By Jann Wiswall

It’s been less than three short years since the Winery of Ellicottville opened in 2010 at 14 Monroe St. in the village, but the winery is already making a big impression with experts across the country.

At the March 23-24 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (FLIWC), where 3,505 wines from all 50 states and 20 countries were assessed by 70 of the world’s very top judges, four of the Winery of Ellicottville’s wines took medals: EVL Red took a gold medal; its 2011 Chardonnay won a silver medal; and EVL White and the 2011 Pinot Grigio both received bronze medals.

“This is great recognition both for the winery and for Ellicottville,” said Sam Sheehy, co-owner with his father-in-law Dominic Spicola. “When customers come into our shop and see our (now 26) medals, they know we’re serious about making great wines that people should be drinking.”

The Winery of Ellicottville was inspired by Spicola’s father, Francesco, who emigrated from Italy in 1968 and brought the wine making tradition with him. Year after year, Francesco and his son would crush and press each harvest to make wine at home to supply the family for the year. Between Dominic’s lifelong passion and his son-in-law’s career experience in the industry, the idea of the Winery of Ellicottville was born and took off from day one.

The winery purchases grapes from all over the state, but especially from the Chautauqua, Finger Lakes and Niagara regions. All of the grapes are crushed, pressed, fermented and bottled on the premises.

Sheehy and Spicola take pride in using both old- and new-world techniques to craft each and every wine they make. Some wines are made in large enough quantities to be eligible for competitions, but others are made in smaller quantities as specialty wines.

“All of them are great,” said Sheehy.

Entering exhibitions and competitions is an essential part of how wineries build recognition and awareness, Sheehy explained. The winery recently took part in the Buffalo Wine Festival on April 6 and plans to exhibit all summer at the Olean and Hamburg farmers markets. The winery also plans to exhibit at the Great New York State Food and Wine Festival in Thousand Islands, N.Y., in June. Its next competition is the Riverside (California) International Wine Competition from May 7-9.

“We enter competitions year round,” he added, so there’s no doubt that the medal count will be increasing in the near future.

Twenty or more wines are offered every day for tasting and for sale. They include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Traminette, Francesco’s Reserve, 2010 Riesling, Vidal, EVL White, Rose, Snow Fox, EVL Red, EVL Blue, The Sweetest Thing, Pinot Noir, 2010 Merlot, Syrah, 2010 Noiret, Sparkling Riesling, and several seasonal wines. Tours are also available.

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