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A 2017 Winemakers Harvest Check-In with Red Tail Ridge

A view of the vineyards at Red Tail Ridge on an overcast harvest day
Kelly Walker
Finger Lakes Public Radio

As part of continuing coverage of the 2017 grape harvest in the Finger Lakes, I drove out to Red Tail Ridge last week on the west side of Seneca Lake. Winemaker and co-owner Nancy Irelan walked me around and introduced me to her staff and intern. Like many in the Finger Lakes wine industry, they’ve worked and have friends in the northern California wine industry that’s been affected by the historic wildfires.

“Yeah, actually the first winery I worked at has some structural damage from the first,” said intern Andre. “Nothing too serious, but they’ve been affected.”

“It’s been terrible to hear all the news,” added Irelan. “I have so many close friend that have been in dire straits over the past few days.”

In the Finger Lakes, the issue this year has been an unusually wet growing season. That affects not only the quality of the fruit, but has a significant impact on the speed of harvest.

“This is probably the latest we’ve ever been into harvest except for doing noble rot wines. So, we still have quite a bit of fruit hanging at this point when normally we’d be well into the Riesling at this point and getting to the point where we’d be looking at dessert wines. In that way it’s been challenging.”

The day that I visited was overcast and rainy. Irelan and her team were working inside. Despite the weather making for a challenging harvest schedule, she has still found time this season to try some new things.

“This year we’re repeating our skin-fermented whites with our 50/50 Gewurztraminer and estate Chardonnay, and that’s coming along, that’s an indigenous fermentation. We’re going to do Pét-Nat again for Riesling. Today, we just bottled our very first Rose Sparkling Pinot Pét-Nat, so that is a first for us.”


You can find some of our previous stories from the 2017 grape harvest including visits to Fox Run Vineyards and Red Newt Cellars. Our next visits will with Keuka Spring Vineyards and Hosmer Winery.

Kelly Walker started his public radio career at WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1985 and has spent some time in just about every role public broadcasting has to offer. He has spent substantive time in programming and development at KWMU in St. Louis, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, and Troy Public Radio in Alabama before his arrival in Geneva, New York. In addition, his work has been heard on many other public radio stations as well as NPR. Kelly also produces The Sundilla Radio Hour, which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on Finger Lakes Public Radio and is distributed to public radio stations all over the country through PRX.
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