Memoir of a Finger Lakes Winery
Part One: Conception
This entry is the first part of a series of mini-blogs about how King Ferry Vineyard and Winery came to be, as told by those who conceived, nurtured, and grew the businesses.
Peter Saltonstall’s father was a professor of agronomy at Cornell University with a passion for farming. He had a small family farm with beef cattle and a feedlot at his home in Ellis Hollow, NY. While working for Cornell Cooperative Extension he located fertile farmland in King Ferry, New York. In total he purchased about seven hundred acres of land in King Ferry. As a child, Pete remembers sitting on a tractor for hours with his father, and as a teenager he helped work the land himself.
Sadly, when Peter was only thirteen his father died. Working with a hired manager, Pete realized in his late teens that cattle farming was not to be his fate. A visit to Napa Valley with his brother in the mid-seventies helped him realize his desire for change. They went to several wineries and had a great time. Pete’s time in California instilled a subconscious spark of interest in viticulture that would be realized years later.
When he returned from California, he began auctioning off farm equipment and sold most of the land, keeping a small farm on Lake Road that extended down the slope all the way to Cayuga Lake. This one hundred and fifty acres was previously “Treleaven Farms”, a small scale dairy operation. A Greek revival farmhouse stood on the property in disrepair. It had been vacant for about twenty years. In 1975 Pete began renovating the farmhouse. During this time he also began dating Tacie Balliett from Long Island. They were married in 1977 and began life together in the reconstructed house on Lake Road.
For roughly the next 10 years Pete worked construction in Ithaca, NY. The newly married couple befriended Karen and Steven Dumas owners of the late Graystone Inn, located on East Shore Drive in Ithaca. Steven was a chef and a Francophile with an extensive collection of wine from Burgundy. (The principle red grape in Burgundy is Pinot Noir and the principle white variety is Chardonnay.) This friendship triggered Peter’s previously unrealized passion for wine. “Over the course of many dinners and probably too much wine we started talking about what would be the prospects of trying to grow these grape varieties in the Finger Lakes.”
SYRACUSE, NY (2/22/2013) – Lev Saltonstall, Regional Coordinator for King Ferry Winery was at Food Bank of Central New York on Friday, February 22, 2013 to present a check for $4,415. King Ferry Winery, maker of Treleaven wines, generated the donation directly from tasting fees, with $1 from each $3 fee going to the charity.
Thomas Slater, Executive Director of the Food Bank, was on hand to receive the check, as was Director of Special Nutrition Projects Peter Ricardo. “We greatly appreciate this generous donation. King Ferry Winery has been very supportive of our mission, and their efforts have put a lot of nutritious food into the community” stated Mr. Slater.
Food Bank of Central New York is a not-for-profit organization working to eliminate hunger through nutritious food distribution, education, and advocacy in cooperation with the community. Food Bank serves as the primary food supplier for 268 emergency food assistance programs in 11 counties of New York State, distributing 12,273,003 pounds of food last year. Food Bank of Central New York is a certified member of Feeding America. Visit www.foodbankcny.org for more information on the agency and its programs.
This year at the Viticulture 2013 Conference our winemaker Lindsay Stevens won an award! For her prize, Lindsay chose a sustainability credit that sponsors the construction and installation of a BioSand filter in South Sudan. The award reads that one filter will “provide 20,000 L per year of clean drinking water to the people of South Sudan and avoid approximately 3 tonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation associated with boiling a portion of the water to make it safe to drink.” The credit was presented to Lindsay by Enviro-Stewards Inc..
Anyone can purchase a credit and provide families with clean drinking water at this site: http://www.enviro-stewards.com/sustainability-credits/
What a wonderful and honorable initiative! Thanks Lindsay… you chose your prize well!
For more information about the program visit: http://www.enviro-stewards.com/charitable/sudan/
INTRODUCING FEATURED WINE OF THE MONTH:
Many of you are likely familiar with “May in Riesling Month” in the Finger Lakes. Around the lakes wineries honor the most renowned FL varietal with discounts, food pairings and special events. As the FL wine industry ages, more and more of our cooler climate varietals are gaining positive recognition. So we thought, why limit a good thing? Starting this year we have selected a featured wine for each month! Visitors to King Ferry Winery will receive a free tasting of the featured wine plus discounts on purchases of that wine (discounts will also extend to shipping orders).
The featured wine of February 2013 is our Bordeaux blend, Meritage. The word Meritage was coined in the 1980s by a group of American winemakers who wanted to create a new world name for traditional “noble” Bordeaux varietal blends. “Meritage” is a combination of the words “merit” and “heritage” indicating both the high quality and long lived tradition of Bordeaux blends. Although it is tempting to pronounce Meritage with a French pronunciation, it is correctly pronounced rhyming with “heritage.” In order to put “Meritage” on the label, the wine must contain at least two of the possible six red or three white Bordeaux varietals. The winery must also be a member of the Meritage Alliance. The alliance gives winemakers the opportunity to showcase their skill at blending under a title that consumers associate with high quality.
The growing season in 2007 was hot and dry, ideal conditions for red grapes. Kim, our wholesale representative, remembers that at the time it was the nicest and darkest Cabernet Franc fruit she had seen. Similarly, Wine Spectator’s Mitch Frank wrote in 07’: “Upstate in the Finger Lakes, winter and spring passed by frost-free, giving producers solid yields after several years with few grapes on the vines. The summer was warm and sunny—hot and dry, in fact—which was good for the reds and a relief after a very cloudy, wet 2006. Several winemakers are raving about the dark colors in their Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.” The remaining varietals, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon used in our Meritage were purchased from Sawmill Creek Vineyards in Hector, NY and Sam McCullough's Vineyard in Long Island. Long Island has a slightly longer growing season, which gives the grapes more time to ripen. Since the weather was hot and dry the conditions were even more ideal for red varietals causing the grapes to produce higher sugar, flavor concentration and to quote wine maker Lindsay “beautiful tannin development.”
Since the release of this wine about five years ago it has undergone a mellowing process in the bottle that is typically called ageing. In young red wine the tannin often has an almost bitter quality, which some wine lovers like and others do not. One of the characteristics of an aged wine is that the tannin and oak mellow and become more mild and smooth without losing complexity of flavor. Flavors in aged blends also become more married so that it is not as easy to pick out characteristics of a particular grape. Instead, the flavor is unified and complex. This Meritage maintained a lot of dark fruit like black cherry and black berry. Our descriptor reads: “Beautifully integrated tannin and smoky oak are some of the wonderful characteristics of this nicely aged, award winning Bordeaux blend. Subtle fruit and spice add to the complexity: black cherry, clove and black pepper. A bold finish, reminiscent of black coffee, rounds out each sip. A unique blend of 61% Cab Franc, 28% Merlot & 11% Cab Sauvignon.”
We recommend the 07’ Meritage with red meats and chocolates, and is one of our favorite pairings with a wide variety of our Finger Lakes' artisanal cheeses. Also try it with these tested and approved recipes:
KING FERRY WINERY
Gingersnap and Chipotle Truffles
(makes 12 large or 24 small)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (1 cup chocolate chips)
2 Tblsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. chipotle powder
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 Tblsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ cup pulverized gingersnaps (food processor works great to pulverize)
cocoa for dusting
Melt the chocolate & cream until smooth (you can do this in a microwave – 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, or use a double boiler), then stir in the butter by tablespoon-sized pieces, then add the chipotle and the vanilla, and finally stir in the pulverized cookies. Set the bowl or pan containing the mixture in the refrigerator to cool, stirring occasionally, until chilled and fairly firm – about 3 hours. Dig into the mixture with a teaspoon, gather up a gob, and form into a rough rocklike truffle shape. Roll it in the cocoa powder and drop it into a paper candy cup. Refrigerate in an airtight container, where they will keep several weeks, or you may freeze them.
KING FERRY WINERY
Beef Medallions with Wine Sauce
1 1/2-pounds of beef tenderloin
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 cups canned beef broth
2 cups Treleaven Meritage
Cut beef crosswise into 12 equal rounds. Pound beef rounds to flatten to 1/4-inch-thick medallions. Season with salt and pepper.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sauté beef in skillet until brown on outside but still pink in center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer beef to plate. Add remaining butter to same skillet. Add garlic, shallots & thyme; sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Add broth, wine, and bay leaf. Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard. Return beef and any juices to sauce in skillet; heat through, about 1 minute. Transfer beef to plates, Spoon sauce over top.
Learn more about the Meritage Alliance here: http://www.meritagealliance.com/
A new Treleaven Vintner’s Cuvée Chardonnay was released Saturday December 29th. King Ferry Winery was founded on chardonnay and we remain the only winery in the Finger Lakes that regularly produces three different chardonnays. The new Vintner’s Cuvée will make four. We have not produced a Vitner’s Cuvée Chardonnay since 2001 because it is reserved for the best years! Pete Saltonstall (owner) and Lindsey Stevens (winemaker) taste each barrel of aged wine before determining which barrels suit which finished product. Six of the barrels were of superior quality. The wine was above and beyond expectation and was reserved for this special wine.
King Ferry Winery is the oldest winery on the east side of Cayuga Lake. It is co-owned by Peter and Tacie Saltonstall. Their passion for Chardonnay was sparked in Burgundy, France where they toured several wineries and vineyards in the early 80s. There they received an in depth education of the intricacies of chardonnay production from the grapes to the varying flavors of oak grown in different regions. Upon returning to the US the Saltonstalls planted Riesling and chardonnay first. Pete was mentored by Eric Fry, winemaker at Lenz Winery in Long Island, who shared his passion for the burgundian style. At the time, he was winemaker at Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. The new Vintner’s Cuvée showcases how Pete successfully adapted his knowledge of the chardonnays of Burgundy to produce award winning chardonnays in the Finger Lakes consistently for decades.
The 2011 Vintner's Cuvée Chardonnay is made up of equal portions of three separate lots of wine. The fruit was picked on four separate days, 9/22/11 and 9/23/11 from King Ferry Vineyard's Old Vineyard, 9/30/11 Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellar's Vineyard Wagner Farms, and 10/1/11 Atwater Estate Vineyard. The wine was fermented and aged in 50% Hungarian oak, 33% French oak, and 17% American oak new barrels. Very little manipulation was needed to finish this wine. During final barrel tasting before blending decisions were made these 6 barrels of wine stood out amongst the others as outstanding with the most depth in character and completeness. They set themselves apart as the very best in the barrel fermented Chardonnay wine we have to offer. The wine was aged for 8 months in oak barrels then the wine was racked out to stainless steel tanks for cold stabilization and filtration in preparation for bottling. This wine was sterile filtered and bottled on 8/20/12 in ECO glass and 145 cases produced.
The tasting room descriptor reads: “Introducing our once in a great vintage Chardonnay!
A traditional Burgundian style oaked Chardonnay. Aromas of crisp green apple and honeydew melon give way to delicious notes of toasted caramel and crème brulee.” Winner of American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition Silver Medal.
Treleaven’s Vintner’s Cuvée Chardonnay is a distinguished wine that demonstrates the depth of character and complexity of the world’s number one grape varietal.
The home furnishings company founded by Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs has become a nationally known and loved. Today under different ownership the business still thrives.
If you are following the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, Mackenzie-Childs is right on the way! It is located about 10 miles north of King Ferry Winery on State Rt. 90. Set back from the road you will see the giant warehouse, a farmhouse and various barns in which the infamous, yearly barn sale is held. Rumor has it that a regular customer flies in for the sale on her private jet! The sale is four days long and announced only weeks before it occurs. If you love bargains and don’t mind lines it’s a good time.
Visitors enter on a winding brick driveway that passes the farmhouse where tours are held to showcase the sometimes elegant, sometimes fanciful décor. Since the design team at Mackenzie-Childs creates everything from rugs to ottomans to hanging lamps to napkin rings to sinks every inch of the farmhouse is authentic.
The whole property is something to see; behind the house is a charming pond. There are several lovely gardens, and the most extravagant chicken coop you have likely ever seen with fancy chickens and ducks to match! There are also adorable Jacob sheep grazing in a back pasture.
Now for the gift shop! Both Victoria and Richard graduated from nearby Alfred University with degrees in ceramic sculpture and ceramics remain the gem of the business. The ceramics are all made right in the onsite warehouse and painted by hand. If you have never heard of Mackenzie-Childs you still may recognize the Courtly Check pattern. It has been featured in movies and in numerous home magazines. The seemingly simple black and off-white checkerboard pattern is not so simple on close inspection; the brush strokes are visible and contain touches of gold, purple and green. The imperfect squares show that each piece is unique and handmade. There are several other signature patterns including one recently rereleased patter called King Ferry! In the gift shop you will also find glassware, enamelware, furniture, and other one of a kind gift items.
Mackenzie-Childs is a perfect stop for avid decorators and gift buyers alike. It is a highly recommended stop even if you just wish to poke around. You won’t find anyplace else like it!
Find out more at: http://www.mackenzie-childs.com/
News, news, news! It seems like the time of year that eveyone is glued to the paper! Lucky for us, we have been mentioned in numerous articles in the past few days. Winery owner Peter has been quoted in a couple articles about fracking fears:
In other news:
recent visitors talk about their experiance in the Finger Lakes Wine Country:
And our wine is featured at a dinner at the lovely Aurora Inn:
Hands down King Ferry Winery’s most spirited employee is Malvie. She is certainly the only gleefully employed almost 97 year-old that I have ever met, so, naturally, I wanted to know her key to long-lived happiness. In just a forty-five minute discussion we covered everything from growing up in the 20s, to WWII efforts at home, to new slang! She is delighted to learn everyday and was even excited to learn the word “blog.”
Malvie is the first face you will see at big events happily welcoming and directing you to the tasting room. On less busy days, she also can be found in our shipping area building shipping crates.
One of the qualities that stands out to me the most about Malvie is her openness. She has no reservations when discussing her life. Below is a video of the recent interview that will give you a small window into her amazing life. You really have to meet Malvie to feel her energy and contagious optimism. Join us this Saturday for our Harvest Festival and you will get to talk to her yourself!
The grapes first harvested this year, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, are ageing nicely in oak barrels. Vignoles and Cabernet Franc and about a third of our Riesling are in stainless steel tanks fermenting. Today in the vineyard the crew is harvesting Gewurztraminer and another batch of Riesling! Of the seven varietals that we grow, Videl Blanc is the only varietal yet to be perfectly ripe. We also have a batch of Merlot from Seneca Lake fragrantly fermenting in tubs in the barrel room. These grapes will be used in an upcoming Merlot and an upcoming Meritage! The consensus around the Finger Lakes is that this season produced a superior crop but a smaller yield. Between our own crop and the grapes that we purchase from other Finger Lakes vinyards this year our production is actually up! I, for one, can't wait for next year to taste the results!
It is easy to imagine harvest in a Finger Lakes vineyard: picturesque rows of bright green foliage dripping with fruit so ripe it’s ready to burst, clear late summer sky, crisp sweet smelling air and bins full of tasty, sticky purple or green grapes ready to be carted to the winery! But then what? Once the grapes have been transported to the winery the vintner has literally tons of work to do! Recently I chatted with wine maker Lindsay Stevens about what harvest is like out side of the vineyard.
“Wine making is a cyclical process so we work all year long to empty the tanks in order to be ready for harvest. During harvest we spend one month filling all of the tanks,” Lindsay explains. In other words, for a winemaker, this is show time. From the moment the grapes arrive her decisions influence how the wine will turn out.
The first portion of the Chardonnay grapes have already been harvested, crushed and de-stemmed, pressed and relocated to barrels to complete fermentation and age. They were the first grapes picked this year and due to such a hot dry summer they were ripe over a week earlier than ever before: the second of September! About five of our twenty eight acres are chardonnay and not all sections are ripe at the same time. So the last batches arrived at the winery on the 15th and by that time the fist batch of juice has already completed fermentation!
Assistant Winemaker Colleen Lucas preping barrels
Let’s back up a little. Before the grapes have even been picked there is a lot of physical work to be done by Lindsay and her assistant, Colleen Lucas. Before juice is transferred to barrels, each one has to be tested to make sure it will hold liquid. This is done by power washing each barrel with hot steam to ensure that the staves can still expand with absorbed water. When the barrels are empty for a period of time the wood dries and shrinks leaving gaps where juice can escape. A small amount of hot water is also added (much more conversationalist than filling the entire barrel). The bung, the rubbery plug that stoppers the barrel, is inserted. After the water cools and the bung is removed if there is a dunk then Lindsay knows that a negative vacuum was created and that the barrels are good to hold the precious juice!
Winemaker Lindsay Stevens raking grapes into the crusher/de-stemmer
The same day that the grapes are picked they are put through a machine that we call the crusher/de-stemmer and it does exactly that! The stems and seeds must be removed because they have an unpleasant flavor that would make the juice taste bitter. The next step differs for red and white grapes. The crushed red grapes are moved straight to tanks where the juice begins fermentation while still in contact with skins. This gives red wine color and tannin. In white wine tannin is called phenolics and is not desirable so, they are “pressed” in a huge machine that squeezes the fruit to separate the juice from pulp. The clear juice is then pumped into a stainless steel tank to settle before fermentation.
I had the opportunity to taste the freshly pressed juice of the chardonnay grape. It was the texture of orange juice and a murky off white color but it was sweet, fruity and delicious!
Our traditional Chardonnay is our only variety that is both fermented and aged in oak. Fermentation is initiated in the tanks but completed in barrels. A secondary fermentation also occurs called malolactic fermentation in which bacteria convert malic (or fruity) acid to lactic acid giving the wine its smooth creamy texture. The bacteria won’t be active until the fermentation slows down but they need to be added before so that the sudden exposure to alcohol is not a shock. Lindsay said the bacteria is “hanging out in the hot tub” until it’s time to work. It is her job to oversee the whole process so I often see her in the barrel room with beakers, eye dropper and other gadgets.
Freshly picked pinot noir grapes
The vines know when fall is coming because of that so the vines protect themselves by ripening fruit so that the seeds can spread. The next grapes harvested were the Pinot Noir, a smaller section of the vineyard. For reds you get more tannin accumulation when its warm during the day and cool at night so the weather the last few weeks has been ideal. The pinot noir now sits in containers in the barrel room where Colleen presses the skins down into the juice to maximize color, tannin and flavor before fermentation is complete and the skins are removed.
If you visit the winery during harvest, take a look in the barrel room. When you walk in you will be hit with the sweet aroma of fermenting juice. The chardonnay smelled just like banana bread and now the pinot makes the air rich and fruity. It is truly an exciting time for everyone in the wine industry. You can see some of the action on October 6th and 7th at our harvest festival!