Did you know that the shores of Lake Erie in southwestern New York (and stretching down to Erie, PA) is the largest grape-growing region in the eastern United States?
While many of these grapes make their way into juices, this region is known for producing not just great grape juice, but also amazing wines.
Many visitors to the area take the time to visit a few of the wineries in New York and Pennsylvania in the Lake Erie Wine Country, but if you want to learn more about the history of grape growing in the region and how it’s done, you won’t want to miss the Grape Discovery Center.
The Grape Discovery Center is located near Westfield, New York, just a few miles from Lake Erie and near Mazza Chautauqua Cellars (which also features an on-site brewery and distillery).
This free-admission museum features a ton of great displays about how grapes are grown and turned into delicious drinks and is a fun spot to visit while traveling through the area.
The Grape Discovery Center can be divided into three parts: a museum, a tasting room, and a gift shop.
Visitors enter through the gift shop. This area features a wide variety of local gifts for sale, including locally-produced wines, as well as other food and drinks. If you are looking for a one-stop-shop for Lake Erie wine or simply for a great souvenir or gift, this is one of the best local gift shops in the region.
The main attraction of the Grape Discovery Center is the museum area. In this portion of the building, you can learn about the history of grape growing in the region, how grapes have been harvested throughout the years, and the many products the region’s grapes have been used in.
While I’ve toured wineries in the past that offered a nice look into the winemaking process, the museum at the Grape Discovery Center really offers a great overview of the entire industry. This includes everything from why the climate and soil of the Lake Erie region are so great for wine growing, how the grapes are harvested, and even how the vines survive the region’s harsh winters.
Throughout the display area, you’ll also find many interactive elements and videos. While most of these are designed for adults, some of them should also interest younger visitors.
In addition to information on the grape growing process, there is also information about the history of the industry in the region, including many historical artifacts related to Welch’s grape juice, which is still a major user of the Concord grapes grown in the area.
Between the gift shop and the museum is a tasting room. Here, you can try a variety of locally-made wines and grape juices. While the rest of the Grape Discovery Center is free to visit, there is a small charge if you want to do wine tastings. However, if you only have a short amount of time in the region, this is a great way to sample wines from several different wineries in one spot.
Overall, the Grape Discovery Center in Chautauqua County, New York offers a great overview of the fantastic Lake Erie Wine Country. Whether you are looking to try delicious wines, learn more about the history of this wine-growing region, or are simply looking for a great souvenir or gift, this is a stop you want to miss while exploring the southwestern corner of New York.
Grape Discovery Center
Hours: Thursday-Saturday: 11am-5pm
Address: 8305 West Main Road