Concord Grapes & Cheese <BR>photo © ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3970867810/##quinn.anya

Concord Grapes & Cheese
photo © quinn.anya

New York’s Finger Lakes are well-known tourist destinations, and their wines are gaining international recognition. But how many Lakelubbers have heard of New York’s Concord Grape Belt and the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail? The Concord Grape Belt is a narrow, 60-mile ribbon along Lake Erie, stretching from Chautauqua County, New York to Erie, Pennsylvania. This ideal microclimate, with more than 30,000 acres of vineyards, produces the luscious purple fruit known as Concord grapes. The area is home to Welch’s juice and jelly empire and to kosher wine maker, Mogan-David.

Although it may take awhile, the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association is determined to make southwestern New York a popular agritourism destination. The non-profit Association was successful in getting the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt designated as New York’s 19th Heritage Area in 2006, the first Heritage Area with a primary focus on agricultural heritage. The Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, NY is scheduled to open in 2011 or 2012 with a museum, visitors’ center, tasting room, and retail shop.

Concord Grape Pie <BR>photo © ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/gezellig-girl/3966226678/##gezellig-girl.com

Concord Grape Pie
photo © gezellig-girl.com

Autumn is a busy time along the Concord Grape Belt, with the Concord harvest running from mid-September to mid-October. The town of Silver Creek, NY has celebrated the Festival of Grapes on the third weekend of September since the 1960s. Visitors enjoy grape stomping, a grape parade, grape pies and other grape desserts. The Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail celebrates its Harvest Wine Festival during the first and second weekends in November. This year’s festival takes place on November 6-7 and November 13-14. Sample the wines of 21 vineyards along Lake Erie, including vinifera, ice wines, fruit wines, and specialty wines such as brandies and ports.

Not to be outdone by its Great Lake neighbor is 13,000-acre Chautauqua Lake. Portage Road connects the town of Westfield on Lake Erie with Mayville on Chautauqua Lake. The “Old Portage Trail” was used for many years by merchants who shipped goods between the Great Lakes and the Midwest. Mayville is home of the famous Chautauqua Institution, a National Historic Landmark. Founded in 1874, the Institution hosts about 150,000 visitors each summer with programs organized around the arts, education, religion, and recreation. A special note to cyclists: The Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau provides cycling maps around Chautauqua Lake and through Concord grape country.

Lake Erie Colorful Sailboats <BR>photo © ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/brad-darren/2330114974/##Darren and Brad

Lake Erie Colorful Sailboats
photo © Darren and Brad

While you indulge in the bounty of the grape harvest, take some time to enjoy the incredible recreational offerings around Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake: spectacular scenery, sand beaches for swimming, sailing, fishing, water sports, hiking, biking, birding, and antiquing. Discover the quiet beauty of this four-season destination.

Lake Erie Grape Belt YouTube: Pennsylvania Welcome Center

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