Old Vines Makes Great Wines
The Finger Lakes were formed by receding glaciers which left behind a diverse range of soils offering complexity in our wines. Dr. Konstantin Frank first planted the vineyards in 1958 overlooking Keuka Lake. What attracted him to this property were the steep slope vineyards, excellent soil and air drainage, and a generosity of slate.
Terroir at Dr. Konstantin Frank (2:09 mins)
Keuka Lake Vineyards
Our vineyards on Keuka Lake are situated on the west side of the lake east-facing on very steep slopes. Elevations range from 950 ft to 1200 ft (Keuka Lake is at 710 ft above sea level). The shallow soils are both Volusia channery silt loam and Mardin channery silt loam which are acidic with high levels of shale.
Keuka Lake is a bit cooler compared to Seneca Lake as the deepest part of the lake is roughly 187 feet. Not every year, but during the coldest winters, Keuka Lake can freeze over. The cooler mesoclimate of our vineyards lends itself to a more mineral style of Riesling. Red grape varieties grown on our Keuka vineyards provide acidity and elegance. The cooler climate is perfect for the production of traditional method sparkling wine. All of our Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier used for our sparkling wines are grown on Keuka Lake.
In total, we have 11 varieties planted on Keuka Lake on 70 acres:
- Riesling – Oldest vines 1958
- Chardonnay – Oldest vines 1962
- Rkatsiteli – Oldest vines 1983
- Gewurztraminer – Oldest vines 1968
- Pinot Gris – Oldest vines 1997
- Pinot Noir – Oldest vines 1958
- Pinot Meunier – Oldest vines 1980
- Cabernet Franc – Oldest vines 1974
- Merlot – Oldest vines 1981
- Cabernet Sauvignon – Oldest vines 1974
- Amur – Oldest vines 1980
Benefits of Old Vines
The older the vine, the deeper the root system. The deeper the root system, the more nutrients the vine pulls from the soils resulting in a more complex character.
Old vines have root systems that have grown deep and laterally over a wide area of soil. The vine then can handle different climate conditions every year.
The older the vine, the more balanced it is. Meaning, the foliage, the roots, and the structure naturally produce a number of grapes that the plant can mature well. This results in limited yields of grapes, but always a consistent and high-level of quality.
The vine and its grapes are most adapted to the climate. They learn to self-regulate.
Older vines produce smaller berries, which can lead to more structured wines. There’s a greater ratio of tannin-packed skin to juice.
Young vines are like young people, often vigorous to a fault. They produce more fruit than they can ripen.
Seneca Lake Vineyards
In 2006, Fred Frank led the search and eventual purchase of a 60 acre plot on the east coast of Seneca Lake. The plot of land is uniquely positioned near the deepest parts of Seneca Lake where the depths reach 680 feet deep. The depth of the lake here presents a warmer mesoclimate than on Keuka Lake by a few degrees over the growing season. Fred was aware of the future effects of climate change and was looking for land to plant more delicate varieties like Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Saperavi, and Blaufrankisch.
In 2017, the adjacent land became available for sale, just south of the current vineyard. The 30 acres was purchased and soil preparations are underway with a tentative planting of 2021.
The first variety Fred wanted to plant was Gruner Veltliner. During his studies in Europe he fell in love with the Gruner wines from Austria and knew the Finger Lakes would be a great home. Between 2008 and 2011, Fred planted nearly 9 acres of Gruner Veltiner, the most under vine for one winery on the east coast.
35 acres of Riesling were planted between 2007 and 2010. Riesling here expresses more riper fruit with the increased temperatures and deep honeoye loam soil.
We follow Cornell University’s recommendations for vineyard and winery sustainability, called VineBalance.
VineBalance is a joint effort by the wine and juice grape industry, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New York Department of Agriculture and Market’s Soil and Water Conservation Committee to define and promote the use of sustainable growing practices on the 33,000 acres of vineyards in New York.
The program’s major goals are to promote and document grape production practices that:
- Protect the environment (specifically water quality and soil health)
- Protect the health of workers, neighbors, and consumers
- Increase or maintain the profitability of grape production.
We limit the number of fungal sprays in the vineyard as much as possible, usually only during wet and humid weather patterns, utilizing organic sprays.
Instead of using a synthetic herbicide to control weeds underneath the vines, we use a mechanical method of weed removal which does not use any herbicides. This increases labor costs dramatically.
All of our vineyards are dry-farmed, hence we are not pulling water resources from local wells and lakes.
The pomace, leftover stems, skins, and seeds, from the winemaking process, are mixed with natural fertilizers and spread back into the vineyards. After winter pruning, the canes are brush chopped and spread back into the vineyard rows.
Lastly, our winery electrical needs are supplemented with solar panels, reducing our carbon footprint.