By Lauren Zaepfel
As spring blooms around Western New York, the Niagara Wine Trail is preparing to host "Taste of the Trail," one of its biggest events of the year.
Wineries will welcome guests to sample wines and various dishes, from entrees to desserts.
"It's kind of like the kick-off to the wine and tourism season," said Elizabeth Maute, media director for Niagara Wine Trail, USA.
"Taste of the Trail" will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, April 22 and 29, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays April 23 and April 30.
Select wineries will be participating in the "Taste of the Trail's" first weekend, while others will participate the second weekend.
"You can really kind of do all of the trail over two weekends if you want," Maute said. "It just is nice, because it spreads it out a little bit more."
Last year, more than 800 people attended the event over its two weekends.
This year, each winery will feature an appetizer, side dish, entrée or dessert, to be paired with a variety of wines.
Some of the wineries will work with local restaurants and caterers to provide the food.
The Winery At Marjim Manor, at 7171 Lake Road, Appleton, will serve Spanish rice as a main course during the second weekend of the event.
"We'll be pairing it with two different wines," said Margo Sue Bittner, owner of the Wintery At Marjim Manor, and the Niagara Wine Trail event committee chairwoman. "We always pair our dishes with two different wines - one drier and one sweeter - because everybody has a different kind of pallet."
Featured will be two of the winery's gold-medal-winning wines: Sophia's Sunrise and Lady of the Manor.
Bittner said wine and food pairing events held on the trail "are always a hit. So we've been focusing more and more on those. As a result, each person who comes gets to pick a different winery to start at, they get the event, they get to have the food. We get all these customers who maybe haven't thought about coming to Marjim Manor, because they've always gone to Arrowhead or they've always gone to Freedom Run, so we get to meet each other's customers and give people the whole Wine Trail experience."
Cynthia West-Chamberlain, owner of Black Willow Winery at 5565 W. Lake Road, Burt, will serve Swedish-style meatballs in a garlic white wine sauce during the event's second weekend.
"We thought that it would be great for spring, and it will be paired with any of our white wines," she said.
West-Chamberlain said the event serves as an opportunity for people to come out and enjoy tasting wines of the trail during spring after being cooped up over the winter months.
Tickets are $25 per person in advance online or $30 per person at wineries during the "Taste of the Trail" for a single weekend, or $40 per person in advance online or $45 at wineries during the event for both weekends.
Tickets include a tasting of three wines and one sample of cuisine at each of select wineries, as well as a commemorative wine glass from the first winery visited.
For more information, including a complete list of participating wineries and featured offerings, visit http://niagarawinetrail.org/taste-trail/.
Black Willow Winery staffers display a variety of wines. From left are staff members Jonathan Little, Amanda Mitchell, owner Cynthia West-Chamberlain and staff members Rebecca Scott and Brianna Beane.