» Spring 2015
Employee Spotlight: Rusty Hamilton, Local Beverage Master, Is Our New Wine Club Manager
You might call Rusty Hamilton a man of ‘taste’. If you can drink it, Sheldrake Point Winery’s new wine club manager, Rusty, has probably poured it. He has been so engaged with the local craft beverage scene that his bases are covered from coffee to beer to, of course, wine!
A graduate of Ithaca College’s nationally recognized Integrated Marketing
Communications program, Rusty set out originally to work in the music promotion business. Post-college jobs, though, kept bringing him back to beverages. “I worked daily in the tasting room at Ithaca Beer Co., and I can say it’s not a huge difference between beer and wine tasting,” says Rusty. “There is
different terminology, but it’s essentially the same type of experience.”
Rusty’s beverage knowledge is well-rounded, and includes working at Ithaca Coffee
Company and Triphammer Wine and Spirits. That broad experience plus his education sparked an epiphany: locally crafted coffee, beer, spirits, and wine all could use a profile boost.
Rusty soon recognized that he could make a career in the craft beverage industry, and about that time he joined the staff in the Sheldrake Point Winery tasting room.
“Sheldrake Point is a prestigious winery of high quality and high ratings, but we’re really a farm first,” says Rusty, noting our team spirit. “The people are great as well. Everyone is supportive and we all do whatever needs to be done regardless of job description, which is what happens on a farm.”
Rusty immersed himself in Sheldrake Point’s barrel tastings and varietal
seminars, helping him add to his considerable knowledge of local craft
beverages. Now, as wine club manager at Sheldrake Point Winery, Rusty
particularly looks forward to when the staff gathers as a group to taste the
vintage and explore the new wines. Lately, the wines in his glass have been our Gamay Noir and Pinot Gris. Rusty readily admits that, personally, he doesn’t go to great lengths to pair, emphasizing that he drinks wine he likes with food he likes.
“I’ve realized that my work in the craft beverage industry is the same thing as music promotion: if a market is saturated, then people don’t know about an exceptional niche product, whether it’s good music, good coffee, good beer, or
good wine,” says Rusty. “It’s about spreading that knowledge.”
Meet Featured Wine Club Member Kim Nelson, Our Best Recuiter!
Kim Nelson, an Ithaca resident and one of Sheldrake Point Winery’s more recent club members, has some experience drinking wine on the commons. No, not Ithaca’s downtown pedestrian mall. Rather, a cobblestone ‘walkplatz’ just south of Frankfurt, Germany, along the Rhine River, where she and husband
Michael lived for four years while stationed with the U.S. Army.
“Two to three times a year there would be wine festivals on the walkplatz, the giant commons,” says Kim. “We went to all the wine festivals, but I never actually went to a winery.” The Nelsons returned from Germany in the mid-1990s, and settled in Ithaca, Michael’s hometown, to raise their three children. Kim works part time as a home health aide and plans to finish her
Despite having lived in two top cool-climate world wine regions, Kim still considers her palate to be evolving. “My husband rented a big van for a surprise wine tour for my birthday (about ten years ago), and at the time I liked sweet and semi-sweet wines,” says Kim.
Sheldrake Point, though, has had a hand in evolving Kim’s palate. And all since last summer when friends and wine club members invited Kim and Michael to attend our 2014 Wine Club Dinner. Though they didn’t make it to our event, just learning about Sheldrake Point was enough for Kim to visit the tasting room and become a club member.
“I usually prefer drinking a dry white, but Sheldrake Point’s Ice Wine is wonderful! I also enjoy the Barrel Fermented Dry Riesling,” says Kim. “I’m not much for red wine, except for the Sheldrake Meritage – it is wonderful, and
probably the only red wine I’ve tasted that I have ever really liked. And, I don’t really pair. I think white wine goes with everything!”
Her first wine club pick-ups were in September and December, and for the latter
she brought along her sister-in-law. Together they tasted our Ice Wine, including our Wild Ferment Ice Wine. “It was fantastic,” Kim says. “Sheldrake Point’s Ice Wines are not over-the top sweet, but just perfect.” By the end of that
visit, her sister-in-law was impressed and Kim had recruited a new club member.
Then, just before Christmas, Kim’s daughter celebrated her 21st birthday with a wine tasting tour. “The service at the Sheldrake Point tasting room was so excellent!”,says Kim. “Our whole group was treated so wonderfully – Rusty had specially prepared cheese and sausage platters for pairing, and taught us so much about the wines. It was really a nice visit.”
Five wine club members were on that tour, and by the end of the visit we had added two more club members! Kim insists that it’s our customer service that sells our wine club memberships, but just the same, we feel lucky that she is out there recruiting for Sheldrake Point Winery!
Harvest 2014: Mother Nature’s blessings and curses on the Point
This time last year, the Finger Lakes wine region was reeling from a brutally cold winter and grateful that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the region an Agricultural Disaster Zone. This meant that growers in the affected areas would be able to receive monetary assistance to subsidize 2014 season losses. At the time, some vineyards were expecting 100% bud mortality among certain varieties, and overall staggering losses of vine and crop.
We were lucky on Sheldrake Point. Our unique geography, micro-climate, water flow, soils, and vine varieties already create ideal conditions for hearty, larger, high-quality crops. We call this favorable blend of natural features ‘The Sheldrake Effect.’ And, it saved us last winter. (See our Summer 2014 issue for more about The Sheldrake Effect. Find it posted in our online archive.)
Our total crop load was down by 15%, with vine damage resulting in 7 tons fewer than expected from our 80 acre block of Riesling. That’s not a trivial amount given those are grapes we would have sold, and it comes out of our bottom line.
However, the fruit we did bring in was of an exquisite quality thanks to a spectacular growing season! The cooler Finger Lakes summer could not have been more perfect for our European origin vines, and our late summer harvest estimate showed early varieties coming in at expected quantity, and at very high quality. Plus the warm, dry, late summer allowed the fruit to ripen later (and longer) than usual.
“Some years there are wines I worry about due to fruit conditions,” says our winemaker Dave Breeden. “This year, there was nothing I worried about; the fruit was healthier than I’ve ever seen it, and all was riper. It’s a better quality crop than I’ve seen in a long time.”
“We harvested everything later than last year,” says vineyard manager David Wiemann. “The weather was dry and warm into late summer and early fall, and late varieties never had frost to knock off leaves. It was dusty dry, like July, but not as warm – and dry enough to suppress rot. So, the fruit continued to ripen.”
Gewürztraminer was one of the later crops David W. left on the vine, not harvesting until the first few days of November. He says, “We kept tasting, and it was just not breaking down. I finally said, ‘if we don’t get it in now, I don’t know when we will!’” As he kept track of berry weight, he noted that the fruit didn’t dehydrate, but the berries were very ripe and very sound. Finally, his sample showed 26 brix, which he assumed had to be an error. But no, that was an accurate read! “It’s unusual for our Gewürztraminer to come in that sweet,” says David W.
“All the cool kids claim they don’t harvest by number, but by taste, and we do, too,” adds Dave B. “We tasted 2-3 times a week for a month, and were still waiting for the typical Gewürztraminer flavor,” says Dave B. Just as the early 2014 weather and growing season shows us nature has a way of finding balance,
we are very excited about the fruit quality that promises a stellar 2014 vintage Gewürztraminer.
A portion of our Pinot Gris crop suffered sour rot from bird damage, so the vineyard crew addressed it the day before harvest began. “It’s a huge effort to go
through and take out 1-2 clusters per vine (35 rows) when you have to look at and feel every cluster,” says David W. “But even 1% rot changes the flavor of the wine.”
This is a great example of how meticulous the Sheldrake Point vineyard crew is about the fruit they bring in; the hardship is worth the truly excellent finished product.
The Cabernet Sauvignon berry size was markedly smaller (down 15-20%), but both Dave and David were pleased as smaller berries in reds lead to more skin to juice ratio and better concentration. We don’t normally bottle this as a varietal and the wine is typically intended to be part of the Luckystone Red and Meritage blends.
Lastly, expect the return of our BLK3 Pinot Noir later this year. “The Pinot Noir grapes were gorgeous and the exact chemistry I wanted,” says Dave B. Assistant Winemaker Julia Hoyle made the wine using a unique, cold soak methodology – a story for a later issue!
Check out our blog for more early tasting notes in our 2014 Vintage Report.
Save the Date
Barrel Tasting, April 18
Wine club members and their guests are invited behind-the scenes to sample red wines straight from the barrels. Also includes food and white wine pairing Sessions at 11AM, 1PM, 3PM. Book early, space limited to 25 at each session.
Wine Club Dinner, July 25
Wine club members and their guests are invited to our annual celebration of a successful year at Sheldrake Point Winery. Specialty tastings, a vineyard tour, and dinner with wine & food pairings plus live music. 5PM-9PM.
In the Glass
Aromas of citrus blossom and candied fruit suggest flavors of peach, apricot, and nectarine. Pleasant and round, this wine has excellent balance through the long and crisp finale. Bring this wine to any group gathering and make a lasting impression!
With a hint of sweet, this Riesling pairs beautifully with dishes carrying a spicy or hearty component. Try as an aperitif with mild Bleu cheese, Brie, or a creamy Muenster.read more»
92 Points, "Best Buy"
Wine & Spirits Magazine
American Medal of Excellence
Jefferson Cup Invitational
This healthy, vegetarian-friendly burrito recipe packs in the significant nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes along with creamy, sweet, and spicy flavors. Pair with our spotlight wine, 2013 Riesling, with Luckystone White, or Luckystone Red. The hint of sweetness in the Riesling and Luckystone White complements the sweet potato, while theread more»