Traminette is a hybrid grape developed by Cornell University whose parentage is Gewurztraminer and Seyval Blanc. The apricot-colored grape makes a makes wine with a fragrant, slightly exotic and fruity bouquet. When Johnson Estate did planting tests of vinifera hybrids some years ago, it was the only one to survive the first winter. Johnson now makes a prize winning Traminette from estate-grown grapes as do many of the Wine Trail wineries. Look for other climate appropriate hybrid varietals at the wineries, including Noiret and Lemberger.
Today, the twenty-one wineries of the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail produce a diverse and abundant list of wines that essentially fall into five categories:
European Vinifera Wines: Made from the traditional Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
French-Hybrid Varietal Wines: Made from Seyval, Vidal (also used in ice wines), Chambourcin, Chancellor, and Marechal Foch grapes. These are often similar in taste to dry vinifera wines, but are generally not as well-known.
Native Labrusca Wines: Made from American grapes such as Concord, Ives, Niagara, Catawba, and Delaware grapes.
Dessert and Specialty Wines: Sweet, late harvest and ice wines; fortified wines such as port, sherry, eau de vies and brandy, and champagnes. With a climate similar to that of Germany, it is not surprising that premium late harvest and ice wines are specialties of the region.
Fruit Wines: A few of the Trail’s wineries produce fruit-based wines from fruits such as apples, cherries, and blueberries which are abundantly grown here, often in “estate” orchards.