In Bill Heary’s youth, summer’s dog days brought the task of cutting and curing hay at his family’s farm in Springville, Erie County. By the time the bales were stacked, the elderberry bushes would be heavy with fruit.
Using a recipe from an old book, Heary began making wine from the seedy, purplish-black berries. His early batches averaged 5 or 10 gallons per year.
Decades after first dabbling in winemaking, Heary opened Dill’s Run Vineyard on the east side of Cayuga Lake in 2008. He now produces 600 cases of wine annually, including elderberry- and grape-based products, and tends to four acres of Riesling, Corot Noir and Frontenac grapes.
In the short time since the winery opened, Black Dog has become a popular option in the tasting room. The Catawba and Chancellor blend, produced from grapes Heary buys or trades for, “tastes like sweet cherries” but has a dry finish, he says.
Spring Mist, made from a Riesling relative called Geisenheim, also figures into the mix, as do two elderberry wines sold in half bottles. Boasting 5 percent residual sugar, the sweet elderberry wine works well as an ice cream topping, while the dry oaked elderberry wine complements pasta dishes.
Plans to bump up the winery’s annual production are on the horizon, says Heary, who continues to play a role in his family’s lightning-rod manufacturing business, which was founded in 1895. He may start personally delivering wine for free to customers who buy cases, he says.
Heary adds that he recently promoted Abe, his four-legged confidant. The black Labrador retriever-Chesapeake mix, who wandered down the driveway one day and never left, now handles pest control, including keeping woodchucks in check.
For those who need a home base for exploring other nearby wineries, Heary owns and operates a bed and breakfast next to the tasting room. Each bedroom in the 1830s Italianate Victorian home offers a different color scheme, but all exude country coziness.
Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday or by appointment. Tasting fee: $3 for six samples; the tasting fee is refunded if a purchase is made. The tasting room is wheelchair accessible. The bed and breakfast has two steps at the entrance, and plans are under way to make one of the home’s bathrooms more accessible.