminds me of days spent digging in our own backyard as kids trying to find something valuable! So many reason to travel to this area of Upstate NY!
Freedom Run Winery
And on our second day, when Beth and I went out on our own to revisit Arrowhead, we also drove to the other side of “the field” to discover Freedom Run Winery. I say, the other side of the field, because once we followed the windy GPS version of the route, we got out and realized we could see Arrowhead from Freedom Run. Freedom Run has a lot of regularly scheduled activities including Fish Fry on Friday nights, weekend brunches, yoga in the vineyard and so much more. Check out their calendar for more information if you’re planning to visit. They also offer wonderful event venues, catering, and this family owned winery is one of the numerous wineries now part of the third largest wine producing region in the Unites States! Impressive.
No time to taste!
Even though we were running to the end of our afternoon and didn’t really have time to taste any wine, we decided to go ahead and purchase a few bottles. I’ve since tasted the Freedom Blue white table wine we bought and it is a definite YES! Even from Beth who usually finds non-sweet wines something she doesn’t like. There’s enough body and sweetness for her to enjoy it. And when we saw the slanted bottle of Apple Wine we couldn’t resist.
The rest of our trip
We did spend a good deal of time driving around the area, seeing all the construction going on in downtown Buffalo, and our trip back home had us driving in the anger of Tropical Storm Isaias. It was a bit longer drive with flood warnings, high winds, and rain slowing us up a bit and requiring a few more stops along the way. No sooner had we got home, unpacked the car and settled in for dinner that our power went out. Thankfully it went back on around 3 am. Later in the week I came up with the following recipe for Lemony Garlic Shrimp Boil. It was amazing, and the Freedom Blue wine was a perfect match for that bright summery dish!
Lemony Garlic Shrimp Boil
You can make this dish using Old Bay Seasoning, but I don’t usually have that at home, and love to experiment with my own flavors. So if you’ve got spices around you don’t get to use much, why not play around and see what you come up with?
- 1 lb of large uncooked, cleaned and shelled shrimp (use more if you have them!)
- 3 lemons (2 halved, and the other sliced in wedges)
- 4 TB mashed garlic (I used jarred minced then mashed it myself)
- 6 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
- 4 large potatoes cut into chunks
- 4 ears of corn, shucked, and sliced into 3 or 4 pieces each
- 3 TB butter
- 1 large jar marinated artichokes, cut into pieces
- 2 giant bay leaves (Beth brought ours back from India, but you could also use 6 or so regular size leaves)
- 1 TB celery salt
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 TB Smoked Paprika
- 8 – 10 whole cloves
- 1 TB pickling spice
- Fill a large pot with 10 – 12 cups of water
- Squeeze the halved lemons into the water, then add the lemons to the water
- Add spices and garlic
- Tie thyme into a bunch and add to the pot
- Cover and allow to come to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 – 7 minutes
- Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes
- Add shrimp to the pot and cook til they just turn pink
- Transfer shrimp and potatoes to a large bowl. Mix the butter, the artichokes, and a cup or so of broth together and pour over the shrimp and potatoes. Mix well.
Serve with the remaining broth, and lemon wedges. This goes well with a salad, asparagus spears, or a nice 3 bean salad.
This recipe lasted us for dinner, and a delicious summery lunch the next day! Easily double for a group if you’ve got a big enough pot. I actually reduce the water used significantly and it still came out very flavorful!