Black Willow Winery: Wine is Just the Beginning

Black Willow Winery

Black Willow Winery is unique in that it does more than just make first-class wine. The winery also sells meads and a number of cooking oils and vinegar. Owner and winemaker Cynthia West-Chamberlain says the decision to expand started for financial reasons but ended up being about much more than just that. “About three years into the business, I was looking at my sales and realized how well we did with the high-end artisan oils and vinegar as well as gourmet salts,” West-Chamberlain says. “I looked into partnering with a local store, but the quality was not there, so I did some research and found a great importer that hand picks small-lot artisan oils and vinegar from the northern and southern hemispheres.”

The result? She says the volume they needed was enough to allow them to have their Black Willow brand. “Good wine deserves good oils and vinegar as well as other ingredients, so I went forward,” she explains. “We are very careful when bottling each of our wine, mead, and oil/vinegar products.” She adds that each product has its equipment and day of production, so there’s no risk of products getting mixed by accident. “It is more work, but well worth it knowing the quality is the highest we can offer,” she explains.

Hitting the Big Screen

Black Willow’s wine was recently featured in the Academy Award-winning film, “Still Alice.” How that happened is a fun story that proves the importance of taking chances. It all started when a promotion company called a few years back asking about the winery’s products. “They asked us to send a few cases out, and they would get back to me,” she explains. “I sent the wine and heard nothing and my husband thought it was a scam.”

Then last December, they got a call congratulating them not only on placement in a movie but a full view, with Julianne Moore pouring their Classic Diamond wine. “It’s a beautiful cobalt blue bottle with a silver label; you can’t miss it,” West-Chamberlain explains. “I was like a silly school girl when I saw it.”

The result? They sold out of what they had in a few weeks and had to produce 400 additional cases.

Reaching New Horizons

Aside from award-winning wine (their new vintage was just awarded Double Gold), Black Willow also offers two additional perks: a stunning location ideal for outdoor lovers and a chance to learn how to pair wine with high-end chocolates.

“When I was planning the winery, I knew I wanted to do something unique with the wines and chocolates,” she explains. “So I designed a special placemat we use and we give the customer a choice to go with each wine.” Black Willow is the only winery in the country to offer Chocolates by Norman Love Confections, one of the top 10 chocolatiers in the country.

The other perk of visiting Black Willow? The winery is located in the famed Great Lakes Seaway Trail, expanding over 43 acres with lake views and right on the trail. “Being right on the South shore of Lake Ontario and directly on Route 18 in the heart of The Niagara Wine Trail USA is AMAZING,” West-Chamberlain says. “When we picked this location we knew it would be a great spot but never expected to grow so quickly.”

Visitors to the winery can sit outside or in, relax and sip a glass of wine or enjoy one of the artisan meat, cheese, and fruit boards on offer. “We have picnic tables out back with a horseshoe pit and a fire pit, as well as bistro tables on the front porch of the winery,” she explains. “We are surrounded by orchards and lake views; we are also only 25 minutes from Niagara Falls USA and only 35 minutes west of Rochester or North of Buffalo NY.”

Diana Bocco is a writer and author who writes for Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel website, Marie Claire, Poplar Mechanics, and more. You can find more about her work on her website

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