During a vacation in the 1990s, Don Kilcoyne stopped at Seneca Lake-based Fulkerson Winery to inquire about any available vineyard management work. He was in luck and soon relocated to the Finger Lakes with his wife, Jessica.
That job led to Don spending more than four years sharpening his winemaking skills at Bagley’s Poplar Ridge Vineyards, also on Seneca Lake. He and Jessica then launched Catharine Valley Winery in Burdett, Schuyler County, in 2003.
The winery produces a range of products, including Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay, Port and sparkling ginger hard cider.
Tastings and sales occur in a renovated horse barn. "It had loose straw piled 12 feet high," Don says. The dirt floor was replaced with concrete, and then Don built a rectangular tasting bar in the middle of the room.
They came up with the winery's name because "We liked the name of the region," says Jessica. A French and Mohawk woman named Catharine (pronounced Cathareen) Montour, also known as Queen Catharine, lived in the area with her Seneca chief husband in the 1700s and was known for her grace and cordiality.
Names of Catharine Valley's wines are taken from local lore. Sweet Revenge, for example, recalls an August 1874 letter that Mary Boyes wrote to the world via the Watkins Express, absolving herself from all duties to her husband after he ran off for several days and then tried to slip back into her bed.
Tasting room hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, year-round. Reservations required for groups of 12 or more.
Accessibility: Fully accessible.
Tasting fee: 50 cents per sample or $5 for up to 20 samples.
Amenities: Product line includes wine and sparkling hard cider.
Photo courtesy of Catharine Valley
Catharine Valley Winery is on the east side of Seneca Lake, four miles north of Watkins Glen.