Rooted in Sheldrake Point

So much focus at a vineyard is on the vines and the fruit, and rightfully so! But growing always starts at the roots; if there’s magic in making great Sheldrake Point wine, it begins underground.

Earth and water

Vine roots

If there’s magic in making great Sheldrake Point wine, it begins underground.

I’ve gotten to know a lot about what goes on under our 44 acre vineyard in the fifteen years I’ve been at Sheldrake Point. The glaciers left behind a crazy mix of gravels and clays in layers and lenses throughout the Finger Lakes as they receded 12,000 years ago. These layers manifest themselves today as different soil types at the surface, and are an important element of our unique terroir at Sheldrake Point Winery.

Water passes through the gravelly layers, while the layers of clay block water flow. Our spring that feeds the pond in our vineyard marks a place where porous gravel channels water to the surface, supplying clean water to inhabitants at Sheldrake Point since the Cayuga Nation of the Haudenosaunee lived here.

As our vines have matured, their roots have reached further and further down through these layers. Depending on their placement in the vineyard, those roots encounter varying layers of gravel and clay, each layer carrying varying levels of moisture.

Rooted just right

Some vines are in just the right spot, others are not as happy with what’s happening down below. While I will never know all of the complexities of the soils and water flows under our vineyard, I have learned what grows best in each location.

Over the years, our aromatic white varieties like Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer, have responded quite well to the subterranean water environment at the lower elevations of the vineyard. As the saying goes, “grapes don’t like wet feet,” and these white varieties do especially well where we have supplemented drainage with deeply laid tile (pipe) in order to prevent too much moisture at the roots.

Our newly planted block of Muscat is next to a finely performing block of Pinot Gris. Both aromatic whites will benefit from the soils in that part of the vineyard.

The Root of the problem

On the flip side, we have two blocks of Pinot Noir that have underperformed over the years. So much that our plan is to eventually rip them out and do the necessary deep drainage work before replanting to whites.

Rooted in Sheldrake Point

We do our best to produce top quality fruit for our wines. So much begins at the roots, where we cannot see. The terroir of every vineyard is different and it can take many successive vintages to truly understand all that is going on under the surface.

Next time you open a bottle of Sheldrake Point wine, take a moment to toast the roots, where it all begins.

David’s background includes four years of grapevine management at Cornell’s Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station and two years of honeybee research in Ithaca. Since 1999, his love of our vineyard is second only to that for his own farm across the lake. Dave and his vineyard crew take great pride tending the 44 acres of vines at Sheldrake Point Vineyard, maintaining the equipment, and planning and preparing for new acreage.