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Birthday bash benefits Grape Discovery Center

October 12, 2011
WESTFIELD — What better way to celebrate a birthday than with good friends and good food.

And, if you’re a winery, some good wine.

That is just what happened on Friday, Sept. 30 as Johnson Estate Winery held a party celebrating 100 years of fruit growing and 50 years of wine making. As part of the festivities, New York State Senator Catharine Young, R-Olean, presented Johnson Estate co-owner Fred Johnson with a copy of a special senate resolution which celebrate the estate’s successes over the years by giving a history of the business. This resolution was passed unanimously on June 7, 2011 and will now become a permanent part of the state record.

“You are a part of history, not only here in Chautauqua County, but New York State,” Young said.

Johnson Estate is the oldest family-owned estate winery in New York and was created in 1961 when the current owner’s father turned the then mixed fruit farm into a French hybrid grape growing and wine making operation. As an estate winery, the whole process of creating wine takes place on the property.

“Thank you very much, that’s very gracious and heartwarming,” Johnson said.

Around 65 people were in attendance for an evening of wine-paired hors d’oeuvres, a main course and dessert. Chefs Ross Warhol, Alex Gray and Marisa Love, all from the Athenaeum Hotel in the Chautauqua Institute, were in charge of the appetizers and the desserts while Robert Cross’ 3 C’s catering company prepared the main course. The hors d’oeuvres were designed to either pair with a Johnson Estate white or red wine and were prepared with plums, pears and oregano straight from the Johnson’s garden. In addition, concord grape filling was used in the peanut butter and grape cake and grape jam was used in the vinaigrette dressing for the salads.

“We are so happy to have all of you here,” Jennifer Johnson told the crowd.

Jennifer also said the event was an inaugural party to test how the renovations to the winery’s tasting room would work with a crowd. The room has been opened up and now offers more bar space and a view of the huge metal holding tanks. However, much care was put into allowing the room to retain its original feel, an important detail for the Johnsons.

“I have to congratulate you on the renovations of this winery,” Young said. “It’s absolutely fabulous.”

Something else the attendees tested were new wooden plates especially for standup parties which offer a slot and circular design to hold wine glasses so that one hand can hold the board and wine glass at the same time while the other hand is available for eating.

“Be careful as you balance,” Jennifer said.

On top of being a celebration, the Johnsons used the evening as a fundraiser, not for their own business, but for the Grape Discovery Center slated to open by the summer of 2012. The event raised $4,500 for the center.

“2012 will be a good year,” the center’s building committee chair Dave Momberger said.

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Article Photos

Photo by Jenna Loughlin
Johnson Estate Winery co-owner Fred Johnson displays a copy of a New York State Senate resolution celebrating the history of the state’s oldest estate winery. Also pictured, left to right, are New York State Senator Catharine Young, Johnson Estate co-owner Jennifer Johnson and New York State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell.



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