Niagara Wine Country USA’s breathtaking countryside, scenic vineyards, farms and historic sites are waiting for you whether you are driving, walking or biking through the region. Our new two-wheeled contributor Kristy Mangel is mapping routes and taking names as she chronicles various bike trips in wine country.
Here’s an Introduction & Part I of her first adventure on what she calls “The Ransomville Circuit”
May is National Bike Month, and intrepid two-wheelers everywhere are celebrating the great joy of a bike ride. Not only is riding a bike just plain fun, it’s also a goal-driven way to get a great workout (in this particular case the goal is wine, and the wine is handily earned), assists in connection with place and community, and is a fiscally sound method of transportation.
A little about me: I am a native Western New Yorker, but I’ve spent the last almost 12 years in Chicago, working, writing, and generally acting a fool. I’ve been back home for approximately three months, and have been thrilled to find the industry of local wine thriving just miles from my childhood home. In fact, I credit its existence as a main reason that the transition back has gone as quickly and as near-painlessly as it has.
I’m also a cyclist. I don’t race or athletically train with a bike; I ride a bike to get from Point A to Point B. I haven’t had a driver’s license or a car in… 8 years? I’m not sure. It’s been awhile. I knew that I’d need to get these things sorted out after moving back to the countryside of WNY, but I didn’t like it. I got my new Trek hybrid (Miss Shiraz-Matazz, as she’s been lovingly dubbed) within a week or two of moving back. It took me three months to get the license and car (I haven’t named the car).
Although I’ve conceded to the importance of being able to drive, and, yes, that it’s even a little fun, commuting via bike will still be my first choice. I’ve recently found out that riding the expanse of the countryside is, in a lot of ways, much more challenging than riding in a large metropolis — a surprise to discover. I am eager to tackle it, however. Over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll take on handmade countryside bike routes, centered around wine. I’m looking forward to discovering the oddities and pleasantries out in wine country, and to meeting the people that make the industry hum throughout my beloved Niagara County.
Midnight Run Cellars:
THE RIDE: The last weekend of April offered relief from a string of unseasonably cool days, with temperatures in the 50s and a sun in the sky. That Sunday was a great day to tackle a 20-mile circuit out in wine country. The winds in the country can be deceptive, however — what feels like a slight breeze as you stand on your porch sipping your morning coffee and testing the air becomes a gale force when you’re puttering down a road on two wheels, flanked by open fields.
The first leg of my journey was going to be a well-fought one, I decided, as I decreased resistance and leaned into the wind within a half-mile of hitting the road. I focused on the important matters at hand, not the burning in my legs. “Wine. Wine. Wine.” It’s a mantra during rides like this.
I was setting off for Midnight Run Wine Cellars, the newest winery on the Niagara Wine Trail, at 3301 Braley Rd. in Ransomville. I had approximately 7 miles ahead of me. The route between my starting point (the intersection of Routes 93 and 104 in Cambria) and the winery consists of mainly farmland, with a decent shoulder, a flat terrain, and a manageable amount of street traffic on Route 93. Upon hitting Randall Rd., the stretch that takes one to Braley, the shoulder of the road disappears and the fields expand in all directions. It would be prudent to stay on your toes during this portion of the ride; there’s not a lot of traffic here, but when there is, it’s big ol’ country vehicles hauling to the fields and perhaps not expecting a little beach cruiser in their lane. As always, stay alert and proactive with other street traffic. Don’t forget to enjoy the views, however. This is God’s Country out here.
THE WINERY: Upon first coasting up to the Midnight Run tasting room, I immediately noticed the small food truck parked on the side of the building. I was suddenly highly aware that it had been several hours since breakfast, and was going to be at least a few more hours until my arrival back home. My stomach wanted all of that food, even more than my soul wanted all of that wine, which is a grand feat. “Toasty Buns — Treats on the Trail” offers hungry winers hot dogs, nachos, soft pretzels, smoked turkey sandwiches, and burgers — the perfect menu for beginning or ending a day of tasting the trail.
I was greeted kindly by Miss Brianne (pictured) and Laurie Monaco. They set about showing me the food menu and filling up my glass. $3 got me four sizable samplings; two whites, the house blush (“Stiletto”), and one red. Brianne told me that they’ll be producing some sweeter wines in the near future, due to consumer demand. This is a sentiment I heard again later in the day, at another winery. I’m going to touch on that with my brief, severely uninformed thoughts, a little later.
After sampling the wines with gusto, I settled on the $5 ⅓ lb Angus Burger with all the trimmins’ for a little snack. The simple and delish burger hit the spot and set me up for the many, many miles and glasses I had ahead of me that afternoon. While dining, Frank (pictured) offered a free sample of their homemade cider. Even though it’s becoming spring in Upstate New York, one sip of this cider had me wistful for the days of cornmazes and pumpkin patches… I know, I know, to say this is a near-blasphemous utterance in the Land of 8 Month Winter. But still. Crisp, a natural sweetness, an immediate comfort. Roasted pumpkin seeds. Layers of hoodies. Arm warmers. Okay, I’ll stop.
Besides picking up a bottle (or three) on your visit here, browse the other wine wares offered in the shop. Be sure to check back later in the season, as plans for outdoor expansion include the addition of picnic tables for chowing and chilling winers, and a party tent or two for live music events. The winery is currently open Friday-Sunday, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Beginning this summer, it will be open every day, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. 3301 Braley Rd., Ransomville.
LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: During the growing season, Coulter Farms operates a farm market at the corner of Routes 93 and 425, and, for those folks interested in getting down and dirty with it, “U-Pick” opportunities during berry season. Call the farm directly at 716-434-5700 for more info. Less than 4 miles west of Midnight Run sits the famed Ransomville Speedway, a 3,400 seat, 50-year-old dirt race track. The season kicks off Friday, May 4, with races every Friday until September 14. Adult tickets are $12, price subject to change for special event races. Family packages are also available. Call the track direct for up-to-date info and pricing: 716-791-3602. Go ahead, make a day of it out on Braley Road. A day of fine local wine tastings and a rootin’ tootin’ night at the races is, let’s be honest, brilliant.
Stay tuned for PART II of Kristy’s first Wino On Two Wheels adventure!Kristy currently lives in Cambria, New York with her parents, who have begun repopulating their nest with adult children. She can be found blogging sporadically at THE71SIX.BIZ and twitting @KristyTwittedIt. In a past life she wrote too much about comedy, and thinks comedy nerds everywhere should download every issue of RE:COM.