Down a winding trail, past rows of tightly-bunched Riesling grapes – the Spring Lake Winery offers as many experiences as there are shades of leaves on a bright fall day.
From nature’s scenes to a murder mystery, visitors to the winery can come regularly, year after year to take in a different experience each time they return. The winery is nestled in among a forest of trees and nudged against an eight acre lake. The entire estate is constantly playing host to tour groups, weddings and business events and the upcoming autumn color change will only make the events seem more pastoral and romantic.
Built on Local Tradition, Not Local Terroir
Many New York State wines have a reputation for being cloyingly sweet because they emphasize the sweet grapes that prefer our regional climate. However, Spring Lakes is actually a commercial winery that emphasizes tradition and technique over local grapes.
The local roots of the winery stretch all the way back to the early 20th century when Italian immigrant Americo Varallo started making homemade wine in the basement of his Lockport home. After continuing the winemaking tradition for two more generations, the Varallo family took the plunge and began researching and developing the winery during the 1990s.
Four years of research ultimately led the family to plating 10 acres of Riesling grapes on land they had long-enjoyed as a family retreat. At first, owner Tamre Varallo told me, the family was focused more on building a functional winery than a space to host visitors.
“When we built the winery, we didn’t think about weddings and parties,” she said. “We were just thinking about the wine industry.”
“But now, we really became more of a destination,” Varallo added. “We like to say, ‘Escape to the lake!’”
Out of those early functional roots, Spring Lake now features an outdoor pavilion, a ceremonial space for weddings and nature trails. The family recognizes the draw this area has on visitors and they aim to bring Old World hospitality to Western New York.
Tamre Varallo said when her husband’s family came to this country, they brought more than just winemaking techniques.
“More importantly, they brought their heritage and hospitality,” she said. “I think the big think at Spring Lake is – you can get that home hospitality feel.”
Potent Wine and Classic Italian Food
Because Spring Lake uses grapes from various regions, the types of wine they make can vary. However, the techniques the winery uses tends to produce a more potent strain of wine.
For example, the Zinfandel available on our latest trip to the winery had an ABV of 15.8 percent, warming the throat as it goes down. Meanwhile, the Chardonnay clocked in at a hefty 15 percent. While some may not like more potent wine, the higher alcohol content pushes Spring Lake’s drier wines oh-so-slightly toward brandy and cognac flavors, which can mean more complexity on the tongue.
The Varallo family pairs all their wines with traditional Italian flavors and fare. The menu and “Chef’s Special” rotate regularly, but visitors can expect cured Italian meats, cheeses and pasta dishes, of course. For those with a sweet tooth, the winery offers homemade biscotti, made with white wine and lemon, and wine ice cream.
The Ways to Experience Spring Lake
In addition to the wine and food, Spring Lake also has a number of ways visitors can enjoy themselves.
Every Sunday this fall, the Vineyard Express passes alongside Spring Lake. With the purchase of a ticket, riders are treated to a tour of the Medina Railroad Museum, wine and dinner at the winery and music by the lake. For a few bucks more, the Vineyard Express offers a VIP experience that includes preferred seating, a cheese platter and open bar.
During one or two fall weekends each year, the Vineyard Express also offers its Murder Mystery event where riders are given clues and must figure out who committed “the murder” all while enjoying hospitality both on board the train and at Spring Lake.
Spring Lake also regularly hosts group events like Paint Nite, where attendee can receive painting instruction while tasting wine, and yoga classes. People looking to catch the latest group event should follow the winery on social media.
Of course, Spring Lake can also be appreciated by a group looking to do a regional wine tour or hold an event, either for business or recreational reasons. Tamre Varallo said people considering booking an event should simply contact the winery to set something up.
Varallo said with all the events and visitors, it can get hectic at the winery from time to time. However, she said, something about the land has a deeply soothing effect that visitors always seem to comment on.
“Even if we have hundreds of people there’s a serenity down here by the lake,” she said.
Spring Lake Winery
7373 Rochester Rd, Lockport, NY 14094
Hours: Daily 12-6pm May through December
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