Just a hop and a skip across the road from Chautauqua Wine Cellars is Johnson Estate Winery. Johnson is New York’s oldest Estate winery and we thought it would be an interesting place to check out. With barely a chance to get the car warm, we pulled up to the winery.
Johnson Estate’s tasting room is located in a very old barn-like structure with short ceilings. The building, erected in 1920, was used as a cold storage facility for the Johnson’s apple farm. The third generation of Johnsons is now running the winery, which has been around since 1961. Most of the grape juice was originally produced and distributed to other wineries throughout the Finger Lakes. As the years passed, they shifted more towards creating their own wine. There is quite an interesting history of the winery available on their web page here.
The tasting room was considerably busy for such a cold wintry day, but we were soon assisted by Gabby at the tasting counter. Customers are allowed five samples of wine and there is no tasting fee for most wines. There is a small up-charge if you wish to try the Ice Wine, Port, Sherry, or Sparkling wine. We tried everything that they had to offer that was grown locally. The Pinot Noir and Merlot come from Long Island and the Niagara escarpment so we chose to skip those during the tasting.
- Smooth and Mellow.
- Good crisp apple flavor, but I wanted more minerality.
- Tart and extremely dry, almost like a dry mead.
- Too sweet for me but it was a still a decent Riesling and I can see why many like it.
- Aroma is catty like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
- Crisp and dry; light yet flavorful.
- Aromatic and floral with a nice full body. Probably my favorite of the tasting.
- Lots of coffee on the nose. Good acidity with juicy berry notes and slightly earthy finish.
- Cherry notes, with tight acidity. It is not too bad for a cold climate grape varietal.
- Lots of berry aromas prominent in the aroma but the flavor fell flat for me. Perhaps the bottle had been open for too long?
Overall, the wine was decent, but I feel like some of the bottles had been open for too long and lost some of their luster. One of the problems I have noticed with certain cold climate grapes is that the wine tends to start oxidizing fairly quickly and this may have been what I was experiencing. We were told that the winemaker is a Riesling fanatic and most enjoys working with that varietal. Their Rieslings are nice, but I personally would have preferred a bit more minerality. It could be that this region does not produce Riesling grapes with a lot of wet stone and petrol notes. Johnson Estate is most well-known for their Rieslings so I will have to give them a second chance when I am back in the area. Their most popular wine is the Semi-Dry Riesling which is sure to please fans of the grape that want a hint more sweetness.
I enjoyed exploring the tasting room as there are lots of fun things to see. An interesting display of an old wine press is in one area, and the wine making equipment is visible behind glass along the back wall. The winery also boasts an excellent collection of New York State Spirits which is appreciated as some of the brands are not easily available elsewhere. The tasting room also sells local New York State cheeses. Johnson Estate’s wine is distributed within New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
While I wasn’t particular fond of all the wines available, the winery is still an interesting place to visit just to experience the history of one of the oldest estate wineries in New York. I loved the feel of the old building, and being able to see the wine making equipment was a nice touch. I look forward to returning some time in the future to give their Rieslings a second chance.
Westfield, NY is known as the “Grape Juice Capital of the World” as it is surrounded by at least 30,000 acres of vineyards. Most of these grapes are Concord, from which grape juice is made. Westfield was once the corporate headquarters of the Welch’s Grape Juice Company which still has a grape processing plant there!
Johnson Estate Winery
8419 West Main Road (Route 20), Westfield, NY 14787
Visited January 18, 2014
Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.