In the 1940s, John Leidenfrostís father began growing native and hybrid grapes on Seneca Lake for Gold Seal and Great Western wineries. When ownership shifted from father to son in the 1980s, the focus became raising vinifera grapes so that the younger Leidenfrost could slake his passion for red wine.
Inside a German-style half-timber tasting room adorned with hand-carved hemlock ceiling beams, Leidenfrost now pours more than a dozen wines, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Production averages 3,000 cases per year.
Apt to grab a pencil and draft a design for a bottle label in a momentís notice, Leidenfrost a former Ithaca College art professor invites emerging and established artists to show their work in the tasting room. Past exhibits have featured nature photography, quilts and even landscape paintings created inside a 1995 minivan.
Building the tasting room took Leidenfrost almost a year in the 1990s, including carving the ceiling beams himself. Since then, he has added barns and finishing touches to the production facility.
Tasting room hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from May 1 to Nov. 30. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, from Dec. 1 to April 30. Reservations required for groups of 10 or more.
Accessibility: Fully accessible.
Tasting fee: $1 for five samples. The fee is refunded if a wine purchase is made.
Amenities: Rotating art exhibits.
John Leidenfrost is a hands-on kind of guy. Equally comfortable swinging a hammer or sketching out a bottle label, the former Ithaca College art professor says running his Schuyler County winery keeps his heart thumping.