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Red Tail Ridge Winery
Kathy Sullivan

Red Tail Ridge WinerySummary: The Red Tail Ridge Winery and vineyards in the Seneca Lake area was named for the red tail hawks in the region. This is an environmentally friendly LEED-Gold certified winery and a dog friendly winery. The vineyards slope down towards the lake and offer some photogenic opportunities.

Arriving at the address for Red Tail Ridge Winery, we discovered a large sculpture resembling a rust colored hill and a tall tree with a red tail hawk affixed to a branch. This striking sculpture that highlights the entrance to the winery was created by Sam Castner, a local metal sculptor.

We arrived at the Red Tail Ridge address but where was the winery? A long driveway dramatically wraps through and around vineyards leading the way past the modern winery to a one-story red roofed building that houses the tasting room. Near the parking area was a sign, Doggy Rest Area. Upon entering the Red Tail Ridge tasting room, visitors are immediately welcomed. We quickly met Danielle Van Gheem, tasting room manager, who has always had an interest in the wine industry. The Red Tail Ridge tasting room was built in 2007.

Red Tail Ridge WineryVineyards At Red Tail Ridge

The vineyards, with underground drain tiles and a drip irrigation system, consists of 21 acres of grapevines including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Lagrein, Blaufränkisch, Teroldego and 14 acres of Riesling. As you drive to the tasting room, you may miss the photogenic panorama of vineyards with Seneca Lake in the distance. Look for this as you exit through the vineyards.

The owners of Red Tail Ridge are Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, a married couple, both from California. Nancy worked in the wine industry her whole life. She has a Ph.D. in grape genetics. Mike came to the Finger Lakes first and began clearing the land. They wanted to be part of an up and coming wine region. The goal of the owners is to produce quality wines with a personal touch.

Red Tail Ridge WineryAt the time of our mid-August visit, many of the grapes were undergoing veraison. The photo shows Chardonnay.

An Environmentally Friendly Winery

The LEED-Gold certified winery built in 2009 was constructed with geothermal technology. The geothermal system produces 50% of the winery’s energy usage. Recently an outdoor large capacity refrigerator was added to keep the grapes cool after harvest. According to Danielle, all materials used to construct the winery were sourced from within a 500-mile radius.

The winery lays claim as New York State’s first gold-certified LEED-Gold winery. Today Red Tail Ridge produces 7,500 cases of wine. The majority of the wines are estate wines. In the future, they would like to grow to 10,000 cases. Today most of the wines crafted are produced with estate grown grapes.

Red Tail Ridge Winery     Red Tail Ridge Winery

Red Tail Ridge Wines

Red Tail Ridge WinerySeveral wines were tasted during our visit. Sans Oak Chardonnay 2014 was unoaked with 12.4% alcohol and under 10 grams per liter of residual sugar. The wine was a light straw color and did not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine offered fruit notes of citrus, green apple and pear. The finish was crisp and fruity. Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014 produced in French, American, and Hungarian oak was 13.5% alcohol and under 10 grams per liter of residual sugar. This wine underwent 100% malolactic fermentation. The aroma was of caramel and apple. The taste offered a smooth mouthfeel with caramel and apple notes.

The 2012 Block 606 Indigenous Yeast Fermented Riesling with 12% alcohol was whole cluster pressed. The wine was a light gold color and offered notes of lime and green apple. The mouthfeel was smooth. Consider pairing this wine with cheese. Dry Riesling 2014 was 11.2% alcohol with under 10 grams per liter of residual sugar. This light yellow wine had minerality on the aroma. The taste was of peach, mineral and citrus. The finish was crisp with a balanced aftertaste of mineral and yellow stone fruit. Block 907 Riesling 2013 was 82.5 grams per liter of residual sugar. The clarity of the wine was excellent. The aroma offered a slight sweetness with hints of honeycomb. The taste was of honey and there were hints of botrytis on the aftertaste.

Red Tail Ridge WineryGewürztraminer 2014 was 13.9% alcohol with 13.5 grams per liter of residual sugar. This wine was produced with sourced fruit. The light yellow colored wine offered an aroma of floral and spices. The taste was of roses and honeysuckle. The wine had a floral finish. Miscreant 2013 was a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris and had 11.5% alcohol with under 10 grams per liter of residual sugar. During production the wine fermented in oak with the skins for 9 days and had an additional 6 days of macerations before it was removed from the skins. The wine aged for 16 weeks in used oak. The dark yellow wine offered an aroma of floral and jammy yellow fruit. The taste was of roses and cooked fruits with very mild tannins. The finish was crisp with a long floral aftertaste. Good Karma 2014 had 11.7% alcohol and 29.8 grams per liter of residual sugar. The yellow wine offered notes of citrus and tropical fruits. It was slightly sweet. The wine offered a good balance of sweetness and acid. Consider pairing this wine with cheese. Ten percent from the sale of Good Karma goes to support the food bank.

Pinot Noir 2013 was 12% alcohol. The color was translucent red with a pink hue. The wine offered notes of raspberries and leather. The finish was crisp with fruit yielding to oak influences. Teroldego 2012 with 14% alcohol was a dark ruby color with a dark pink hue. The wine offered dark fruit notes and bold tannins. The finish was crisp and fruity.

When visiting Red Tail Ridge Winery in the Finger Lakes, be sure to ask about some of the more unusual vineyard grapes including Dornfelder, Lagrein, Blaufränkisch, and Teroldego.

Red Tail Ridge Winery
846 State Route 14
Penn Yan, NY 14527

GPS: N42º 43.399’ W76º 58.694’



Article written September 2015




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