Johnson Estate Winery creates a wine for May

A Lake Erie regional winery has released an unusual if traditional German-style toast to the season called May wine. 

Johnson Estate Winery —  just over the Pennsylvania border in Westfield, N.Y. — has carbonated a sweet white made with Vidal Blanc grapes and given it an infusion of sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). The medicinal herb, with a reputation as a spring tonic, is often added to “Maiwein” in Germany this time of year, sometimes with strawberries or other fruit, to make a punch. 

Johnson Estate’s winemaker Jeff Murphy made a batch more or less as a hoot last spring, but people liked it so much he decided to make twice as much this year. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau required the winery to label the product as simply “May,” saying there was no official classification for May wine.  

The perennial is known for its grassy and vanilla-y flavors, but I could detect only a hint of pleasant bitterness to this otherwise very bright and refreshing bubbly. The corked slender 375-milliliter bottle makes for a pretty presentation.

While the winery’s products are sold at Pennsylvania state stores, this one must be mail ordered for $14.99 per bottle plus shipping (alas, $14 for one bottle or $19 for six) at or by calling 1-716-326-2191 or 1-800-Drink-NY. (There’s also a May wine “happy hour in a box” with enough wine to serve four to six people with Yancey’s Fancy Bergenost cheese, crackers and local honey for $70 plus shipping.)

Bob Batz Jr.:, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr. 


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