Sheldrake Point Winery in Winter
It’s hard to believe that nearly four months have passed since harvest! One marker of time passing for the winery in winter is that we are now pouring our 2016 Dry Rosé in the Tasting Room. It is a welcome respite from gray days and blankets of snow, and a reminder that spring is on the way.
But we haven’t been hibernating while waiting to bottle rosé! We are still open, making wine, and welcoming visitors in the Tasting Room.
Sipping by the Fireside
Okay, we don’t actually have a fireplace, but it is quiet and cozy at the tasting bar, with great views of the snowy vineyard and an icy Cayuga Lake. Didn’t you know? The Sheldrake Point Winery Tasting Room is open year round!
Our Tasting Room is full most days during summer and fall; if you’ve visited between May and October, then you have enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the busy season. However, visiting the winery in winter is excellent for taking your time, learning about our wines, and getting the full Sheldrake Point story.
During these short winter days when the Tasting Room is quiet, I spend my time building relationships by connecting with local vendors to cross-promote our products. This kind of downtime and thoughtful planning is how we are able to suggest pairings with locally grown, made, and raised produce, cheeses, chocolates, and meats.
Winter Tasting Room Excursion
Since the Tasting Room is so quiet during the winter, we appreciate the visitors who do make it out to Sheldrake Point – these visitors tend to be really motivated to have set out on a mid-winter drive through the Finger Lakes! We like spending quality time with our visitors, and we have occasionally been known to pour a tad extra for an intimate group on quiet afternoons. (Just be sure to check our website or social media for weather-related closings.)
If you’re looking to chase away cabin fever this winter, why not gather up a like-minded group and come on out to Sheldrake Point? This is an excellent time of year for a unique, intimate tasting experience—let us know when you’re planning to visit.
Busy Time in the Winery
None of us would be here if not for the wine, right? Apart from harvest, this is our busiest time of year for winemaking, says Dave Breeden, Winemaker.
Winter is a “behind the curtain”-season where the literal fruits of our harvest become Sheldrake Point wine. On the production side, it is all about tasting, filtering, and bottling.
Our Dry Rosé, for example, goes through multiple filtrations, given that we just harvested it a few months ago and we need to release it to our distributors in the first week of February. And since rosé doesn’t tend to suffer from bottleshock, a temporary condition just after bottling where the flavors of a wine can become muted or disjointed, we can bottle and immediately send it out the door.
Bottling takes four people; usually Dave and Kimberly White, Assistant Winemaker, plus whoever wants to come in from the vineyard to spend a day inside (read as: spend the day warm). Sometimes we come up from the Tasting Room if it is one of those really quiet days, or Kyle and Whitney will take a break from their regular work, or winery owners Chuck and Fran volunteer to bottle.
It is a neat experience for all of us to see a wine finally bottled, although Dave reminds me that it is assembly-line work, with 2 cases per minute whizzing by for 8 hours. And, if we get overwhelmed, we can’t stuff the wine in our mouths, Lucille Ball-style!
Winter is all About Winemaking Logistics:
- What to blend for bottling later in the season. We do this by constantly tasting to make sure the wine is developing the way it is supposed to. For example, tasting through 26 barrels of Gamay in a day!
- Ordering bottles, corks, capsules, and labels (which take 6-8 weeks to come in). When we decide on a blend, for example, by law we need to have precise information on our labels about the components of the blend.
- What to bottle next, based on what we are running out of. Dave has to closely monitor our supply and start bottling 8 weeks before we run out. It is all about timing—the wine needs time to recover from bottling (to avoid bottleshock), and we don’t want to lose shelf space with our retailers.
- Paperwork! As the winemaker, Dave is responsible for completing a handful of federal and state tax forms each month, totaling 50 tax forms each year. He has also spent this winter making sure Chuck has all the information he needs to cost our wine and maintain inventory.
- Build relationships. Keeping up Sheldrake Point’s profile in the wine industry is an important part of Dave’s time expenditure. He might help host a wine tasting with a neighboring winery, get to know a winemaker from Israel, meet with a label salesman, and work with a Cornell professor studying our wild ferment operation. Just this winter, Dave took time to prepare a PowerPoint presentation on rosé production, which he delivered at the keynote address at the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association meeting.
The Finger Lakes Region is Lovely this Time of Year
Sheldrake Point Winery and many of our winemaking neighbors are still open in winter, as are local restaurants, nature trails, theatre, and other attractions.
Embrace winter, and come see us at the winery!