Oct 08, 2014
Bob Collom this year's winner of the Winemaker for a Week contest retells his tale of a fun filled and knowledgeable week with the wineries.
My fantasy week as a “winemaker”
Most of us at some point in our lives daydream about being a rock star or a professional athlete. Some of us even go as far as to actually attend week-long “fantasy” camps, trying to imitate the players that we admire. I, however, daydream about becoming a winemaker and I recently had that dream come true as “winemaker for a week” in the beautiful Finger Lakes of NY. As far as AVAs goes, the Finger Lakes are my “Yankee Stadium”.
I stared the week off on Monday by punching down the cap on fermenting Merlot grapes at King Ferry Winery with winemaker Lindsay. She also let me get my hands dirty by plunging them into the deep purple grapes to capture some wine for brix (sugar level) testing using a hydrometer. In the afternoon I learned about different growing conditions in the vineyard.
Tuesday morning was spent with owner/winemaker Gary at Long Point Winery where this time it was punching down Petit Verdot and Sangiovese. I spent the afternoon with vineyard manager Paul learning how to grow great grapes and testing a 100 berry sample of Riesling using a refractometer.
Wednesday was Knapp Winery with head winemaker Steve, where I learned how to blend, filter, and bottle brandy made from aged wines.
Thursday I was at Six Mile Creek Vineyard with winemaker Paul, general manager Pete, tasting room manager Amber, and owner Nancy. Paul and I spent most of the day destemming, crushing, and pressing two tons of exquisite Vignoles grapes.
Friday was spent at Americana with Joe, one of the owners, in the tasting room helping customers.
Just as a classic French Bordeaux takes each aspect of different grape varietals and blends them into a complex and everlasting impression, so was my experience by the end of the week as “winemaker”. Each winery had its’ own unique style and characteristics, which, when blended together over the course of the week, created an exceptionally rich, balanced, fruitful and unforgettable experience.
I would like to thank each of the winery owners and staff for being such gracious hosts and for taking the time to answer all of my rookie questions. I would also like to send a special thank you to Cathy Millspaugh of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, Jessica Robideau of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, and Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak for the delightful accommodations (and Elk burgers, yummy!). One thing that I know for sure, this will not be my last trip to the Finger Lakes, and maybe someday, I will even be lucky enough to call it my home.
Bob Collom - winemaker (well at least for a week)