Schulze Vineyards & Winery doubled its production area this spring.

by Bryan Calandrelli, Niagara Region Editor

When I arrived at Schulze Vineyards & Winery to sit down with owner Martin Schulze to discuss his namesake winery’s expansion, I shouldn’t have been surprised that there wouldn’t be any actual sitting. Martin is someone who is well known on the trail for working 25 hours a day — this day wasn’t any different. And Schulze was getting ready to rack his latest batch of Ruby in preparation for bottling.

“I only have 2,000 gallons left of the Ruby and what is this, June?” says Schulze, with his trademark wryness.  “I need to go all the way to December at least.”

Ruby, a blend of concord, vidal and catawba, is just one of several wines that the winery can’t keep on the shelves. In three years, Schulze Vineyards & Winery has gone from a couple hundred cases to some 4,000 annually with another increase on the way. The success of wines like Ruby, Crackling Catawba and Mon Cheri have been the driving force behind the decision to build an addition to the winery’s production facilities, which increases the winemaking space from the original 2400 square feet to 5500.

Although he prefers his sparkling wines and vinifera reds like cabernet franc and Meritage when having a glass himself, Schulze recognizes how the success of his sweet wines can improve his favorites. “The Ruby and all the sweets and the Crackling give me the possibility to do the dryer stuff better,” he says.

Indeed, the increased capacity of the production area is crucial, yet isn’t the only physical change happening at the winery. Schulze is investing in several jacketed tanks and a glycol chilling system to control his cold stabilization and fermentation temperatures. He’s also increasing the size of the lab area and investing in more accurate instruments.

Schulze stands out among the other winery owners, growers and winemakers as he is the closest thing I’ve seen around here to what the French call a vigneron or wine grower. He’s involved in every aspect of the process, both in the field and in the winery. It’s quite common to see him work from dawn to dusk on the family’s 100-acre farm in Burt, NY mowing, spraying, planting, harvesting, moving wine…anything and everything you can imagine.

If it’s even possible, Schulze has become more involved since taking the winemaking reigns while they consider consulting winemakers. The winery’s first three vintages were made by Domenic Carisetti, who has since retired from Schulze Vineyards. Carisetti, who works with a handful of wineries in the region, helped transform Schulze’s native grapes into the winery’s roster of popular local wines. But Carisetti’s moving on has motivated Schulze to call upon his 30 years of experience making wine and take the lead in the lab.

“I’m totally in it now…wine tasting, testing, bottling,” says Schulze. “I enjoy it because I can do what I think brings out the potential in the grapes we’re growing here.”

I also got the impression that he is getting excited about what other local growers are doing.

In the past year the winery has supplemented its estate production with cabernet franc grown on the bench of the Escarpment. He mentioned the possibility of buying pinot noir for his sparkling wine as well. He’s planting muscat next spring and a friend’s farm on the Escarpment is adding riesling intended for a Schulze bottle.

But even as the winery expands, don’t expect Schulze to delegate any of the extra work just yet. When I asked what jobs he could see himself relinquishing, I should have predicted his response. “None of them,” he says with a laugh.