This April, Hunt Country Vineyards will be giving a portion of all sales made during the month to their neighbor down the hill: the Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium. It's the beginning of a partnership between a local business and organization that share a common mission for promoting and protecting the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes.
"We are thrilled to establish this partnership with the Hunts," says Natalie Payne, executive director of FLM&A since 2015.
The Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium is not your standard collection of exhibits and displays. Instead, it's currently a museum without walls. Its sole purpose is to spark curiosity and provide personal engagement with the natural wonders of the Finger Lakes. Yes, FLM&A is renovating the old elementary school in Branchport as its headquarters and has recently constructed a beautiful new barn on its campus along the banks of Sugar Creek. But these buildings are merely the jumping-off point for much bigger adventures: kayak trips through the wetlands and on the lake, guided woodland walks, and birding and photography classes, all led by expert guides and volunteers.
"Getting out on the water or into the trees is the best way for people to truly fall in love with this place," says Payne.
"It's exciting to collaborate with an organization that shares our passion for both the cultural and natural history of the region," says Suzanne Hunt, director of strategic development at Hunt Country Vineyards and a global consultant on renewable energy. She is the younger daughter of Art and Joyce Hunt, who started the winery in 1981.
The Hunt family has been farming on the west side of Keuka Lake for seven generations. The Hunts are committed to responsible, sustainable farming and production practices. They've installed award-winning solar and geothermal systems to reduce their use of fossil fuels. They make extensive use of mulch and compost in the vineyards to increase soil health. And they're increasing habitat for bees, birds and other wildlife all around the farm to create a more resilient environment in which to grow grapes.
"We depend on clean air and water, healthy soil, and a stable climate to make great wines," says Hunt. "As the museum educates visitors about all of the functions and services that these ecosystems provide — and that we all depend on — hopefully they will inspire more thoughtfulness about how our individual actions combine to create huge collective impacts."
"I’m extremely encouraged by the continued show of support from local organizations for the museum, particularly from Hunt Country Vineyards," says Payne. "The Hunts' history and success is exactly the kind of story that the museum will share and showcase as we continue to grow."
To purchase wine and support the Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium, visit the tasting room at Hunt Country Vineyards or shop online at HuntWines.com during the month of April. To learn more about the museum and all of the programs that will be offered this spring and summer, visit FingerLakesMuseum.org.
On Saturday, April 28, Hunt Country Vineyards will be hosting a full-day workshop on biochar production and use.
"We've been interested in biochar for a number of years," says Suzanne Hunt, who oversees sustainability practices at the winery and farm. Biochar is a type of charcoal made from a variety of different types of plant matter. When added to the soil, it can increase fertility, improve water and nutrient retention, and even help sequester carbon from the atmosphere. "And like compost, any farmer can make biochar with resources that they already have on their farm," says Hunt.
The workshop will include an overview of the benefits and uses of biochar, as well as a hands-on production demonstration outside. Learning sessions will be led by Kathleen Draper, of the Ithaka Institute, Finger Lakes Biochar, and the International Biochar Institute; and Johannes Lehman, professor of Soil and Crop Sciences at Cornell University.
"I am really excited to show farmers, foresters and fellow New Yorkers how to convert their organic waste into a valuable resource," says Draper. “There are so many ways that biochar can be put to use around the home and garden, like adding it to compost and helping reduce storm water problems.”
Hunt and the entire family at Hunt Country Vineyards are looking forward to working with Draper and the other experts. "Biochar presents a low tech, low cost opportunity for farmers and gardeners to enrich their soil and put carbon back into the ground,” says Hunt.
Registration for the workshop is $30 in advance or $40 at the door. The day will also include a lunch prepared by the chef at Hunt Country Vineyards, as well as a tour and discussion of the sustainable energy and agricultural practices employed by the Hunts on their seventh generation farm and winery. Participants are encouraged to wear outdoor clothing appropriate for the weather, including sturdy footwear and layers.
Click HERE to purchase tickets and for more details about the workshop.
This past November, the Hunt family of Hunt Country Vineyards received some truly humbling recognition: a Jefferson Cup for their 2016 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine.
The Jefferson Cup is a national invitational in which 750 wines are pre-selected that exemplify top viticulture and winemaking throughout America. The goal is to respect the diversity of American viticulture and reflect Thomas Jefferson's own acceptance of native varieties and hybrid grapes. Jefferson wasn’t just a Founding Father and the third president of the United States; he was also a seminal figure in America’s cultural, culinary and agricultural history — including wine.
This year, the judges found just 62 of the invited wines worthy of Double Gold Medals. These Double Golds automatically became contenders for a Jefferson Cup in their respective categories. The wines were tasted by the entire group of judges and only sixteen were eventually awarded a prestigious Jefferson Cup.
Hunt Country Vineyards’ 2016 Ice Wine received its Jefferson Cup in the Dessert Wine category.
The Hunts produced their first batch of ice wine in 1987, and Hunt Country Vineyards is now the oldest continuous producer of ice wine in the United States. Crafted in the tradition of a German “eis wine”, the Vidal grapes are left on the vines deep into the winter. The Hunts wait for the fruit to freeze solid and then early one morning – before the temperature rises above 15° F in the vineyards – they pick the grapes by hand. The frozen grapes are then pressed for many hours to get a small quantity of intensely flavored juice that concentrates sweetness, flavors and acidity. The resulting wine is deep gold in color and filled with flavors of rich honey, sweet apricot and exotic fruit.
The Hunts are proud to be one of three Finger Lakes wineries that received Jefferson Awards this year, including Fox Run and Wagner vineyards.
“It really says something amazing about our region’s wineries that four out of the sixteen Jefferson Cups were awarded to wines from the Finger Lakes,” says Art Hunt, co-owner and co-founder of Hunt Country Vineyards.