Celebrating the First Day of Fall in NOTL

When I have a free autumn Saturday and a desire to gaze at acres of vineyards, I usually head to the Finger Lakes. Sucking the juice out of concord grapes while picking bunches for jelly with my grandpa will forever be one of my favorite things about fall. Because Penn Yan holds such a special place in my heart, and I don’t really like wine that much anyway, I always forget about how close Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beautiful wineries are.

Tourism Niagara Canada invited the Buffalo Bloggers to take in a few of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries on what turned out to be a beautiful first day of fall. I hadn’t been to NOTL since a very fun long weekend there when I was in elementary school. (My parents were very early adopters of the staycation trend.) The picture-perfect vineyards, fun tastings and adorable Queen Street are a blogger’s paradise.

Blue skies over Konzelmann Estate Winery

Wine tasting at Konzelmann Estate Winery

Our first stop was the beautiful Konzelmann Estate Winery, which greeted us with panoramic views of the Toronto skyline over their vineyards. I learned a lot about wine on our tour of the facility, from growing and harvesting to fermenting and aging. Our guide grew up on a vineyard and you could tell he loves sharing everything he knows about wine and winemaking.

I don’t particularly like wine, but I really enjoyed all the wines Konzelmann offered to us, even bringing a bottle of the Peachwine home.

Next was Small Talk Vineyards. Our first impression was how Instagramable this cute winery is. Arches covered in flowers and grapevines, brightly colored doors, and funny speech bubbles in adorable typography guided us toward the door.

Here, we tried two wines, neither of which I loved. However, this winery is also home to Shiny Apple Cider. Their cider varieties all start with the same base and are mixed with different flavors, for some really tasty results. The Bootleg Cider, a combination of hard apple cider and whiskey, was delicious. As they describe it, “It’s like apple pie and vanilla ice cream had a delicious alcoholic baby that they raised to be a respectable member of cider society…”

Grapevine covered arches at Small Talk Vineyards

Shiny Bootleg Cider at Shiny Apple Cider

Our group chatted under the beautiful blue sky on the pretty patio before heading to dinner at Bistro Six-One for pasta and pizza. We headed back over the border full of wine, spaghetti and sunshine, with a whole lot of pictures for our Instagram grids.

A Day on the Lake with Brookdog Fishing Co.

I used to love fishing with my dad and sister from the dock on Keuka Lake or sitting on the bank of the Erie Canal waiting patiently to catch little sunfish. We never caught more than a couple of little guys; it didn’t matter, I liked being outside, hanging out with Paige and Dad waiting for a nibble. There was one time that I caught a (slightly) bigger fish, but in our battle over the bait, the fish won and my pole went sailing into the Canal.

In the last few years, we haven’t fished nearly as often as we used to, so Paige and I thought a fishing charter might be an awesome way to spend an afternoon together with Dad. Brookdog Fishing Co. graciously hosted our novice group (well, Dad knows what he’s doing but Paige and I were a little rusty) for an afternoon on Lake Erie with guide Ryan.

We had low expectations, primed by our years on the Canal, but even if we had way higher expectations, Ryan would have beat them. I was excited about being in the water in the middle of a rare string of 90° days in Buffalo; catching a fish or two would have been icing on the cake.

That, simply, is not Ryan’s style. He’s all about putting his clients where the fish are and making sure we have everything necessary to catch them. We launched into the Niagara River, but crowded waters made the River un-fishable. Instead, we took a quick ride into Lake Erie and fished a few different spots, starting further out in the water and then moving towards the harbor as boaters headed in for the evening.

Brookdog Fishing Co. | Lake Erie Fishing Charter

Brookdog Fishing Co. | Lake Erie Fishing Charter

Brookdog takes care of everything: poles, bait, baiting, unhooking, photos and bottles of water on ice. While we opted for a half-day trip on Lake Erie, Brookdog offers a ton of options, from year-round walk and wade fly fishing to multi-day charters in the region’s bigger bodies of water. Ryan’s boat is gorgeous and a really comfortable place to spend the day.

As we headed out towards the Lake, Ryan let us know what the game plan was. First, we’d find a good spot, and then we’d start fishing and shooting the shit (his words, not mine). This made me a little nervous, because he was talking to three people who are very good at sitting in silence with each other. Mom takes care of all our family’s small talk.

It turns out I was worried for nothing, because Ryan can talk about anything with anyone and he knows so much about fishing, running a small business, doing what you love and the Buffalo Niagara region that he’s willing to share. He’s fished in Buffalo forever, traveled around the world catching fish and is currently on a mission to fly fish every state in the US before turning 50.

Brookdog’s guides (Ryan, as well as his friend and business partner Nate) focus on native species, and the fish we caught in Lake Erie (smallmouth bass and freshwater drum or sheepshead) have been here for thousands of years. We caught a pretty even mix of the two using live bait, and Paige got a gorgeous white bass as well.

We didn’t look as cool as Ryan and Nate do summer fly fishing in the Niagara River and Lake Erie, but we can pretend. Also, what’s a girl gotta do to get one of those Brookdog shirts?

In our five or so hours on the water, Dad won the prize for the most fish, as well as the smallest fish. I took home the prize of the biggest fish. Paige may have only gotten two, but her patience paid off, because they were the two prettiest fish of the day.

Brookdog Fishing Co. | Lake Erie Fishing Charter

Brookdog Fishing Co. | Lake Erie Fishing Charter

I went to bed feeling like I was still bobbing up and down with the lake, and woke up the next morning a little sunburned and sore (those fish are serious fighters), but that’s just the sign of a really good day on the water.

If you’re feeling like booking a trip of your own with Brookdog Fishing Co., and you should, you can do that here: https://www.brookdogfishing.com/book-fishing-trip/.

Ryan guides Buffalonians and tourists of all fishing abilities year-round, so don’t worry if your summer is already packed. He assured us that catching salmon in the fall is also pretty cool.

I received a complimentary trip with Brookdog Fishing Co. in exchange for writing a review on this blog. All opinions are my own.

A Saturday Morning Coffee Date in Five Points

My favorite thing about the Buffalo Blogging Network is not meetups or opportunities for brand partnerships, although those are pretty great. My favorite part of the Network is meeting Buffalo bloggers who love exploring just as much as I do.

This is how I met Hailey. We’ve been trying to plan brunch for months and we finally met this weekend for coffee at Remedy House. Remedy opened last fall in a beautifully renovated building nestled into the intersection of Rhode Island, West Utica and Brayton Streets, better known as Five Points. This space is everything a blogger could ever want: latte art, marble tabletops, natural light, tiled floors, a bright green espresso machine, plants as wall art and hand-lettered signs.

Coffee Date at Five Point's Remedy House in Buffalo

We sat and talked about our new years’ resolutions, how much we love grocery shopping, Ithaca’s waterfalls, and the good and bad of living in the suburbs.

Five Points and the surrounding blocks are filled with amazing small businesses that are helping revitalize the West Side. After a pour over of Onyx Coffee Lab’s Peru Maria Rojas and an oat milk latte, we were ready for a little food. Lucky for us, this neighborhood is home to lots of options, including Remedy House itself.

We crossed the street to Five Points Bakery for toast. This beautiful building was painstakingly restored down to the gorgeous brick and thick wooden beams. Greenery growing both inside and out pairs perfectly with warm slices of cinnamon raisin toast with peanut butter and sliced apple.

Five Points Bakery in Buffalo's West Side

Five Points Bakery in Buffalo's West Side

Five Points Bakery in Buffalo's West Side

It wasn’t a grand adventure, but this Saturday morning coffee date with a creative soul was just what I needed after a week of snow in April. The next time I adventure to Five Points, I’ll also be stopping at Urban Roots, Paradise Wine, Pilates Art Studio or Evolution Yoga!

Lumagination is Buffalo’s Most Instagrammable Location Right Now

The Buffalo Botanical Gardens are somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and just never made it to. The photos flooding my Instagram feed from Lumagination the last few weeks only added to how much I wanted to go!

During a few weeks each winter, the Botanical Gardens transforms at night into a multicolored light show that seems almost otherworldly. When Briana suggested to a couple of fellow bloggers that we should check it out, I immediately agreed.

We took about a million photos of each other surrounded by twinkle lights, laser beams and illuminated laterns. Each exhibit seemed like it would provide the most Instagrammable backdrop, until we walked through the door into the next room.

Take a peak at some of my favorite shots from the night:

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Lumagination 2018 | Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

Pre-Holiday Pizza at Hearth + Press

Making new friends is not my strong suit. Even as a kid, I’d wait for someone else to invite me over to play at their house instead of asking them. I never took the Myers-Briggs test because I know exactly what it’s going to say. I’m happy to spend Friday nights in and am perfectly content to explore new places solo.

This particular trait makes networking, both personally and professionally, one of the more exhausting tasks I’ve attempted since moving home. Because of this, I’m grateful for extroverts who take it upon themselves to follow up after I’ve awkwardly inserted myself into a group at an event.

Thanks to the initiative of other, braver, individuals, I recently found myself at dinner after work during the week before Christmas with a few fellow bloggers. We checked out Hearth + Press on Main Street downtown. Getting to know each other over thin crust pizza and drinks were just what we all needed to combat the stress of the holidays.

Hearth + Press | Buffalo, NY Pizza

Hearth + Press | Buffalo, NY Pizza

And if you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, we all recommend Hearth + Press. It’s a tad pricey (for us 20-somethings, at any rate), but the stone hearth pizza was fresh and crispy!