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'Wine Train' carries 300 to winery opening

Not a seat was left on the 1947 silver passenger train that crawled to a stop Saturday and unloaded nearly 300 passengers at Spring Lake Winery's new platform.

The five cars operated by the Medina Railroad Museum were dubbed the "Wine Train" for the excursion from Lockport to the Medina Railroad Museum, which returned east for a lunch stop at the winery before it chugged back to the boarding point at Michigan Street and Park Avenue.

The collaborative effort between the museum and winery was part of Spring Lake's grand opening festivities, which drew 100 additional visitors Saturday, including local and state lawmakers.

"We've lived in this area all our lives, but it was fun to see it from a different vantage point on the railroad," said Wendy Harris, who walked the few hundred yards from the platform to the winery with her husband, Gary. "I'd never been to the museum. It was very interesting with a huge model train display and all kinds of old things."

"Now I can't wait to taste the wine," she added.

The 78-acre Spring Lake campus at 7373 Rochester Road, where the Varallo family of Lockport has planted Riesling and Pinot Noir vines, originally was a summer getaway spot where friends came to fish in its spring-fed lake surrounded by quiet woods.

The winery, built from scratch, opened in December with seven wines made mostly from California grapes. The first estate wines from its own grapes will be made next year.

The Varallo family consists of three generations that have worked to open and operate the winery, with Tamre and Dr. Nicholas Varallo at the helm.

"This is a family project," said Nicholas Varallo, who was taught to make wine by his father, Americo.

Tamre Varallo, who wrote the business plan for the winery, said turning the family's basement winemaking hobby into a working vineyard was a longtime dream.

"We're growing every month," she said of the family's $1.5 million investment.

She said the idea for the Wine Train was born out of luck -- the Medina Railroad's right of way runs through her property -- and her desire to reach tourists.

The winery and museum worked for two years on the plan, and Martin C. Phelps, museum director and founder, said more collaboration is needed between destinations in the Niagara Frontier region.

Two more trains will take the same loop on the last Sunday of July and August. The $25 train tickets include continental breakfast, one-hour tour of the museum, lunch and a glass of wine at the winery.


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