Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

August 3, 2013

uncorked

By Joyce M. Miles joyce.miles@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The Flight of Five Winery at Old City Hall is opening today.

Samples of its first five wines, titled Locks 67 through 71, will be served daily in flights of five and individually. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 Sundays.

The winery occupies the top floor of Old City Hall, 2 Pine St., and is the first winery to be operated in the city.

With its opening, two other hospitality businesses on the building’s first floor, including Sweet Melody’s, are going to “full time” operation with the same daily hours.

Old City Hall is one of two new locations for Sweet Melody’s since the East Amherst original was closed. Proprietor Chuck Incorvia produces a variety of flavors of gelato and fresh fruit sorbets. Gelato contains half the fat of regular ice cream, and sorbet has no fat or dairy content, he says.

Building owner Scott Geise has turned a section of Old City Hall into a welcome center for visitors to the city’s Locks District. Cold drinks, hot pizza from Molinaro’s and locally grown fresh popcorn are available for purchase. Geise is acquiring old Lock City photos and other historic materials for display and is making space available for local artists to show their work as well.

Sweet Melody’s and the welcome center opened informally last month, without fixed hours of operation, while awaiting the winery opening, according to Geise.

Plans are in the works for a mid-August grand-opening-style celebration by and for businesses at the Pine-Canal-Gooding streets intersection that have opened since spring: Lockport Cave Tours, Old City Hall/the Flight of Five Winery and Lake Effect Ice Cream.

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The Flight of Five Winery is undergoing a “soft” opening today after owner-operator Jackie Connelly finally received a license from the state Liquor Authority on July 26. At the outset, only samples of Flight of Five wines will be served; sales by the glass await receipt of a separate permit from the state, she said.

With its hosting of the winery, Geise has undertaken an ambitious effort to resuscitate Old City Hall, in part by recovering its gracious features. Hovering over the Erie Canal at Pine Street, the stone structure was built in 1859 as a flour and grist mill, and was purchased by the City of Lockport in 1893 to house municipal offices.

Restoring the building to historic preservation standards is cost-prohibitive, Geise said, so recovery is by a mix of restoration and modernizing. An example is in the use of lighting fixtures, some of which are original to the city’s occupation while others are reproductions. Timeworn hardwood flooring was preserved but, to protect it long-term, it’s been covered with “floating” laminate. Since trees and brush were cut away from the north side of the property, natural light pours in, accentuating the many interior changes.

Connelly designed her winery space with the setting and local history in mind. The tasting bar is built to resemble the Flight of Five canal locks and it’s composed partly from 200-year-old, hand-hewn timbers that were reclaimed from a barn in Clarence. Recessed areas in the bar are filled with colored glass; the circles are the bottoms of old wine bottles, cut and placed by her “to resemble lights on water,” she said.

The winery occupies the same space as the old City Court room. Above the tasting area, the original tin ceiling has been reclaimed, after contractors blasted away a good half-inch layer of black paint to get to it. The effect “was like a gift,” Connelly said. “We did not anticipate anything so beautiful.”

Historic canal scenes, rendered by winery co-owner and artist Mike Connelly, will be displayed in the tasting area. In the production area, the owners have been working on getting photos from other Niagara Wine Trail wineries to illustrate steps in the process that take place off-site for the Flight of Five: growth and harvesting in the vineyards.

After its new wines are debuted, the winery will begin offering flights of five wines from other Niagara Wine Trail members, as well as the Finger Lakes and Long Island trails. Only New York State wines — and only local foods — will be served at the Flight of Five, Connelly said.

This autumn, a flight of five ciders, made from apple and pear juices supplied by Blackman Homestead Farms of Lockport, will be introduced at the winery.