Secret Garden on Sheldrake Point


The squash have a lot more growing to do.

A few days ago, Marketing and Sales Manager Kyle Pallischeck came to me excited because she and Wine Club Manager Whitney Elrod were walking the vineyard and had stumbled across a secret garden among our new Cabernet Franc block.

“There’s a vegetable patch up in the vineyard!”

I had to laugh because, yes, there is a vegetable patch in the vineyard—but we didn’t exactly plan to have a secret garden.

Deep Roots

I grew up north of the Finger Lakes in apple orchard country and now live on a 144-acre farm on the eastern side of Cayuga Lake. Most of my farmland is leased out, but I do farm hay and collect firewood from other parts of the property.

However, with all the time I spend on the Sheldrake Point property as vineyard manager, it just makes sense to plant a vegetable garden where I can keep an eye on it.

Not-So Secret Garden on Sheldrake Point

The eight foot wide by 30 foot long plot is producing peppers, tomatoes, melon, eggplant, and acorn squash.

When I planted the garden it was outside the vineyard, nearby where the vineyard crew would soon be planting new Cabernet Franc vines. Posts that would delineate the positioning of future vines were already in place, so luckily the vegetable garden was planted in line with what would end up being between rows.

secret garden among cab franc vines

The ‘secret garden’ vegetable patch grows between the rows of our newly planted Cabernet Franc vines.

Long story short, after we had planted our 2,000 new Cab Franc vines , we had open space left in the vineyard. Then it turned out that a neighboring Finger Lakes winery that is also a nursery had left over inventory of Cab Franc vines. It was late in the planting season, but we had the space and our neighbors had the vines, so we planted, and in the process expanded our new Cab Franc block by four or five additional rows, surrounding the established vegetable patch.

And that’s how we came to have a secret garden on Sheldrake Point.

Growth Report and Harvest Expectations

Progress in the vineyard is always a big question this time of year. I can say that the vegetables are doing very, very well because we take such good care of our vineyard.

It has been a hot, sunny summer and everything—vines and veggies—is getting a lot to drink thanks to our watering program. (Mother Nature has been stingy with the rain this summer!) The new vines are growing well, over six feet tall and reaching for the top wire. If the Finger Lakes region has a normal winter, we can expect a half a crop next year from our newly planted Cabernet Franc vines (2 to 3 tons per acre).

Sharing the bounty


Peppers love hot days and sunshine! As do our vines, which are already reaching for the top wire.

“What will come of the vegetable harvest?”—that’s another big question these days around the winery.

We work together every season to bring you award-winning Sheldrake Point wine; everyone puts in a lot of labor to support the work in the vineyard. It should come as no surprise that we also eat together!

At some point later this summer we will be picnicking on my favorite garden recipe: grilled eggplant topped with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese.

Of course, the bountiful harvest of this secret garden on Sheldrake Point will pair beautifully with an equal bounty of wine—Dry Riesling, Dry Rosé, and Cabernet Franc.

Try these secret garden pairings to find out what you like best:

Eggplant – pair with Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, Meritage, Dry Rosé
Melons – pair with Gewürztraminer, Luckystone White, Gamay Noir, Dry Rosé
Peppers – pair with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gamay Noir, Dry Rosé
Acorn squash – pair with Chardonnay, Dry Rosé

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.