Courtesy Freedom Run Tasting Room, by Ann Witmer
The bright Chihuly-style glass flowers at the wine-tasting counter at the Freedom Run Winery are the first clue to the fun possible at that winery, 20 miles east of Niagara Falls in Lockport.
In addition to making wine, Larry Manning and his brother, Sean Manning, are up for just about anything, including growing hops, building a cabin and hosting events for groups.
On a Friday in July, they were setting up for the winery’s weekly outdoor movie in the vineyard. This week’s show was “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and as usual, they planned to serve a cocktail inspired by the movie. Fizzy Lifting Drinks, like those that lifted Charlie and his grandfather to the top of a bubbly chamber in the factory, were on tap, along with parmesan truffle popcorn.
Private events get the same attention to detail.
“We can do wine tastings, or people can help bottle the wine. We like to get people involved, and we’ll make special labels for their bottles,” Larry Manning said.
Events can be staged in the bottling room lined with French and Hungarian oak barrels, or in a rustic 1826 fruit barn with a crystal chandelier and a straw sofa. The barn accommodates events for as many as 250 people.
The Mannings bought the farm and started planting grapes in 2005 along the Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment is a limestone ridge that runs through the area and creates what some say is the best microclimate for grape growing in the East. The winery opened two years later and is part of the Niagara Wine Trail. Some 12,000 cases are produced a year; pinot noir is a specialty.
Sean Manning, a Florida transplant, is a prolific glass and ceramic artist. He made the flowers, the bathroom sinks and a host of ceramic “vineyard soldiers” that will stand on corner posts to guard the grapes.
He’s also at work on nine-foot Twin Towers for the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City.
The brothers recently bought another farm down the road where Sean Manning plans to open a glass, clay and art studio with a gallery, event space and, of course, kilns.
“I will have every firing mechanism known to man,” he said.