There are two new winery owners in New York's Finger Lakes. Former Lamoreaux Landing winemaker Paul Brock and his wife, Shannon, former wine director at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canadaigua, have agreed to purchase Silver Thread Winery. The 27-acre property includes 10 acres of vines located on the east shore of Seneca Lake, considered one of the region’s prime grapegrowing areas. The Brocks will assume control in time for the upcoming 2011 harvest; the purchase price was not disclosed.
The sale is the end result of a year and half of talks for the Brocks, who met former owner Richard Figiel while working in the area. "He was interested in Silver Thread carrying on, rather than having it absorbed into another winery or changing the name," said Shannon. "And we were happy to do that." The Brocks intend to keep the brand name and current plantings.
The vineyard produces only 750 cases annually now due to the low yields from the organic farming practices used by Figiel. He first planted vines on the property in 1982, starting with Riesling before adding Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and others along the way.
"There are 30-year-old Riesling vines here, which we’re obviously very excited about," said Brock. "Riesling will definitely be the focus. Paul and I think it’s the most important grape for the Finger Lakes."
Under Figiel’s ownership, the Silver Thread wines had a reputation for inconsistency—sometimes good, but sometimes showing overtly earthy notes that hinted at hygienic issues. "Richard did believe in natural yeast fermentation and what might be called natural winemaking," said Brock. "Paul has a very scientific background so I expect the wines to be more in the style of what he did at Lamoreaux. When you mention chemistry, people might worry that there isn’t an artistic approach to the winemaking, but we certainly believe that should always be a part of it. But we both feel wines should be clean and stable, but still expressive of Finger Lakes terroir, as well as ageworthy."
The Brocks also intend to take a more practical approach in the vineyard, rather than strictly adhering to organic practices as Figiel did. "We are very interested in being sustainable, but it is difficult to be fully organic in this humid environment," said Brock. "We’ll manage the soil organically but if we need to spray we’ll spray."
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