In 1986, shoppers at New York City’s Greenmarket gave Eileen and Ken Farnan a nudge toward winemaking. Since then, the couple has opened a tasting room high above Keuka Lake, established a lineup of two dozen wines, endured a grape glut and raised a family.
Now turning out 2,500 cases per year, Barrington Cellars makes wine from vinifera, hybrid and native grapes. Wine produced from peaches and wild pears grown on the Farnans’ land also figures into the mix.
“We have a little bit of everything,” says Eileen, who particularly enjoys the winery’s dry and semi-dry Rieslings.
When first mulling how to add a winery to the grape-growing business the Farnans had launched in the Finger Lakes in 1971, Eileen felt hesitant. As a rural mail carrier and mother of two young daughters at the time, “my hands were kind of full,” she says.
But the requests for wine from Greenmarket customers who were already hooked on the couple’s fresh grape juice kept coming.
Using their own grapes, the couple officially opened Barrington Cellars on Keuka Lake in 1996. The operation is now “a way of life,” says Eileen, who continues to sell table grapes, grape juice and wine at Greenmarket every fall.
Besides being known for wines such as Pink Cat ($7.79) – a sweet blush blend of Catawba, St. Vincent, Cayuga White and Delaware – Barrington Cellars has earned a reputation for whipping up inspired cuisine during “Around the World in Eight Wineries,” an annual Keuka Lake Wine Trail event held in April.
The menu typically features Tallarin, a cumin- and garlic-seasoned chicken and noodle entrée from Paraguay. The Farnans’ son-in-law, a Paraguay native who regularly chips in at the winery, finishes the dish with a red sauce made from Barrington Cellars’ Pinot Noir.
During “Around the World,” the winery also serves Arroz Con Leche, or sweet rice pudding spiced with anise seed, vanilla and cinnamon.
Eileen says she and her husband plan to keep the winery small but strong for the subsequent generations of owners. The Farnans’ daughter Tara, a former Peace Corps volunteer who gave birth to a second child in late 2009, has become a valuable asset on the retail and operational sides of the business, Eileen says.
“She won’t be helping us quite as much this year,” Eileen says, “but that’ll change.”
— Sheila Livadas
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday from Memorial Day through Nov. 1. Open Saturday only from Nov. 2 through mid-March, then open Saturday and Sunday until the end of March. Open Friday through Sunday from April until Memorial Day. Tasting fee: $2 for five samples. Wheelchair accessible.