Women and Wine

17098443_1148417588613475_3052059758283408492_nMarch is the month dedicated to showcasing and honoring women for their accomplishments in changing our culture and revolutionizing the world. While times have changed and ceilings continue to fall, women still struggle to earn the respect of their male counterparts, especially in certain fields.

One industry that is remarkably absent in this discussion is the wine industry. This group of growers and vintners has been demographically male-dominated throughout history, but in Western New York local wineries are breaking the mold for women.

Shane Gustafson at Gust of Sun Winery (Gust of Sun Winery/Facebook)

Shane Gustafson is the owner and co-wine maker with her husband of Gust of Sun Winery in Ransomville, NY, which won Silver Medal in the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

Down the road, Mindy Vizcarra is now overseeing the winemaking operations, which is being done by several male co-workers, at Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms. They also took home a Silver Medal in the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.A fifth-generation farm, Vizcarra is carrying on the family tradition but a leading female in the local industry and growing the business into an agri-tourism attraction.

South of them, Salamanca Estate Winery has both male and female winemakers who share equal responsibility in the winemaking responsibilities.

While not a traditional wine maker, Kristin Gregory is also breaking barriers as the chief-cider maker at BlackBird Cider Works. They have won several local awards including 2016 Silver Medal in the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.

As we conclude women’s appreciation month, we must be proud of the continued work being done in our own backyard. Western New York continues to push forth in setting new precedents in many industries. While we spent the past month appreciating women it is imperative to continuing shining a light on the accomplishments being made around our community.


Dimitri Malliaris is the public relations intern for Full Plate Publicity. He is currently completing his bachelor’s degree at Buffalo State University in public communications with a minor degree in environmental science. He is in his final semester of college, and is currently the vice-president of PRSSA- Buffalo State Chapter.

Prior to getting his degree, Dimitri was co-general manager of Nektar and Ambrosia Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. He has spent his life in the hospitality industry. Following graduation, he hopes to work for the environment or renewable energy field doing public relations.



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Laura and the Dinosaur BBQ Cookbook: An American Roadhouse

A Thai green curried chili that was the result of cabbage having soaked overnight, spiked with cilantro and flavored with Mae Ploy Sauce, on hot dogs, received praise: “I’m incorporating this salad into my repertoire,” Lynn said. But it wasn’t the “winning” dish.

Slaw and wieners

Mississippi-Style Catfish Strips with Bacon-Fennel BBQ Sauce captured the attention and palates of dinner goers. Dinosaur BBQ originally created the dish for a fiery food show but some of the ingredients were altered. Although it happened to be Lent when Dino BBQ developed the recipe, I don’t think the Pope would mind having taken liberty with it. In the end, it was sinfully good.

The Fish

1-pound catfish fillets

1 egg slightly beaten

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup flour

Old Bay Seasoning

3 cups vegetable oil

Slice the catfish into ¾ inch wide by 5 to 6 inches long. Toss in a bowl along with the egg. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Fill a bowl with a mix of cornmeal and flour. Pour the oil into the skillet. Slide the oil-filled skillet onto a front burner and get it heating over medium heat until hot but not smoking.

Next, line up the cookie sheet, the cornmeal mixture, and the bowl of marinating catfish. Pluck the catfish from the marinade, drop it in the cornmeal mix, and roll it around in the mixture until coated. Then move the coated strips to the wax-lined pan.

Once the catfish strips are breaded, fry them in the hot oil in batches without crowding the pan. Cook, flipping once, for a total of 4 to 5 minutes until nicely brown. Drain on paper towels. Feeds 3 to 4.

The Sauce

8 strips regular-slice bacon

1 heaping cup slivered red onion

1 heaping cup slivered fennel

Pinch each of sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1 cup Dinosaur BBQ Creole Honey Mustard Sauce

Juice of ¼ lemon

Fry the bacon over medium-high heat just until crisp and brown. Pull it out of the pan, drain it on paper towels, crumble and set aside.

Pour off all but 3 to 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan. Dump in the onions and fennel, seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sizzle over medium heat until brown and caramelized. Stir in the sauce and lemon juice.

Pour the sauce over the fish

Back to the meal

Beer was on tap and so was a Trilogy Red wine from Black Willow in Olcott, NY

Ending the meal with Julie’s Peanut Butter Pie with an Oreo crust (she used graham crackers and Cool Whip instead of Heavy Whipped Cream) was a perfect conclusion to a summer BBQ.

A Toast to Earth Day

Almost as long as Earth Day has been celebrated, the masses have known that eating local is healthy and environmentally friendly. But what about drinking locally? Welcome to the Niagara Wine Trail USA. Nestled between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, award-winning wineries sit amongst sleepy farms and pastures, all within a brief drive.

The Winery at Marjim Manor, at 7171 East Lake Road (Route 18) Appleton, NY 14008, produces fruit wines and folklore. A former convent, the property the mansion sits on was originally purchased from the Holland Land Company. Although the majestic home has been turned into a reception hall and winery, it’s been reported that some of the old souls still linger. Just don’t tell William Shakespeare, one of the resident cats.

At a recent tasting, some traditional upstate New York wines were tried, but they are always a little too sweet for me. However, blueberries, plums and pears soon danced on my tongue. If you go, True Blueberry ($20.95) is great for vegetarians because of it’s compliment traits to vegetables, especially eggplant. Followed by an oaky cab, and then Pear Made in Heaven ($7.95). The first wine made at Marjim, it is not only a bargain but a light, crisp wine, perfect for humid WNY summer nights on the porch.

Marjim Manor

There are almost 15 wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail and guided tours are available. Coming this summer, Gust of Sun Winery and Long Cliff Winery will be open for business. Don’t forget Niagara Reusable Wine Bags and recycle your bottles when you’re done.

If you decide to stay the night, don’t miss the latest must visit overnight destination. Brookins Inn & Suites is modernized old world charm, at 2697 Maple Ave., Newfane, NY. Decorated in a crisp French country style, this inn is brimming with history. Built in 1893, the inn was built by by Delisle Brookins, who was also responsible for the Olcott Beach Hotel. In it’s heyday, the hotel served as the stage for such big bands as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong. Today at the Inn on Maple Ave., the proprietors, Beverly and Dan Mandaville, make sure eco-friendly soaps are placed in every room. Environmentally and wallet friendly, with quaint surroundings, all tucked away on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Western New York is known to already be home to one wonder of the world, but after a vacation to Niagara Wine Country, you’ll see this spectacular attraction is something to be discovered.