Locamotive: Niagara winemakers, Schulze Winery (VIDEO)

 In the United States, the most well known wine region is California’s famous Napa Valley Agricultural Viticultural Area AVA). Oregon as well has some prime AVAs that are gaining traction worldwide. However, one of the country’s AVA with the most significance and history is the Niagara Escarpment AVA, the heart of which is here is in Niagara County. Many grape varieties were developed in the region, firstly, mainly for grape juice production. It is in this heartland, in Burt, New-York, that the Schulze vineyards have been evolving since the late 1960’s. A winery that reflects both it’s terroir and the best qualities of fine Niagara winemaking.


Martin Schulze’s family purchased this beautiful 122 acre plot of land and it’s farm in 1969. As the Niagara region is well recognized as a wine region, and it also has an even longer grape juice making tradition, the Schulze family found some Niagara and Concord grapes. The farm immediately started grape production for established juice companies, and in the beginning of the 1980’s, first efforts in the establishment of wine production are made.

In the beginning, it is the Siegfried that is planted, as the German variety is well suited for the local climate and soil. Over the following years, 8 grape varieties were planted and used for the production of various wines. When a producer aims to produce the nec plus ultra that is a terroir product, the question is not if the place of production possesses terroir or not. Indeed, the place of production is a terroir in of itself, much like the concept of an ecosystem. The question, much rather, revolves around two variables: one concerning the product and the other concerning the terroir. The first one is the dimension of how much a product is influenced by and reflects it’s terroir. The second one is about how the relevance, subjective qualities and character of the signature of the said, specific terroir.

The Concord green grape. Initially present on the land in 1969. Photo: © GEC

A large part of products in wine production, do not necessarily aim to showcase it’s terroir. Nevertheless, with trial and error, some products inevitably fit the characteristics of being a worthy vessel for the region’s unique blend of attributes. When the Schulze family bought the vineyards, the Concord and Niagara grapes, developed in the vicinity, had very well adapted to the land. With time, one variety that proved to be perfectly well adapted to this land’s terroir is the Catawba grape. This grape was elaborated by cross breeding Vitis labrusca vine, native to North America, with a Vitis vinifera. Although it was most probably first perfected in Maryland, at the end of the 18th century, it grows perfectly in Burt, New-York.

The actual Schulze winery opened in 2007. It is a family run business. It is headed by Martin and Anne Schulze. Their son Tyler Schulze manages the technical and marketing side of the business, while Sean Schulze works in the viticulture and winemaking side of the winery. As a proper winery, a wine-tasting hall had to be constructed. As a gesture of authenticity, wood was used to construct it’s features, but not just any wood: they used the black cherry wood that came from the trees that Martin and his father planted years before. The wood was stripped and cut, and a local cabinet maker made beautiful cabinets for thew wines and wine tasting material, as well as beautiful windowsills, doors and a bar cut perfectly for the activity.

Schulze Cabernet Franc red wine. Photo: © GEC

Martin Schulze has been instrumental in exploring what the winery is actually capable of excelling in. In his forays into the field, he has been accompanied by seasoned winemaker Jonathan Oakes, who has helped in developing the products. The Schulze winery has notably produced an fortified Cabernet Franc wine, aged more than ten years. This sweet dessert wine is first raised in oak casks, then blended with the wine spirit and bottled. It is a fine example of a Niagara region wine that can age beautifully in it’s bottle, when kept in the right conditions.

The RCR dessert wine. A fortified wine that ages very well. Photo: © GEC

The Schulze winery has excelled in the production of Siegfried wines, made from the first variety to be implanted by the family in the vineyard. In 2023, the wine producer has also developed and long perfected the sparkling wine side of things. In the 19th century, Catawba grapes and their wines were brought to France and participated in several wine tasting competitions. It is Catawba based wines that won the first American wine medals at the time. Wine experts noted that the Catawba grape was capable of producing exquisite sparkling wines, with their own very complex organoleptic signature. The Schulze winery thus produces an excellent example of a Catawba sparkling wine.

Martin Schulze. Photo: © GEC

Another most worthy product made by the Schulze winery must also be mentioned. It is another brilliant example of what the Catawba grape can do in the Niagara Escarpment. This product was awarded a medal by the Taster’s Guild International for it’s 2012 vintage: the Block Three icewine. Today, it is a bit difficult to buy it as not many bottles remain on the market. This icewine is a very late harvested Catawba icewine. It is the latest of all the grapes, and thus can still be found hanging after a minimum of three days at 12 degrees Faranheit, or approximately 8 degrees Celsius. It’s subtly musky and foxy character is very much revealed in it’s icewine. The red grapes make a truly remarkable icewine capable of competing on an international scale.

The delicious 2012 Block Three icewine, made from the native Catawba grape. Photo: © GEC

Ann and Martin Schulze’s hard work have born fruit. As of 2023, their products are available in a large array of stores, both online ones and local liquor stores. As local food production is more and more valued, the local population have demonstrated everlasting support for the Schulze winery. Thanks to the population’s steadfast support by buying their wines, as well as the labor of their sons Tyler and Sean, Schulze products are now durably on the radar, and are fine ambassadors for the wine produced in the Niagara Escarpment AVA. People interested can shop some of their products at this address.

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