Without books or blackboards, rookie winery owners Matt Jones and Stacee Elliott have set out to educate consumers about the history of the Finger Lakes.
Tidbits such as the meaning of the word “Skaneateles” or details about Canandaigua Lake’s Squaw Island pepper conversations at the couple’s venture, Eleven Lakes Winery in Seneca Falls.
The fledgling operation is “going well, in some ways better than expected,” says Jones, who launched Eleven Lakes with Elliott in October 2009, after shaping his graduate degree thesis at Roberts Wesleyan College into the winery’s business plan.
Descriptive wine names help the couple tell the Finger Lakes region’s story. The Chosen Spot Dry Riesling derives its name from what the Senecas called Canandaigua Lake, while the Long Lake Reserve Cabernet Franc ($18) refers to the Iroquois name for Skaneateles Lake.
The winery sources grapes for its lineup from Seneca Lake, either through 17 acres of vineyards it leases or arrangements with fruit growers. John Herbert and Ann Raffetto, staffers at Seneca Lake-based Wagner Vineyards, handle the winemaking.
“Really, that’s been a great partnership, and I see it continuing,” Jones says.
Owning vineyards and bumping up annual production from 2,000 cases to roughly 3,000 figure into the winery’s long-term plans, Jones says.
While they find their rhythm, the owners are programming casual events in the tasting room, from cheese and chocolate samplings to live piano music.
Jones, a former employee at Cayuga Lake-based Goose Watch Winery, says his new gig has many perks. Besides pouring for customers and learning about their lives, he gets a healthy dose of fresh air when walking through the vineyards.
“So far, it’s been fantastic,” he says.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tasting fee: $1 for six samples or $2 for six samples and the wineglass.