NEWS & INFORMATION
The winery is celebrating our 40th anniversary this year thanks to the hard work and dedication of Art and Joyce Hunt (and scores of team members) over the decades. My parents hadn't planned to go into the wine industry – their plan was to take over the family farm and grow grapes. But the grape market crash in the early 1970s forced a change of plans. My dad's MacGyver-like skills all came in very handy (in a different lifetime he would have been an inventor/builder). During the early years in the 1980s, he moved whole buildings and retrofitted old barns, poured concrete, installed plumbing and electricity, modified and jerry-rigged all kinds of old machinery, and pioneered cool climate field grafting with a friend at Cornell – all of this in addition to learning the essential skills of winemaking. And, to his total surprise, the wines he made won awards!
I think the people who know my dad well would say that he is a deep thinker, enormously generous, truly kind, eminently competent, and humble to a fault. In great contrast to our culture which is trending ever more towards one of immediate gratification, he thinks and acts for the long-term. Thirty years ago, he decided to plant hundreds of black walnut trees in a hay field; the wood from that walnut grove might help pay his grandchildren’s college costs in another decade.
As a volunteer firefighter, he’s been on call every day, 24-hours a day, for 45 years. He can thread a 20-ton firetruck though a needle on a steep incline in an ice storm on the edge of a gully while a house is burning. Over and over, he drops whatever he’s doing to run and help – fires, floods, car accidents. He is immensely generous with his time, his expertise, and his stories. (O lord, the stories he has!)
My dad drilled the idea that "we compete together" into our heads from the time we were born. His focus on taking care of others and working together helped lay the foundation for the collaborative, vibrant wine industry in New York State that is going gangbusters today – more than 500 wineries strong and still growing!
Thanks, Dad. We love you.
Happy father’s day.
~ Suzanne Hunt
Daughter, Co-owner and Director of Sustainability
The New York viticulture industry’s attempts to create a statewide sustainability certification program moved in fits and starts over the past decade or two, but the latest effort appears to be gaining momentum.
Suzanne Hunt, co-owner of Hunt Country Vineyards and an environmental consultant, has been advocating for the creation of a statewide sustainability program for years. It would benefit Finger Lakes wineries such as hers and reassure consumers who want to know which wines are sustainably made, she said.
“There’s a lot of committed growers ready to sign up once this is launched,” she said.
Forbes just featured co-owner Suzanne Hunt and some of her thoughts on how wine producers should be prepared to explain the idea of sustainability to customers.
“It is complicated. We have to be ready to explain. There is no one size fits all, we have to collaborate to make sure we minimize confusion, make it clear, but there is no way to avoid the complexity.”
Our 2018 Uncharted Terroir Cayuga White received a wonderful little review from Esther Mobley, the wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was part of a bigger piece she wrote about hybrid wines that she really enjoys – and why hybrid grapes are becoming more and more important.
"What makes the hybrid conversation urgent is climate change. As temperatures warm and weather patterns become more erratic, vinifera may not be able to thrive forever in all of the places where it's currently grown. Some scientific predictions, in fact, suggest if current trends persist, half of the world's wine regions will become inhospitable to vinifera. Sure, the European grapes — all our Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs and Syrahs — are working great in California now. But they may not always...
"Most of the efforts with hybrid winemaking in the U.S., however, are happening outside of California, in areas where extreme weather makes it difficult to grow vinifera successfully... Under its new Uncharted Terroir label, Hunt Country Vineyards in upstate New York has made a nice wine from Cayuga, rich and round with some creaminess from barrel fermentation and lees stirring."
Read the full story when you have a few minutes.
Terroir is often thought of as a snooty wine term. But it's actually a really beautiful concept – especially as it's described by Suzanne Hunt in celebration of Earth Day.
At its best, winemaking is about capturing the unique essence of your place and all of your practices – the terroir – in every bottle of wine. So the fact that we put so much emphasis on stewardship of the land and being as sustainable as possible here at Hunt Country makes perfect sense.
Because our stewardship – all of our decisions about how to take care of the terroir – is critical to the essence of our wine.
To make great wine, you have to have clean air, clean water and healthy soil.
Watch Caring for the Land, a short video that tells our story of sustainability and stewardship.
At Hunt Country, we're pretty proud to be the longest, continuous producer of genuine ice wine in the United States. However, we weren't the first.
In 1981, the Taylor Wine Company produced the first ice wine in the U.S. A couple years later, when Art was walking through one of Taylor's vineyards in late November, he happened to pick one of the frozen Vidal Blanc grapes and pop it in his mouth. It tasted like the most amazing sorbet and Art was hooked!
The Hunts then decided to field-graft an acre of their own with the same variety of grapes. Vidal Blanc is a French hybrid variety that's bred to withstand the cold of winter and ripen with a high amount of sugar even in cooler climates – grape characteristics that are essential to crafting a great ice wine.
In 1987, Art and Joyce had their first full Vidal crop of Vidal. They left all it on the vine so they could make their very first batch of ice wine.
Genuine ice wine – or “Eiswein” as it's known in Germany – is made by allowing the grapes to freeze in the vineyards deep into the winter. Then early one morning - before the temperature rises above 15° F in the vineyards - the grapes are harvested by hand. The fruit is then pressed for many hours to get a small quantity of intensely flavored juice which concentrates sweetness, flavors and acidity.
There are, of course, many risks involved with making ice wine like this. The grapes have to hold up to rugged winter conditions. Deer, birds and other wildlife can eat the fruit before it's harvested. And the winter may not get cold enough for long enough to freeze the fruit – a possibility thats becoming more and more likely with climate change.
However, when everything goes right, the resulting wine is deep gold in color and filled with flavors of rich honey, sweet apricot and exotic fruit. It's liquid gold and unlike anything you might have tasted before.
That's why we've been so committed to crafting ice wine for all these years.
So to celebrate our long and storied history with this amazing wine, and to continue celebrating our 40th anniversary, our Vidal Blanc Ice Wine is now $40 a bottle.
If you've never tried genuine ice wine before, now's your chance. And if you're already a fan, now's your opportunity to add a few more bottles to the wine cellar – it ages very well!
When Art and Joyce Hunt first moved back to the family farm in the 1970s, their intent was to live close to the land and run a farm like the Hunt family had done for several generations before. But the decisions they made – and the circumstances that came their way – would eventually lead them to open Hunt Country Vineyards in 1981 and become one of the founding families of the Finger Lakes wine region that we know and love today.
So throughout this year, we'll be celebrating our 40-year story of crafting delicious wine in the most beautiful place on Earth.
The story of Hunt Country Vineyards begins about a decade before the winery itself was established.
In 1973, Art and Joyce Hunt moved back to the family farm on Keuka Lake to grow grapes, taking over from Art’s elderly uncle. They knew very little about running a farm, but they were certain they wanted to be here.
Art's uncle was an excellent teacher. Art and Joyce learned how to care for 18 acres of grapes. They learned how to plant and grow a wide variety of grains, dry beans and hay crops. They started a garden for themselves, with both vegetables and fruit. They learned to cut down trees for wood and handle all of the old farm tools laying around. Art even became quite adept at restoring old buildings and old equipment.
Art and Joyce also planted another 50 acres of grapes. Like numerous farmers in the area, they planned to sell their grapes to one of the biggest and well-known wine producers: the Taylor Wine Company near Hammondsport, NY.
Growing grapes isn’t like growing other crops. They require time, money, acreage and energy over several years before they ever produce their first harvest. Grapes are a long term investment.
Unfortunately, the Taylor Wine Company was purchased by the Coca-Cola company just a few years later – which changed the winemaker's operations. Art and Joyce were suddenly told Taylor wouldn't be buying their grapes. Farmers across the region were told the same thing, and the local grape market vanished overnight.
So Art and Joyce used the moment to learn yet another new skill: winemaking.
THE FIRST BATCH OF WINE
At first, Art and Joyce took part-time jobs and started selling juice to home winemakers. But they soon realized that if they really wanted to make a living, they'd need to open a farm winery and sell commercial amounts of wine.
So in 1981 they got started in a small shed that used to be a wing on the old farmhouse. They put a nice foundation under it, filled it full of barrels and started making wine – seven whites and one red.
The following spring, with the help of some friends, Art and Joyce bottled up the wine. They entered the varieties in a state wine competition and won a few awards. They also turned the same little shed into a tasting room. They added a deck, a counter, a cash register and some glasses, and were open for business.
The next year, their wines included Cayuga White, a new Cornell variety. It won the award for best wine in New York state and earned the Hunts a trip to the governor's mansion. The recognition gave Art and Joyce the courage to continue going with their winery plans.
TIME TO CELEBRATE
After 40 years, we're still growing some of the very same grapes and making some of the very same wines as when we started: Cayuga White, Chardonnay, Classic Red, Riesling and Seyval Blanc. But so much has changed as well! To stay informed about how we're celebrating our origins and the continued evolution of Hunt Country Vineyards all throughout this year, visit huntwines.com – sign up for our weekly newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
This weekend our outdoor space is open at Hunt Country! Come join us! You can purchase wine by the glass or the bottle to enjoy under the bright, blue skies of Keuka Lake. (We're not doing tastings just yet.) Groups of six people or less may sit together, and please make sure you maintain six feet of social distance between groups. The restrooms will be open to customers but you must wear a mask when using them. You're welcome to visit during our regular hours, but we will be closing promptly at 5 pm.
We know this is a bit different than before, but it's certainly a step in the right direction – because it's going to be a beautiful weekend!
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch by phone (315-595-2812) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And we're still doing curbside service if you want to pick up some wine for the weekend!
This past week has been tragic and filled with powerful emotions for individuals and communities all across our country. So we are not sending out our regular newsletter today. It's a small thing we can do to honor and make space for more important voices at this moment.
Hunt Country has always been a place where all people are welcome. We will continue to be a place where all are welcome when we reopen. But even more than that, we will be looking at what more we can do to help foster the systemic change needed in our country. We promise to be part of the solution, right here where we are.
We love you all. See you soon.