Red Newt Cellars has close relationships with all of its growers, and our winemaking team has an intimate relationship with the vineyards themselves. Read first hand accounts about our wines, how we make them and how they are grown.
Welcome back to the cellar on – what we hope is – the last chilly week of the spring!
Not that we have anything against working in the cold, or being wet, as anyone who saw Meagz in the snow last week would realize. But it is nice to be able to plan outdoor tasks without worrying about water freezing under your feet!
So for this last week fully indoors, we’re checking in with our Cellar Master James. While he clearly is dealing with cabin fever – we promise he doesn’t always look this way! – he also has spent this week building a much needed item for us: a PVC bucket tree. This may be a sign of how mundane cellar life actually is, but being able to dry our buckets in one, compact space? Definitely the most exciting thing that has happened to us this month.
Often we equate memories with milestones of success or celebration. Yet, the thing about memories is that sometimes they are fickle. Sudden changes in circumstances generate even greater fickleness. Memories that seemingly carry the greatest weight, suddenly seem to pale in comparison to other memories. Sadly, and more frequently, we never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. So today we could reminisce about being named Winery of the Year in 2011, or being named to the top 100 wineries of North America. Yet, under the current circumstances, different memories suddenly carry greater significance and importance.
Moments and memories of all of you, our customers, keep coming to mind. For instance, the couple that got engaged in the bistro or tasting room. The couple that bought a bottle of wine on their honeymoon, kept it in the cellar, kept in a box during their separation, then decided to share the bottle together. That bottle became part of a reconciliation. A couple that comes in every Sunday just to enjoy music and a glass of wine. Friends who come to enjoy a glass of wine on the deck with their pups. So many moments and so many memories of all of you continue to flood our minds daily. Your memories, they are the special moments that tell our story.
So, today, we ask you to share your special moments and memories of Red Newt Cellars Winery and Bistro with us. Share a photo or share a memory so your moments and memories become part of our story. We thank you for being a part of our story, and helping us remember the importance of moments and memories. We hope to see all of you soon!
Fred Wickham is Finger Lakes born and bred. Raised on the family farm in Hector, NY, Fred is a sixth generation farmer. His family is among some of the first families that settled along the Hector corridor at the turn of the 19th centuries. They began as fruit growers (mostly peaches and cherries) and expanded into grapes later into the 19th century. At its peak, the farm was over 800 acres dedicated to fruit and grape production.
Fred never wanted to be a grape grower. Like so many in the Finger Lakes, Fred’s dreams and aspirations looked far beyond the town of Hector. At Syracuse University he studied art and design and pursued a career in marketing and design. When the time came to begin raising a family Fred returned to home to Hector and the farm.
The current Wickham’s Tango Oaks Farm is round 80 acres of which 40 are farmed. Over the past 20 years the passion for farming has grown, and Fred’s children also now help on the farm, making them 7th generation farmers. Tango Oaks is a site “with incredible soil,” says Fred. “We have mostly Lansing and Howard gravel over shale. Perfect for growing fruit of all kinds. We are very diversified with an equal emphasis on grapes, cherries and peaches. Tango Oaks also has one of the prettiest views on all of Seneca Lake. We are dedicated to providing great fruit. Our practices utilize a combination of common sense aged-old wisdom and proven cutting edge technology and techniques. We look to the land and the plants provide us with guidance.”
Many assume a grower’s favorite time of year is harvest. For Fred, it is spring! The rebirth, renewal, the possibilities of a new growing season, and of course the colorful transition from winter that includes all the cherry and peach blossoms. All signs that warmer weather is on its way!
….okay, fine. This isn’t a photo from today. But as many of you likely know all too well, the weather today is less than ideal in the Finger Lakes. While flurries aren’t uncommon in May around here, that fact doesn’t exactly make us feel warm and fuzzy.
Snow is part of life for a Finger Lakes winery, however, and the work of winemaking continues all year round. That means wearing plenty of layers when moving a wine outside, and having a plan for what to do if you find the tank iced up.
Bullhorn Creek vineyard is on the east side of Seneca Lake less than one mile from Red Newt Cellars. For decades, Steve Bond has worked with the nuances of weather and soil to produce exceptional fruits on this pristine Hector vineyard land. This vineyard is planted on well drained gravelly loam soils with a gently western exposure. Clone 90 Riesling offers low vigor, small crops, and exquisite nuances of herbs and minerals.
Red Newt produced exquisite and expressive Riesling wine from this site from 2011 – 2014. The 2011 is gone, but 2012 – 2104 are available in our online wine library.
Welcome back to the Cellar, where this Friday finds us midstream in another part of our ‘weekly wine maintenance’ program. What is this mysterious – and very localized – cloud we’re looking at today? It isn’t a fog machine in the cellar – much though Kelby and Meagz may want that for their awesome singing and air guitar solos. Nor is it an early rehearsal of our Halloween rendition of the Three Witches from Macbeth (eye of Newt, indeed).
It’s dry ice! And while it is a very different process, the Dry Ice helps serve a similar protective purpose as the lees stirring Meagz was undertaking last week. Particularly for wines that are in a stainless steel tank – i.e. not a barrel that can be topped right to the brim – there is usually some amount of headspace that we have to make sure is flushed of oxygen and the spoilage organisms that need O2 to survive. At Red Newt, that means a weekly ‘topping’ of Dry Ice. As the ice sublimates into the gaseous form of CO2, it expels the lighter O2 gas from the headspace. Seal the tank up a few minutes later and, viola! A happy and protected wine.
Curry Creek Vineyard is a Red Newt monopole (a vineyard site exclusive to our winery), owned and farmed by John and Allison Santos. With a particular love for Alsatian varieties, Curry Creek is – surprisingly for the Finger Lakes – only planted to Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. With management that emphasizes a maximum of canopy area and a minimum of spraying, the fruit from this site is renowned for the high levels of flavor and sugar ripeness it can achieve. All this despite the fact that both Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer are notoriously difficult to grow, particularly as everything from bees to bears find the ripening grapes irresistible. A secret gem within our farms, Curry Creek is located just over a mile north of Red Newt Cellars on Seneca Lake’s southeast ‘Banana Belt’ stretch.
It’s time for another Cellar Friday! And Friday’s in the Cellar often mean it is time for our weekly wine-maintenance tasks. Much like keeping your car in good working order with tune-ups and oil changes, wine in our barrels and tanks appreciate some regular love. Truly, for much of the year our wines are evolving at their own pace and our job is ‘simply’ to keep them happy and healthy.
Today’s goal is stirring the lees in some of our red and white wine barrels! Meagz is busy scrambling up and down the barrel stacks, physically moving around the lees at the bottom of each barrel with a special stirring tool. What are lees, and why bother with such an onerous task? Lees are primarily made up of the yeast that fall out after the end of fermentation. Far from being inert, however, these lees are still able to ‘scrub’ oxygen out of the wine and add a pleasant weight to the mouthfeel of the wine. Stirring them up makes sure these benefits mix throughout the barrel and – especially in removing oxygen – keeps the wine happy and stable for its many months in barrel.
Glacier Ridge Vineyards is a small, perfectly manicured vineyard located roughly one mile north of Red Newt on the south east side of Seneca Lake. The steep pitch of the property, coupled with only six inches of ‘arnot’ topsoil before bedrock, results in a classic ‘Banana Belt’ vineyard: Warm, sunny afternoons and evenings throughout the growing season, all work in the vineyard done by hand, and reduced yields from the smaller vines. It is a vineyard that is, without question, a labor of love for owner and grower Tony Damiani, but the results are obvious in the glass. Especially for our Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, the concentration, fruit intensity, and smokiness of this site come through regardless of the vintage.
It’s time for another Cellar Friday! While we had planned on another post about the lab and the work that happens inside it, an exciting development has cut the queue. It also happens to be an exciting development that is… not particularly photogenic.
Instead, we give you Meagz! Specifically, we give you Meagz opening up the chilling lines to a very special tank of Riesling: The Knoll. Special wines often end up in these smaller tanks in our cellar. These tanks give us the right fit for the wine’s limited production, as well as give us a bit more hands-on control. And for chilling, it is very hands on indeed: we manually attach and open lines to a back plate on the tank that allows chilled glycol to flow through.
While that is all pretty stock-standard, sometimes chilling is special. Sometimes, the chilling is because we’ve decided the ferment inside the tank is ready to be stopped. By chilling the ferment for a few days, we are able to slow down and stop the yeast inside from fermenting the wine any further. It is a momentous day, anytime. But for our grandest wine, it marks the end of a nearly six month fermentation, and a job well done. #sighofrelief #sleepwell #jobdone