Chateau Buffalo owners Carl Schmitter and Suzie Maciejewski tweak the self-satisifed assumptions of wine snobs daily with their own unexpected, delectable and accessible wines and ciders. Yes, there is a dry red and a dry white in their line-up, but it’s the pear ice wine, cherry wine, plum wine , specialty ciders, and a couple of absurdly popular sweet blends that their loyal customers adore.
Married for 23 years and in business together for 14 years, the pair have balanced their roles as perfectly as any of their blends.
Quiet Carl crafts their wares with local, farm-sourced grapes and fruits at Buffalo’s only urban winery. He dismisses the exacting process and his considerable skill saying “ Its simply a matter of choosing fruit you would eat - fruit thats ripe, sound and without flaws.” He finds constant opportunity in the variety of good fruit grown on family farms here in Western New York.
Sparkling Suzie is my Saturday stall neighbor at the Broadway Market, chatting folks into sipping some of the latest offerings — and ringing up the inevitable sale.
Kristen Lemke, a charming, second -generation Market veteran at 23, works with the pair both at the Market and their Chateau Buffalo Winery and Ciderhouse at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal.
They represent the best of the Buffalo I love.
Asked why they moved their production facility and tasting room from a small, retail storefront operation on Hertel to the more utilitarian 1500 Clinton St. location six years ago , Suzie answers quickly, “When something explodes we can hose it down.” Carl adds simply that the space offered a much larger tasting area, a full basement for production and direct access to local farmers at the Clinton Bailey Market across the street,
Carl works full-time on their wines and ciders while Suzie has kept her day job of more than 40 years in Kalieda’s labs. Their Market booth brings Suzie home - back to the neighborhood where she grew up. “Maciejewski is like the Polish version of Smith,” she says with a laugh.
Chateau Buffalo’s product names and labels are as playful as their blends. Their best -selling wine is named for the address of the Broadway Market - 999 Broadway . Old-timers like myself immediately recognize their “998 Broadway” blend as a nod to the iconic Sattler’s store than once prospered across the street. Their rose blend Love Joy is an homage to the “Iron Island” neighborhood where I grew up.
999 Broadway is the a blend of concord grape and loganberry — that tastes so much better than it sounds. (Seriously, it took me a couple of months to get the nerve to try it. Instead of worrying about how I’d pull off telling them it is “good,” I ended up laughing at myself for missing out for all that time.)
“It tastes like nostalgia,” Carl explains. A Canadian by birth who grew up in the states, Carl played with perfecting a way to bring together the ubiquitous Lake Erie concord with the signature fruit of Southern Ontario. He got it so right that it is one of the top selling New York State wines in the region. Offered at more than 70 local outlets, including Premier, it’s often sold out. One store in a toney neighborhood with shelf-upon-shelf of dusty, prestigious, unpronounceable vintages — orders 27 cases at a time. Susie suggests serving it Sangria-style with ice cubes and maybe some sliced fruit in the summer. Robert Mondavii told her she could.
Carl was working at Warm Lake Estates Winery in Niagara County and discussing starting their own winery when the pair made a California wine tour to celebrate Suzie’s 50th birthday. Carl arranged for them to meet famed vintner Mondavi as part of Suzie’s celebration. Of course, she chatted him up about the kinds of wines they wanted to make . He told them to make the wines they loved — and admitted he prefers his red wine served with an ice cube and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about it.
Chateau Buffalo was born that day - effectively delaying their next vacation until “about 2025” Suzie says. It’s a labor of love that has taken ample doses of both to bring it to the the place they are today. There were no MBAs or venture capitalists involved. Carl and Suzie enjoy forging their own path.
The pair met in 1986 at the 10-year anniversary celebration of Zoot Suit City — a vintage/secondhand store on Elmwood. Each knew the other half of the couple that owned the business. Suzie eventually proposed to Carl on Sadie Hawkins Day, but the pair didn’t get around to marriage until a 1995 Vegas trip. They sent postcards to their friends and family to announce the news — and most did not believe them. Suzie carries their wedding picture - with the pair smiling broadly in their shorts and t-shirts— in her wallet.
Their tasting room at the Niagara Food terminal is fun and funky. It is open on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 6.p.m. and has hosted a variety of parties and events for the ever-growing community of Chateau Buffalo fans. They support young African- American artists in their gallery space and have opened their doors to a variety of music and art events.
There are always seasonal specialities and new blends in development in the downstairs production facility. Look for Honey Mead, Dandelion Wine and an Apple Ice Wine in the near future.
Ironically, some local marketplaces reject the idea of local wines that are not made on the farm where the fruit is grown. Regardless of the growth of their brand, it’s not likely there will be another urban winery in Buffalo anytime soon. Carl and Suzie are OK with that.
“We did it because we thought it would be unique. It’s where we live and we wanted to prove it could be done,” Carl said.
Stop by the Market any Saturday and find out for yourself just how well they did it.
Our tribute to our awesome Broadway Market neighbors - Buffalo’s only urban winery ,Chateau Buffalo — as well as all the great Buffalo experiences to toast.
You are purchasing six of our beautiful Bohemian Bizon medallions on your choice of silver-plate, gold-plate or brass glass charm wires. This special edition collection is hung on a hand- tooled oval of leather (from Buffalo’s own M. Steffan’s Sons - the oldest continuously operating family leather shop in the country). The set is strung on a suede loop with a faceted Czech Glass roller bead to make it easy to dress up your favorite bottle as a spectacular hostess gift . It ships boxed for giving and we will be glad to email your receipt and enclose a gift card with your message if you leave us the details with your order.
We designed our Bohemian Bizon glass bead medallions exclusively with the Siklova family in Jablonec. We appreciate that no one else can make this type of bead like Jiri and his son Jiri and are delighted to share it with you.