Here’s Part 2 of Kristy’s Wino On Two Wheels Ransomville Circuit Adventure. Part 1 can be read here.

A GUST OF SUN WINERY AND VINEYARD
THE RIDE: Next up on this increasingly gorgeous Sunday was A Gust of Sun Winery and Vineyard, approximately 7 miles due south. With a happy full belly and a pleasant buzz on my brain I set off, thinking only of how lovely was the day. I hooked up with Daniels Road, a north-south road east of Midnight Run, and followed that down to North Ridge Road. Daniels, like Braley, is a sparsely populated, beautiful country road, with a mostly flat terrain. I did encounter a large, tank-like, multi-wheeled Army truck at one point, headed in the opposite direction. Otherwise, the road was almost devoid of traffic. However, as always, stay close to the side of the road (or in the shoulder, whenever possible), stay visible, and stay aware. Tank-like multi-wheeled Army trucks cruising down country backroads likely have somewhere to be, and quick.

While I found the ride south an easy cruise, I realized soon after arriving at A Gust of Sun and announcing my purpose (“I am riding a bike and drinking wine all day!”), that there was a battle currently being waged on behalf of two-wheeled and two-pedded road travelers in these parts.

A Gust of Sun’s decorative logo on their tasting room in Cambria, NY

THE WINERY: As I sauntered to the counter, wind-flushed and eager to start supping again, proprietor Erik Gustafson passionately launched into details about his fight to lower the speed limit on Baer Road. The population of this stretch of Baer has increased markedly in the last several years, and the road now houses several families with children under 5. Kids from the east side of the road like to play with the kids down the street on the west side of the road, and so will set off on foot to visit their friends. Baer, another long and narrow country road, tends to play host to large vehicles rocketing north and south. In fact, I even caught a bit of wind when a particularly mammoth black pick-up truck headed south up the escarpment barrelled by me upon my departure. Gustafson, along with 98 percent of the neighbors in the area, have petitioned for the change, which was approved by the town. However, it was rejected by NYDOT.

A Gust of Sun Winery is a relatively new neighbor on Baer, having officially opened in late August 2011. Now with nearly a year under their belt, the Gustafsons are amping up the place, with a second floor renovation in the works. Within a few weeks, Gustafson says, the “heavy lifting will be done,” with drywall and paint in place, lighting fixtures installed, and roof beams covered in the space above the tasting room. The room will be ready for a bar buildout, projector installation, bookcases, and lounge furniture shortly thereafter. It’s promising to be a very cool spot to relax over a board game with friends, enjoy a film screening, or take a date.

The tasting room isn’t the only thing expanding at A Gust of Sun. The vineyard will soon occupy more land, and in June seven new bottles will be released, including a Diamond wine that will be sold to benefit the Lockport, NY animal shelter Diamonds in the Ruff, a cause near and dear to the Gustafsons’ heart.

The winery takes it up a notch by offering chocolate pairings with their wine tastings.

I would be remiss to not mention the chocolate pairings offered with every wine tasting at A Gust of Sun, because THERE ARE CHOCOLATE PAIRINGS OFFERED WITH EVERY WINE TASTING (for like, $2 more than the basic tasting, and you also get another glass of wine, and HELLO $2, CHOCOLATE, WHAT’S TO EXPLAIN HERE). The winery has contracted with Stuffed Chocolate out of Amherst to specially create the perfect choco-to-vino pairings, no small feat.

“It was a very difficult task to choose them. We had to drink lots of wine and eat lots of chocolate,” Gustafson said. The tastings include milk chocolate with peach and apricot, dark chocolate with hazelnut and almond, milk chocolate with pear and grapefruit, dark chocolate with blackberry, raspberry and cherry, and milk chocolate with madras curry, orange peel, and coconut. I repeat: milk chocolate with madras curry, orange peel, and coconut. It’s been four days since I had a taste of this chocolate and I cannot stop thinking about it. I am not exaggerating.

A Gust of Sun Winery, located at 4515 Baer Rd. in Ransomville, offers four tastings for $3, or five tastings PLUS CHOCOLATE for $5, and is open Fridays, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sundays 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Don’t forget to stop and say hi to the Westies!

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: Exactly 1 mile north of A Gust of Sun is Niagara’s Lazy Lakes Camping Resort, an 80-acre campground with nearly 300 RV sites and nine cabins situated next to two lakes. The resort provides many recreational and outdoor activities, and its natural, relaxing atmosphere and proximity to several wineries makes it a highly recommended weekend getaway, according to I. Call the campground for rates and reservations, 1-800-874-2957.

LONG CLIFF VINEYARD AND WINERY
THE RIDE: The final leg of Sunday’s circuit took me 2 miles south, onto Lower Mountain Rd. While the distance here is quite manageable, there is a caution I stress to riders: getting anywhere south of Cambria — that is, out of the “Cambria Bowl” — will take some energy. Cambria is situated below a portion of the Niagara Escarpment ascent, and the first ridge of this escarpment is Lower Mountain Rd., where several wineries of the Niagara Wine Trail are located. For me, getting up this ascent is a matter of dropping my gear to that of least resistence, keeping my eyes on the road, not looking up to how much farther I had until reaching the top, and just being Zen with it. Do not be mistaken, however: when I first started biking out here, I walked the ascent. I’m not ashamed. Go ahead and walk the ascent. It’ll likely be a 10 minute stroll instead of a 3 minute (plodding) cycle.

Owner Don DeMaison behind the bar.

THE WINERY: Although Long Cliff Vineyard and Winery is one of the newest wineries on the trail, they’ve been in the grape-growing game for more than 40 years. In 1970, the farm began growing concord grapes on some of its 140 acres. Over the years, both the ownership of the land and the crop changed over, but now, after a brief shake up, the farm rests squarely in the DeMaison Family’s hands once again and is back to blooming its passion — grapes. At first, proprietor Don DeMaison sold his crop to already-established wineries in the region — then realized he could be in business for himself. On November 11, 2011, Long Cliff celebrated its grand opening.

The initial five wines offered by this winery are “bone dry,” DeMaison describes. They plan to add sweeter wines to their base of offerings, albeit reluctantly. As Midnight Run mentioned, clientele often request a sweeter wine than a naturally-produced vino offers — the addition of artificial sugar, essentially. However, DeMaison believes that, with time, the clientele for a dry wine such as he offers will build.

The winery focuses on dry estate grown wines.

This is where my brief and highly uniformed thoughts on the topic come in: after discussing the prevailing preference of sweet wine by an average wine consumer, I mulled (out loud, after about the third large sampling had at Long Cliff), “Do you think it’s possible that palates in a wine region, when given the opportunity and ease and affordability to sample wines of great variety regularly, will evolve and change over time? Palates that before may have only had occasion to try wine once in a great while, and so ‘stuck with what they knew’, so to speak, not wanting to risk venturing into greater wine land sight unseen? Do you think it’s possible that people would actually prefer a naturally fermented wine if they had opportunity to sample them and mull over them regularly?” I dunno; I like white wine these days.

Long Cliff Vineyard and Winery, located at 3617 Lower Mountain Rd. in Cambria offers all five tastings for $5 and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sundays through May, with the summer schedule in effect as of June. In July or August, Long Cliff plans to release their sixth bottle, an homage to Don’s wife Judy, who was a great supporter of his work before her passing a few years ago.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: About a mile east of Long Cliff is Niagara Forestry’s sugar shack, for all of your locally-produced maple syrup needs. The maple syrup season is currently over; however, there is still inventory for sale at the shack if you get a move on. The sugar shack is located at 4177 Lower Mountain Rd., and can be reached directly at 716-628-4841.

 History buffs out there will soon be able to pop into the Cambria Museum in the Cambria Historical Hall, located basically next door to Niagara Forestry. The museum is currently undergoing a major renovation and overhaul, and anticipates a grand reopening late summer 2012. Read about the town’s new punk rock historian in the meantime.

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.