The main draw of the Lake Erie region is right there in the name. Lake Erie, its beaches, sunsets, and tributaries, is the beating heart of the area.
Then there are the grapes: A 50 mile stretch of shoreline boasts more than 30,000 acres of vineyards across two states. It’s the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies. If you’re planning a getaway to northwestern PA, make sure that local wineries are a main feature of your itinerary.
Things to See
Get Outdoors at Presque Isle State Park
This is a nature-lover’s paradise. Stroll, bike, kayak, rollerblade, or lay on the sand — there is no wrong way to enjoy the stunning coastline. The park boasts beautiful beaches and the 13.5-mile Karl Boyes Multipurpose National Recreation Trail. If you’re looking for a break from the sun or rain, check out the Tom Ridge Environmental Center for interactive exhibits, history of the area, or a quick snack. Save time for a stop at Presque Isle Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse on Lake Erie, and climb 78 steps for a bird’s eye view of the water.
Explore Downtown North East, PA
This town (you guessed it) north and east of Erie is a picture-book American hamlet. There’s a central town park, historic storefronts, and plenty of tasty restaurants, making it the ideal spot for an afternoon stroll and a cup of locally-roasted coffee at The Bean. Local-wine lovers should be sure to visit Skunk & Goat Tavern where they have a robust list of wines by-the-glass, including more than a dozen PA selections.
Groove to Local Live Music
No matter what’s on your itinerary, there are lots of local opportunities to enjoy live music. The annual Erie’s Blues & Jazz Festival (August 2-4, 2019) brings more than 20,000 people to the city’s Frontier Park for three days and three nights of free music. The Erie Philharmonic — established in 1913 — performs throughout the region, including a summer concert series in downtown North East. Meanwhile, many local wineries, including Lakeview Wine Cellars and Penn Shore Vineyards, host their own outdoor concerts.
Attend a Festival
In Erie, warm weather means festival season. There’s Roar on the Shore, a motorcycle rally in North East (July) that brings 300,000 riders to the region. Meanwhile, CelebrateErie (August 16-18, 2019) is a free downtown festival showcasing local food, culture, art, and music. And you can’t miss WineFest (September 27-29, 2019), a harvest festival for Lake Erie Wine Country. There are also various Italian and Greek festivals, where attendees can enjoy homestyle food, vendors, and entertainment.
Pick Your Own
This is a stunning agricultural region, and you can enjoy the bounty while also getting hands-on. There are numerous pick-your-own farms — including Finnell Farms, Troyer’s Strawberry Acres, and Mason Farms — where families can pluck fresh berries, stone fruits, and apples from the field or orchard.
Places to Stop and Sip
Whether you’re looking to visit one local winery or a dozen, this beautiful countryside is ripe for exploration. Travel by car or by bike, and check-in with Lake Erie Wine County for help planning your trip.
“We are boutique wineries,” explains Monica Mazur, Executive Director of Lake Erie Wine Country. “You are not going to get the same experience from one winery across the street from another. Some have little intimate tasting rooms and some have huge tasting rooms that could fit up to thousands of guests. It just depends on what you’re looking for.”
Opened in 2012, the winery’s tasting room is located in the cellar of a 100-plus-year-old horse barn. Enjoy a glass of wine on the patio or pack some snacks, buy a bottle, and picnic in the vineyard. Named for the adjacent creek, 6 Mile specializes in aromatic white wines but offers a full range of sweet, semi-sweet, dry, and semi-dry wines.
In 1980, Nick and Kathy Mobilia, third-generation owners of Mobilia Fruit Farms, began pressing grapes into juice for wineries. In 1998, the couple started making their own wine. Today, Arrowhead Wine Cellars — named for the arrowheads frequently discovered on the property — produces 32 different varieties using vinifera, native and hybrid grapes. Their 2017 Rosso won Best of Show: Hybrid at the 2019 PA Farm Show.
Arundel is housed in a restored late-19th-century barn and former cider mill. That cider mill operated for three generations before the farm was purchased by the new owners in 2012. Their wines range from sweet to dry, and the winery also makes craft beer and, in a nod to the property’s history, hard cider made from their own apples.
Co-owner Randy Graham was first exposed to grape growing through his great grandparents — they sent fresh-picked grapes by railcar from North East to New York City. As fate would have it, his wife/partner Laura’s grandparents were fruit farmers in California. In 2007, after years of growing grapes and making wine at home, the couple added a winery to their 125-acre vineyard. Fourteen different varieties are made into both single-varietal dry wines and blended sweet wines. Among other awards, Courtyard’s 2017 Dry Rosé won a gold medal at the 2019 PA Farm Show.
Heritage Wine Cellars is situated on a former fruit farm that was founded way back in 1805 — that’s quite the agricultural legacy! They offer unique fruit-infused wines (Winter Pear, Orange Blossom) alongside traditional reds and whites. Their Blackberry wine won Best of Show: Governor’s Cup in the fruit wine category at the 2019 PA Farm Show.
This boutique winery specializes in wines aged in Pennsylvania white-oak barrels. Enjoy those wines on Lakeview’s covered patio, which overlooks Lake Erie and the surrounding vineyards, and be sure to say hi to the family’s Irish Setter, Cabernet. Check out the winery’s Facebook page for information on their annual concert series.
The largest producing winery in the state, Mazza Vineyards was founded by brothers Bob and Frank Mazza in 1973. The tasting room was inspired by Old World, Mediterranean wineries. Keep an eye out for their Bare Bones Rosé and Cabernet Franc, both of which won double gold at the 2019 PA Farm Show. Mazza also pioneered ice wine in Pennsylvania — this rich, beguiling product is created when frozen grapes are picked and pressed early in the morning. In addition to a full slate of whites and reds, the winery also produces Sherry and Port, making this an ideal stop for lovers of fortified and dessert wines.
Located along the Lake Erie shoreline, Penn Shore is one of the largest and oldest wineries in the state. During the summer months, they host live bands on the patio as part of their “Music in the Vineyards” series. Enjoy a glass of wine or buy a bottle to share while relaxing in a lawn chair or on your blanket.
Presque Isle is a family-owned winemaking and brewing supply store and winery. The family has been growing grapes on their farm in North East, PA, for more than 100 years. Founder Doug Moorhead was instrumental in the establishment and growth of the state’s wine industry, and Presque Isle is known across the state for its award-winning wines, including its 2016 Cabernet Franc, which won Gold at the 2019 PA Farm Show.
Originally established more than 150 years ago, this winery boasts a historic stone wine cellar. When it was purchased in 2007 by Robert Mazza of Mazza Vineyards, the cavern was restored and reopened as a tasting room and wine cellar, and the “South Shore Wine Company” name was revived. The winery’s 2017 Grüner Veltliner won Best in State at the 2018 PA Sommelier Judgment Day and Best of Show: Governor’s Cup – Dry Grape at the 2019 PA Farm Show.
Yori Wine Cellars is located in a storefront in charming downtown North East, PA. Sample wines at the tasting room, enjoy a bottle at the adjoining Italian restaurant or purchase one to take home. The small winery originally began in 2003 in the stone cellar of the family’s hundred-year-old home and has since captured awards such as a Gold Medal for its Cabernet Franc at the 2019 PA Farm Show.