Fine Lake Erie Wines of Distinction
Joseph Mazza left his 40 acres of sloping terrain planted with figs, chestnuts and vineyards in Calabria, Italy, in 1954 to make his home in the United States. He sent for his wife, Felecia, daughter Rosina and sons Frank and Robert the following year.
Today, Joseph’s son Robert, his wife, Kathie, and their son, Mario, carry on the family tradition at Mazza Vineyards in North East, Pennsylvania, one of the premiere wineries in the Lake Erie Wine Region. The winery, built by Bob and his brother, Frank, in 1973, resembles a Mediterranean structure nestled among acres of rolling vineyards. Step inside the spacious tasting room, and you’ll experience an Old-World ambience.
The Mazzas chose the Lake Erie Region for it’s cool offshore breezes, sandy soil and the plateau-like topography, which creates an ideal growing condition for classic wine grapes and European hybrids. While ‘lake effect’ is sometimes associated with harsh winter snows, the same effect produces a moderating climate in the spring and fall.
You would expect the winery to offer an Italian vintage, but the region is more suited to Germanic varieties. So, from the very beginning, Mazza Vineyards set out to make exceptional wines in the Germanic style.
As early as 1974, wine tasters from across the country unanimously selected Mazza’s as their top choice in a blind lineup of five Johannesburg Rieslings. “This is it!” they agreed. “This one’s a German for sure.” How could a genuine Riesling from Germany turn out to be from North East, Pennsylvania?
The secret was a young German winemaker named Helmut Kranich, a graduate of the world-famous school of enology at Geisenheim who came to Mazza Vineyards from Henkle and Sekt Co., one of the largest wineries in Germany, known for its champagne. At the age of 23, Kranich had the distinction of being one of the youngest winemakers in the eastern United States.
Mazza wines have evolved over the years, and Gary Mosier, who from the beginning studied alongside Helmut, served as winemaker for many years, contributing his own signature wines. Many customers, especially those new to wine drinking, prefer the sweet, fruity taste that comes from the native Niagara, Concord and Catawba grapes. Now that the health benefits of drinking red wine are well known, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chambourcin have also become popular selections.
Robert continued to expand the operation in North East after his brother, Frank, left the region in 1979 to help develop another winery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He soon found that blending the ancient art of winemaking with the most modern techniques and equipment often brings exciting results.
Mazza was the first Pennsylvania winery this side of Canada to pioneer ice wine, a rare and distinct wine that results from pressing grapes while they are still frozen. Grapes are picked and pressed early in the morning, typically in mid-to-late December. The juice is then fermented slowly, taking up to two months to attain an alcohol level of 11.5%. This process produces a rich, well-rounded wine with a high residual sweetness, best served as a dessert wine with fruits and cheeses.
The winery also broke new ground with its line of Sherry and Port, opening new markets for Mazza and other Pennsylvania wineries interested in producing fortified after-dinner wines.
Mazza’s wife and children regularly contribute new ideas to the family business. While still in high school, Mario and Vanessa developed a private-label program, which provides customers with a unique way to commemorate special occasions. Mario has now rejoined his father as the company’s enologist after training abroad at the University of Adelaide in Australia, while Vanessa contributes as a creative consultant.
For nearly 30 years, Robert Mazza has been a leader in the Pennsylvania grape and wine industry, working to make Pennsylvania wines competitive with those in California. In 1996, Governor Tom Ridge appointed him to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Commission, where he served as an advocate for winegrowers. Thanks to Mazza’s involvement, wines were sampled and sold at the 2000 Pennsylvania Farm Show, the first time in its 84-year history. He is a charter member of the Pennsylvania Winery Association and the Lake Erie Quality Wine Alliance.
In the early years, when unfavorable regulatory conditions and a slowing economy threatened to close down many wineries, Mazza pressed on. He credits his wife, Kathie, for her encouragement and support. “We were not willing to give up,” said Robert. “We both wanted to succeed.”
And succeed they have. Mazza wines have greeted the lips of presidents, toasted governors and christened ships, including a limited edition Vidal Blanc reserved for the U.S. Brig Niagara. In addition, Mazza’s Niagara is the top selling Pennsylvania wine in the entire Pennsylvania state store system. Mazza Vineyards continues to earn international recognition for its wines and is one of the largest producers of Pennsylvania-grown wine in the Commonwealth.
Mazza Vineyards, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars and the South Shore Wine Company are all part of Lake Erie Wine Country, formerly the Chautauqua - Lake Erie Wine Trail, which hosts a variety of special events throughout the year.
Mazza Ice Wine Harvest
Our Grape Growing Region
Harvesting for Mazza Vineyards
Additions to the Mazza Family of Wines
In 2005 the Mazza family expanded into New York with the establishment of a sister operation, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars. With a seperate and distinct range of wines as well as a distillery and cafe, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars offers a perfect compliment to Mazza Vineyards. The inability to establish a distillery led to the idea of establishing another facility in neighboring New York state. When the opportunity came to establish it within walking distance of the Chautauqua Institution’s main gate, the decision was an easy one.
The most recent expansion for the Mazza’s was the re-establishment of the South Shore Wine Company. Established as the first commerical winery in Erie County in 1864, the unique stone cellar offers an experience like no other in the area. In 2007 the 1200 square foot stone cavern and adjoining 1200 square foot stone cellar were restored and reopened bearing the original South Shore Wine Company name in addition to a new and unique line of wines.