While helping their son look for a college in 1992, Mel and Dorothee Goldman became smitten with the scenery and the friendliness they encountered in the Finger Lakes. A year later, the couple, both former Peace Corps volunteers in Nepal, decided to trade a parcel of land adjacent to their Washington, D.C.-area home for acreage on Keuka Lake.
Mel Goldman kept his job in international development until 1997, when he realized growing persnickety Pinot Noir wasn’t a part-time gig.
“I always admired farmers who have to work so hard and who have to know so much about so many varied areas…from soils to agronomy to economics and finance,” says Mel, who has yet to draw a salary from owning Keuka Lake Vineyards. “And yet they can be devastated in a moment.”
Under winemaker Staci Nugent’s direction, the winery produces slightly fewer than 2,000 cases annually. The grapes at Nugent’s disposal are mostly from the Goldmans’ 40 acres of vineyards, which include holdings on Keuka Lake’s east and west sides. Through membership in a grape cooperative, the operation also grows Concords for Welch’s grape juice from 120-year-old or possibly older vines.
Welch’s aside, the winery pours much of its effort into vinifera wine, including three vineyard-specific dry Rieslings that have between 0.5 and 0.8 percent residual sugar. One such option is the Dry Riesling made from fruit grown in the winery’s Falling Man Vineyard, a steep swath of land where pickers need to watch their footing.
Reds include Cabernet Franc and tLeon Millot, a hybrid grape-based wine made from vines Finger Lakes winemaking pioneer Charles Fournier planted more than 60 years ago.
Recent plantings at the operation include Cabernet Franc and an acre of Gewurztraminer, which Goldman would consider expanding if the white grape breaks out of its niche status.
Goldman envisions a day when the winery will produce 4,000 cases a year but still pursue hands-on grape-growing and winemaking.
“Our concept is to make dry, elegant wines that fit into the environment here,” he says.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, from Memorial Day to Oct. 31. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, from Jan. 1 to March 31. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from April 1 until Memorial Day. Call ahead for exact hours. Reservations generally required for tour buses.
Tasting fee: $5 for at least six samples. The tasting fee is refunded if three bottles are purchased.
Accessibility: Fully accessible.