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November 18, 2011 | Mike "Ollie" Oliver

Having fun with Keuka Holidays

With the unpredictable October weather, some improvisation was necessary. Cool, rainy days brought smaller crowds, but the limited seating in the Blue Heron Café was challenging even for lighter crowds. Putting the tower heaters and conference room to use helped to hold the crowd. For the last weekend, we even used one of the tent sides to close off the opening of the awning. All of these tactics combined worked well to keep the crowds happy!

Tunes in the Tent proved to be another great series for the year. From Virgil Cain and the Movers to the Keuka Kats, we saw good crowds for most of the events. The Wine Club VIP members really seemed to enjoy the events too. Again, weather offered a few challenges, but the big tent heaters kept everyone cozy under the cover. Look forward to the lineup for next year’s Tunes in the Tent to come out by February!

Last weekend and this upcoming weekend will wrap up Wine Trail events for the year. For Keuka Holidays, I will be preparing a Cream of Roasted Red Pepper Soup topped with Asiago Crisps and an Raspberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Eclipse Ganache. The soup is one of the Café favorites and the cheesecake is a recipe that I developed on a whim, featuring raspberry and Eclipse Red in the filling and topped with an Eclipse Red Chocolate Ganache. The numbers for this event are amazing, we served just over 1000 people on the first weekend and expect to see nearly 800 next weekend! As we approached the end, we had to makes sure it stayed fun!

November 10, 2011 |

Meet the staff at the Bristol tasting room!

We have had a fantastic year at Heron Hill at Bristol on Canandaigua Lake. All of our staff live such diverse lives outside of Heron Hill; we thought it would be fun to introduce all of them to you. Employees wrote a bit about themselves, enjoy the insiders view about the Bristol staff!

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Josie Holden; I was born into this family business, when I moved back to the area and began working at the Bristol location. On school breaks I worked at the main winery on Keuka Lake. I currently enjoy working at the Bristol tasting room as the Assistant Manager and being a part of Heron Hill Winery. I hope one-day to take it over and keep the family business running. In my spare time, I enjoy fishing with my husband, photography, cooking and gardening. When I started at our Bristol Tasting Room, I knew it was going to be a success and I was right! We have done really well at our location and grown and I have learned about what it is like to be part of a small business and help manage it.

Christina Bowe, our Manager, has been here for more years than she would like to admit to. Christina started at the Rochester Public Market when her daughters were young as a part-time position, then spring-boarded into the wholesale department for Heron Hill Winery. When the opportunity for the position opened up at Bristol, she thought it would be a fun transition and a little more relaxing. That definitely was not the case, but she has enjoyed every minute of it. She loves traveling, cooking and listening to great music.

Chelsea Bowe is Christina’s daughter and began going out with her Mom when she was old enough to pour. After trying several different ideas for a career she began helping her Dad who is an Electrical Contractor. She has now been working with him for over four years and really loves it, but found herself occasionally helping her Mom at festivals and wholesale events. When Christina started her job at Bristol, Chelsea joined the team as one of our experienced tasters, and was dubbed the “Group Taster” since she is very comfortable with large groups. Chelsea says, “Even though I have a ‘real’ job, I truly enjoy the contact with people.”

Karyn joined Heron Hill last season as a wine server at the Winery on Keuka Lake. This season, she joined the staff at Heron Hill’s Bristol tasting room, since it is in her neighborhood. When she isn’t serving wine she is a technical writer and e-Learning consultant. She keeps herself busy five nights a week with dance, dance, dance and more dance (swing, salsa, rumba, jazz and most recently, tap dancing).

Stephanie Von Bacho joined the Bristol tasting room in September of this year after stopping in for a tasting. As a wine enthusiast, she is certified by the WSET at the advanced level and loves teaching people about wine. Stephanie works occasionally, mostly weekends, as her day job at the University of Rochester Medical Center overseeing education for 3,500 nurses which keeps her pretty busy. Stephanie and Scott live in the Finger Lakes with their 2 goats, 26 chickens, 2 dogs, a cat and 2 horses.

Sandy Robinson, a newbie to the wine industry, feels that she could not have had a better entry point into the business than Heron Hill. She will be starting a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) wine course with the New York Wine and Culinary Center; and will be traveling to Northern California in the spring in order to scout wineries and apartments for a likely future move. Most of her adult life has been spent in the movement arts and alternative wellness fields. As a soccer player in high school, and squash player in college, she never would have thought that she would enter the world of dance. She parlayed her participation in Rochester-based dance companies into teaching dance, then Pilates, which led her to yoga, which she taught for 10 years. Yoga along with qi gong and essential oils became part of her therapeutic treatments for clients when she obtained a massage license and opened a practice. She also has a Master’s degree in multicultural/multi-religious studies.

Joshua Zubrzycki also joined us in September. Joshua has been known as a person of many talents. We call him “our entertainer”. He is artistically talented as a haberdasher, viticulture technician at FLCC, jewelry making and our FAVORITE, a juggler (makes his own juggling balls). He has also been practicing juggling Eclipse bottles!

Debi Combs, our Southern Bell, has brought a lot of knowledge of living in the South to our Heron Hill staff. She moved here with her husband who is employed at the Finger Lakes Race Track. They have been on the horse racing tour for many years. Debi herself worked at several tracks.

The staff works together well, we all have different lives outside of Heron Hill, but together we work as a GREAT TEAM.

Christina Bowe
October 19, 2011 | Christina Bowe

Heron Hill at Bristol is having an amazing year!

The name Canandaigua is derived from the Seneca Nation’s name which is spelled variously Kanandarque, Ganondagan, Ga-nun-da-gwa, or in a modern transcription, tganǫdæ:gwęh, which means "the chosen spot", or "at the chosen town". This area has become a destination for people all over the world.

Our Heron Hill team at Bristol has hosted people from Europe, South America and North America. When asked why they have travelled to this area, they tell us because the Finger Lakes are becoming an “up and coming” wine region and they wanted to check it out. Most of the natives to the area take our region’s beauty for granted. When you hear our visitor’s amazement at the scenery, the area as a whole, it puts it all in perspective … how lucky we actually are to live here.

Last month we had our first event, a Vineyard Soiree. With the help of the Canandaigua Merchants Association, we had a day at the vineyard. Many local people, visitors and our staff were exposed to Canandaigua merchants, such as; Wick-edly Sent Soap & Candle Company, F. Oliver’s Oils and Vinegars, Sweet Expressions, New York New York, Coach Street Clay, Rio Tomatlan Mexican, Simply Crepes and music and dancing lessons by Tommy Gravino/Sheila Trumble. Heron Hill provided cider making with samples and free wine tastings. It was a great time! Being our first year, we have the kinks out, so stay tuned for next year’s event.

Check out the entire photo gallery of our Vineyard Soiree here!

Our newly improved gift shop offers Heron Hill logo items, as well as products made locally, including our Maple Syrup items made just down the road. If you have not had the opportunity to visit our Bristol location come sip great wines, browse our newly expanded gift shop and take in the beautiful views of the Finger Lakes.

As we begin to wind down for the season, we are beginning to think about next year. Keep a look out for our new and exciting events coming in 2012.

Time Posted: Oct 19, 2011 at 8:06 AM Permalink to Heron Hill at Bristol is having an amazing year! Permalink Comments for Heron Hill at Bristol is having an amazing year! Comments (1)
John Ingle
September 29, 2011 | John Ingle

What made me go into the wine business?

I often get asked "What made me go into the wine business?" Well, nothing made me, I chose to, willingly and enthusiastically. And it's funny because I can almost remember making the decision to do so. I was an English teacher in Colorado and felt there must be more for me. I had been curious about organic gardening and read books about the "farm life".

It was exactly forty years ago, in 1971, that we, my wife, Joey, and I worked in a neighbor's vineyard picking Concord grapes. As I stood on that sun drenched hillside breathing in the smells of fresh air and ripe grapes I realized this was satisfying to me. The rhythm of the work, steady and focused, the rhyme of the workers, chatting and laughing as they worked their way up and down the rows and the thought that it's vintage time! People all over the world, Europe, Australia, America, literally everywhere, were doing the same thing, harvesting grapes, to make wine. A sacramental beverage, as old as history, alive and dynamic in so many cultures and lands, it was inspirational to me. I knew that I had found my path and my loving wife has walked by my side for forty years, pursuing a career but more so, a life and lifestyle of living a "farm life".

Tambi Schweizer
September 22, 2011 | Tambi Schweizer

Fall is here, along with that comes harvest!

Ahhhh…September! Harvest is here and you know what that means; it’s the start of the really crazy-busy season! We kicked September off with a jammed packed weekend with Labor Day and “oh boy” did we labor hard at the winery! We had live music by Bruce Holler on Sunday afternoon, unfortunately I was pouring so much wine in the tasting hall that I never got a chance to get out there to even say hello.

The following weekend on the 10th, I had Saturday off because I went to the 2011 Palettes of Keuka auction! The Palettes of Keuka has inspired upwards of 40 artists each year to create artwork on giant size artist palettes. This event has offers wonderful opportunities to provide funding for numerous art related activities and scholarships. Each year the committee directs thousands of dollars in funding towards the support of the arts in our area. In four short years they have created a Keuka Lake tradition with the grand finale auction held in the village square in Hammondsport. I ended up buying two palettes, one called “Wine, Wonderful, Wine” by Lenolee Spraker and “Pants in the Park” by Andy Clark. I got great deals on both; in total I spent only $170.00! As the auction was winding down, with only a few palettes to go, the auctioneers Steve Muller and Ken Corey, posed a challenge to the audience. As you can see by the picture there are many corks that make-up the border in my palette, the auctioneers asked if anyone could guess the total number that I used to make it with! After many crazy guesses (346, 824, 600, 572) someone shouted out 200… seeing that I had used 185 ½ corks - they were the winner. I had told Steve and Ken that I would donate a bottle of wine of the winner’s choice!

This past weekend was our Harvest Tour of Food and Wine on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. What a great weekend, I was the greeting committee and check-in person serving the wine and food with Linda on Saturday and Helen on Sunday. It was a great weekend to be in the tent in our parking lot, as the seaplanes were in town and we got to watch them go around the lake at 1:00 on Saturday….very Cool!!! At the trail check-in table we were serving a Butternut Squash, Potato & Sausage Gratin paired with their choice of our Classic Pinot Noir 2008 or our Classic Dry Riesling 2009. Both worked exceptionally well with the rich and creamy gratin.

So far September has proven to be a great success; let’s hope with our first Tunes in the Tent this coming Sunday it continues! I can’t wait to see the “Crosseyed Cats” perform starting at 12:30 on Sunday! Hope to see everybody here for Harvest!

Time Posted: Sep 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM Permalink to Fall is here, along with that comes harvest! Permalink Comments for Fall is here, along with that comes harvest! Comments (1)
September 14, 2011 | Mike "Ollie" Oliver

Gearing up for fall at the Blue Heron Cafe

The summer to date has been great at the Blue Heron Café! We have seen crowds comparable to last year, but recent tweaks like linen napkins, proper water glasses, and some higher-class features have really impressed the customers. From Crab Napoleons to Roasted Red Pepper Involtinis, a greater variety of dishes have been well received.

We have hosted a bunch of groups this summer. I attribute this to our Marketing Guru, Kitty, who pressed me very early in the year for my menu. With the additional exposure in the pre-season months, we have easily doubled our groups from last year. To highlight these events, in August we hosted a group from Keuka College for a five course Tapas and Tastings. Thrown into this, we fed the vendors for the Wedding Show and have a couple of corporate events for later in the season. Don’t forget to check out the music lineup for Tunes in the Tent, which kicks off with the Crosseyed Cats on September 25th!

Recently, we reduced our hours to Friday through Monday, as the weekday crowd tends to be a bit lighter. The mid-week break is appreciated, as the weekend crowds have been impressive. This has allowed me to offer a bit of time to the Wholesale department. At the end of the month, Lakeside Restaurant will be showcasing us for a Wine Dinner. Beef & Brew in Geneva has also selected us as their Winery of the Month.

Kara Smith
September 1, 2011 | Kara Smith

Come on Irene, we have a Wedding Show to put on!

Check out my online gallery from the 2011 Wedding Show!

Oh Hurricane Irene! The 1st inaugural Wedding Show at Heron Hill was a success! Waking up Sunday morning to what was not supposed to be a dreary windy day, put challenge to our wedding show. As I arrived at Heron Hill, I had in mind just how I would conquer hurricane Irene! Thanks to my staff, volunteers and patience, we did it!

Thirty-two of our thirty-four exhibitors braved the winds and prepared their booths for the show. Thank you to Crystal City Party Center, Finger Lakes Entertainment and Pembrook Pines Media Group for all the extra help and donations. The show would have not been possible without you!

We had exhibitors arrive from all over. Anne from The Topiary came with many of her wonderful floral designs. Heather from McKay’s Photography took a different angle and made her booth into its own, displaying many of her wonderful photos. Owen Entertainment joined us for their first show as well, it was excellent to learn about the new services they have to offer.

We had ten giveaways that each of the participating brides were entered for. Luxury Limo gave away a $50 gift certificate. Becky from Berry Vine Creations donated a “bag” of goodies including $200 off a floral package. Inteva Travel gave away a gift certificate to one lucky bride. These are just a few of the great prizes we had.

One lucky bride received the grand prize of $500 off a reception at Heron Hill Winery. Ten of my brides for the upcoming 2012 season were here, so it was a battle! As I drew the winning name, I looked over at my bride. She had won, but she thought I was joking with her. As our DJ, Jason, said her name, she and her fiancé got super excited. Congratulations to Jessica and Bill!

We will be hosting the show again next year. Thank you to everyone for attending and making our first year outstanding! We could not have done it without the help of all of our wonderful exhibitors. I am hoping for sunny weather next year ☺

Steve & Pam Acker
August 19, 2011 | Steve & Pam Acker

Protecting Seneca Lake

Our son and wife visited from Philadelphia last week, one of many trips they have made this summer. With them this time however, they brought another couple for their first taste of the Finger Lakes. The four of them managed to fit in almost every imaginable activity in a few short days ranging from water skiing and hiking to evening bonfires on the beach (with the mandatory s’mores which we serve with the Heron Hill 2008 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc) and of course there was a small amount of touring and wine tasting. They also enjoyed a great lunch at the Blue Heron Café! It was a terrific weekend and they were awed by not only the quality of the food and wines, which they sampled, but by the shear pristine and breathtaking beauty of our back roads, farms and vineyards and amazing crystal clear lakes. It was wonderful to witness their appreciation of this area that we are privileged to call home.

It is critical that we do all we can to protect our treasure. We are being threatened by a proposal from Inergy, LP based in Kansas City, MO to construct and operate an underground storage facility for propane and butane gas as well as constructing a 14-acre brine pond on a slope above Seneca Lake. Additionally, there would be construction of a rail and truck transfer facility. It is a frightening proposition. To learn more, go to gasfreeseneca.com, Heron Hill Winery is a proud member of the Gas Free Seneca business coalition.

Bernard Cannac
August 5, 2011 | Bernard Cannac

Our first week with the screw cap machine

In the spring we were praying for the rain to stop, and now we are praying for the rain to come back and visit us! Growing grapes involves a lot of dancing. The vines could use some water, but on the bright side, the vineyard is fungus free. It looks like we will have more fruit than last year, making Zach, our vineyard manager pretty excited. At this point, we are catching up with all kind of work in the vineyard. The grapes are at the “berry touch” stage, which means that the berries are slowly growing and now touching each other, closing the cluster. The berries are still very hard, like pebbles. Next, we will be seeing the berries go into veraison, when they change color, from green to yellow or purple, depending on the varietal. It will be in a few weeks. Then, they will continue to grow in size and soften during maturation.

Wednesday was our first bottling with screw caps. The chosen first wine was the Game Bird White. Game Bird Red is to follow next week. We chose the Game Bird Series to start because the wines do not require any bottle aging: they are ready to be enjoyed as soon as they recover from bottle shock. In a few months, we will use screw caps on some wines from the Classic Line, like the Rieslings, the Chardonnay and the Muscat. The red wines benefit from some aging in the bottle, so we will keep using natural corks on these wines. Screw cap closures help preserve the freshness and fruitiness of the wines. Natural corks allow small amounts of air to reach the wine through the cork, inducing the slow oxidation which aging actually is. Some screw cap closures allow some oxygen to get in the bottle, mimicking a natural cork. Maybe we will look into these in the future. But the unique sound that a natural cork makes when opening a bottle of fine wine is a very important part of the whole experience, and so far scientists have not been able to recreate this pop for a screw cap. I have tried to make that sound, but it just sounds silly.

Another excitement in the cellar is the arrival of Dan Pantaleo as the new Assistant Winemaker. I worked with Dan on Long Island for four years. He has been with us for almost two months now, and he is adjusting nicely to a new environment. He has plenty of work in the cellar and is very helpful at keeping me grounded. He is getting the wines cold and heat stabilized and ready to be bottled over the month of August and September. Welcome, Dan!

Watch video and see pictures of the screw cap machine here.

John Ingle
July 20, 2011 | John Ingle

See you at the Finger Lakes Riesling Festival!

As the summer seems to go blazing by, August approaches and brings with it the 3rd annual Finger Lakes Riesling Festival. This family-oriented event, August 13 and 14 brings together food, music, wine and fun. It's held on the north shore of Canandaigua Lake and has drawn over 20,000 participants the last two years. Heron Hill Winery is a major sponsor and will feature the entertainment at the music tent, including Prime Time Funk and Nik and the Nice Guys, two of Rochester's top bands. On Sunday morning the Campbell Brothers gospel music will fill the air with joy. One of the best parts of the festival is that entry is free. You pay to taste wine and beer, and over a dozen regional cheeses, but the music, the car show, the arts and crafts displays, etc. are all free. We're very excited about the mobile ap being offered to learn more about this great event. Learn more about Finger Lakes Riesling, groove to the tunes, bask in the sun and join your friends for two days of family fun. See you there!

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