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Old Wine Vats Given New Life as Wine-Country Boat

Sailing in New York's Finger Lakes region, the Malabar X schooner was made from wooden vats from the defunct Gold Seal Winery.

Morton Hochstein
Posted: December 29, 2001

When the charter boat Malabar X makes its first voyage on Seneca Lake in New York's Finger Lakes wine region this spring, there will be a lot of local wine lore in its wake. The white oak and Douglas fir that shape the hull of the refurbished, two-masted schooner came from 10,000-gallon vats that once held wine and brandy at the now-shuttered Gold Seal Winery in Hammondsport, N.Y., on nearby Keuka Lake.

Passengers who tour Seneca Lake will learn that the wine boom along its shores is credited to the pioneering efforts of Charles Fournier, the Gold Seal president who sponsored experimental plantings of Chardonnay by a Ukranian émigré, winemaker Konstantin Frank, who later went on to found his own winery. Their success in cultivating European vinifera varieties in the harsh winters of upstate New York, where it was believed only hardy local varieties could survive, inspired a revolution in the area's wine production.

To complete the circle, the boat's operator is Doug Hazlitt, owner of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, also on Seneca Lake. He is the seventh generation in a family whose vineyards have supplied local wineries for nearly two centuries.

When the 26-foot lengths of reclaimed wood from the vats were milled for use in the boat's hull, said Hazlitt, "It smelled just like Port wine."

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