According to Jim Baker, owner and winemaker at Chateau Niagara Winery in Newfane NY, Cabernet Franc is the king of grapes in New York. But perhaps the winery is best known as one of the handful of wineries in New York that produces a varietal Saperavi.
“We were one of the six original vineyards that planted Saperavi, the others being Standing Stone Vineyards, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, Saint Joseph Vineyard in Ohio, Fero Vineyards in Pennsylvania and McGregor Vineyard on Keuka Lake. My wife Kathy and I went to the Finger Lakes Wine festival in Watkins Glen with the intent of trying the various Bordeaux blends. I wasn’t impressed until I tried the Black Russian Red by John McGregor. I knew that I needed to grow the Saperavi grape from that moment on.”
Jim is a native of the Niagara area and his wife is from Jamestown, about 100 miles south. “When Kathy and I were dating in the early 80s, there were a few wineries in the Jamestown area, but none in the Niagara area. We both fell in love with the lifestyle of good food and great wine, so I started making my own wine, originally from kits.” An engineer by trade, Jim taught himself how to grow wine grapes and make wine. “There was a lot of learning by reading, discovering, making mistakes and being tested by mother nature.”
After spending ten years looking for the right property, they found a 31 acre parcel of farmland in Newfane, NY on the banks of 18 Mile Creek. “We wanted to make classic vinifera with a reflection of our region. Our desire was to make wine in the French style, so naming the winery was easy. ‘Chateau’ says boutique French winery and ‘Niagara’ says the region where we are.”
Current plantings include: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Blaufrankish, Saperavi and Turan. Upcoming 2020 releases include: Chardonnay in a Chablis style, a dry and semi-dry Riesling, dry Gewurztraminer, Riesling Rosine (a modified Appassimento style). For wine club members there will be DuMonde, a skin fermented, amber blend of Riesling and Chardonnay.
Visit with Jim and Kathy at the winery!