Singling out a favorite wine in his own lineup is a cinch for Chris Scholomiti, co-owner and winemaker at CJS Vineyards and Aurelius Winery in Fosterville, Cayuga County.
The New York City native says he fancies Odyssey Red, his nonvintage blend of Pinot Noir and Chambourcin, a red French-American hybrid grape.
“I like that with stuff on the grill, whether it’s steak or a piece of fish,” such as salmon or tuna steak, says Scholomiti, who spent much of the 1950s watching his uncle make wine at home.
Scholomiti’s wife Jan, on the other hand, prefers the winery’s 2008 Estate Dry Riesling. She enjoys it as an aperitif or as a reduced sauce for Italian sausage, peppers and onions.
To continue knowing their products down to the last detail including which foods bring out the best in the wines the couple plans to keep their operation small. The winery produces only 500 to 750 cases of wine annually from grapes grown adjacent to the tasting room and from vineyards on Owasco Lake, which Jan’s brother manages.
Stretching 10 miles long, Owasco Lake currently does not have vineyards other than those owned by CJS, except for a small experimental block of grapevines planted by an unrelated group testing the terroir.
The range of grape varietals the winery invests in is also kept in check, with acreages of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Pinot Noir and Riesling.
Scant sunshine and frequent rain made the 2009 harvest one of the smallest in the winery’s history.
“It was challenging, but the interesting part is we made some really good wines from 2009 (fruit),” Chris says.
Being small means the winery can program mellow events that don’t require tickets, Chris adds. The annual offerings include a Valentine’s Day celebration, small raffles and a cigar event.
“So we’re trying to…get people to come out and visit us, try some wine, yet…add some value, where it’s not going to cost a lot of money (for visitors) to do something fun,” he says.
Being small also means that sometimes folks visit before the winery opens for the season, Jan says.
“They see Chris in the yard, they stop by,” she says. “They do. It’s hysterical.”
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April through December. Also open by appointment. Tasting fee: $2.50 to sample the entire lineup, usually seven or eight wines. Wheelchair accessible from the rear of the building, but a plan is under way to make it accessible from the front.