Chateau Niagara Becomes New York’s Second Certified Craft Winery

Following closely on the heels of Arbor Hill Winery, Chateau Niagara is the second winery in
New York to join the Craft Wine Association. Dedicated to hands-on winemaking, Chateau
Niagara Winery produces 700 cases of wine annually. In the minds of owners Jim and Kathy
Baker, they’re continuing on a long tradition of craftsmanship in the region.

“Western New York is a place with a lot of fairly independent people,” says Jim. “The people
who are here want to be here.” Chateau Niagara operates in the town of Newfane, about 40
minutes from Niagara Falls. Notably, the nearby area gave rise to the Roycroft movement,
which was founded by Elbert Hubbard in the late 1800s, and continues to influence American
arts and crafts today (it’s particularly famous for Roycroft furniture).

Jim and Kathy are both New York natives, and Jim’s family heritage goes back eight generations
in the state. Jim researched soils and environments across New York before choosing to
establish his winery in 2010 near the Niagara Escarpment AVA. Formerly an aerospace engineer
by trade, Jim says he has discovered the area’s “sweet spot.”

“We’re about two and a half miles in from Lake Ontario,” he says. “Our soil is all sand, silt, and
gravel from a truly ancient lake, Lake Iroquois [now nonexistent]. It’s absolutely perfect for
growing grapes.”

Chateau Niagara works with many fascinating grape varieties, from French vinifera grapes, to
grapes from Eastern Europe. But the variety Jim says is entirely perfect for the region: cabernet

“It’s all about the bright red notes, a big cherry character, and medium body,” says Jim. “It’s a
wine that’s full of life.” Living the tenants of the Craft Wine Association, Jim oversees the entire
winemaking process himself. He is committed to continually improving; for instance, to make
the cabernet franc, he experimented with several different oak barrels, from Hungarian to
American, before settling on French. And over the years, he has learned that, through
meticulous vineyard management, he barely has to make any adjustments to the wine during
winemaking: The quality of the cabernet franc grapes grown in the region is that great.

Chateau Niagara also produces blends under The Chateau and Kastely Series (kastely means
chateau in Hungarian). One uncommon blend to look for is its Chardonnay-Riesling skin
ferment, or “orange wine.” It is barrel-aged—the chardonnay taking most of the oak to the let
the riesling remain crisp—and ages in the cellar in many ways like a red wine. Each year,
Chateau Niagara only makes one barrel, or around 20 to 25 cases, of the wine.

“Craft wine means passion,” says Jim. “It is not mass-produced. Each vintage is unique, and you see that heart and soul go into it. That can only be done in small lots.”

Jim says joining the Craft Wine Association only made sense. “If a billion dollars fell out of the
sky and the world was my oyster, I would still only grow my winery to 4,000 cases, max,” he
says. “It’s about that strong connection with our customers. I want that sense of something
handcrafted, that personal touch. That’s what we wanted to build, my wife and I.”

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