Jim and Kathy Baker had experienced a lot. They had raised 4 amazing daughters in upper western New York and continued to appreciate and cherish what the food and wine scene had to offer. Jim, an aerospace engineer by trade, had six patents to his name including designs that are still up in space.
In 2006, an opportunity to purchase 31 acres of sand and gravel soil came up that the couple could not pass up. The ground is great for “expressive Niagara fruit” as Jim so eloquently put it. At the exact same time, Jim was displaced from his start up and given a severance package. This set back actually became beneficial as it allowed the Bakers to go chips all in and get Chateau Niagara Winery off the ground. This would finally be there “Summer in the Sun.”
Jim was able to take his engineering background, which provided a combination of math, science as well as creativity and apply it to winemaking. Jim’s focus was on making a combination of commercially viable wines in conjunction with trying to make a few innovative varieties not commonly seen in the U.S with a definitive old world style. Part of that decision involved making a handful of Eastern European style dry red wines including “Bulls Blood”, a Hungarian style house wine and a Saperavi, an ancient Georgian variety with a deep and rich color bouquet.
This journey would not be easy as a Polar Vortex hit the region plunging temperatures to -14 degrees and killing half the grape vines. The Bakers who were no strangers to adversity rolled up their sleeves to “get it done” , replanted the vines and continued on to scale up the winery.
They have been able to build a nice local following and through word of mouth build up a nicely sized wine club. The wine club accounts for 50% of total sales and only 5% of the tasting room traffic as most of the wine is sold directly out of their tasting room.
A lot of their success has come by great customer service. When you walk into the tasting room, “You’re an honored guest at our house,” noted Jim.
Chateau Niagara will continue to grow organically as a larger footprint continues to discover the great flavor profile and complexity that dry red wines, in particular, in the Niagara Lake Plain region of upper western New York has to offer.
2017 Bulls Blood – a very food friendly old world Hungarian dry style of red wine with hints of cherry and subtle earthy tones. An almost rustic yet mystical character out of a novel from the 1500’s. Extremely balanced at 12.3% ABV. This wine would go perfect with just about any grilled meat. Grilled Lamb Kebabs with a salad and yogurt would hit the spot.
2016 Saperavi – bold with dark fruit. The flagship grape of the country of Georgia grows really nicely in the Niagara Lake Plain. You get these beautiful autumn berries with hints of blackberry and plum as well as some acidity with an ABV of 13.6%. This wine would age really well and show further different fruit characteristics 4-5 years from now. Pair this wine with a seasoned Moroccan-spiced steak with charred oranges.