Lees …

What are they?

You hear the winemaking team talk about lees, but what are they?! Lees are the remains of yeast cells post fermentation. They settle on the bottom of the tank or barrel and often have a mud-like consistency.
At Red Newt, we leave our Rieslings (and other varietals) in contact with the full lees post-fermentation for a few very choice reasons. First, they help build the complexity of wine flavors and aromas, palate weight, and texture in the wine. Second, lees are excellent at protecting the wine from oxidation.
There are a few other factors involved, but we don’t need to get overly technical here! Enjoy the glamour shot of lees at the bottom of a recently emptied tank.


Getting to Know Tony Damiani

  • Harvest at Glacier Ridge

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Anthony moved to Hector as an infant in 1963. Raised in a farm house on Rte 414, he helped his older brother, Paul, plant the first vineyard on family land in the mid 70’s. Later, he and his brother Lou began Damiani Vineyards in 1998. A graduate of Cornell’s Agricultural and Life Sciences College, Anthony holds a full-time position at Cornell while managing his vineyard with his wife, Anne.

  Anthony’s 8 acre vineyard is located on his 30 acre farm and produces Glacier Ridge wines through Red Newt. It is a perfect example of the extraordinary variation in soil types within one vineyard which is so common in the Finger Lakes. His vineyard consists of three blocks of grapes, each of which has very different soil. He and his wife have been active in area environmental causes and have  made strides towards eliminating the use of herbicides in the vineyard for the health of the grapes as well as the environment. Anthony has focused on producing mostly red varietals including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. 

 Everyone loves Harvest and Anthony is no exception but he also notes that early Spring is another really exciting time when you can experience the unfolding of the new growth and the challenge of trimming  and training the vines to produce the best grapes possible.

 In addition to the vineyard, Anthony & Anne Damiani also run an Airbnb from the family homestead where Anthony grew up. In the summer months, when his college age son, Bryce is home to help out, Anthony can sneak away for a few hours to sail his Hobe Cat on beautiful  Seneca Lake

About the Barrels in the Cellar

Size Matters!

Barrel Puncheons
Greetings from the cellar once again!  After talking about large format bottles last week, we thought we would keep the theme going this week.  But rather than talking about bottles, now we’re talking about barrels.
As the name implies, large format barrels are barrels that are larger than the normal 225L/60gal standard wine barrel.  But how much larger is where things get interesting.  Unlike with bottles, it isn’t as straightforward as being multiples of a ‘standard’ size, larger barrels come in all sorts of very-specific sizes.  In this instance, we are looking at a 450L puncheon that is holding our Glacier Ridge Syrah (the 2019 is shown here, compared to the 2017 that we’ve been posting about this week.)
So what is the point of this double-sized barrel?  Generally speaking, it is a way of getting a more moderate oak impact on the wine than in regular barrels; while the volume is twice that of a normal barrel in a puncheon, the oak surface area is nowhere near double.  The result is a lovely texture and structure for the wine, but with less of the oaky flavors and aromas that can get in the way of the fruit.

Looking Back

Meagz’s First Harvest

Cellar Crew
From left: Kelby Russell – winemaker, Meagz Goodwin – assistant winemaker, James Anderson – cellar master

My first real harvest began in 2013. I was still responsible for the wine program and running the floor in the Bistro, Thursday evenings through Sunday evenings. The rest of my mornings and afternoons were spent learning the ins and outs of cellar work during crush.

There is a steep learning curve during harvest at a winery! Day one, I had no idea how to even connect wine transfer hoses. By week two, I was able to set up the crush pad in the morning, rack tanks, clean tanks, run a DE machine and a plethora of other tasks. The days are filled with hard physical labor, lots of sticky juice, and cleaning constantly. I had never been so tired after a long day of work and had never been so enthused to go back and do it again the next day.

People often envision the profession of winemaking as a day at work spent sniffing and tasting wine. Winemaking in reality, especially during crush, is sticky (from all the grape juice), dirty (all the dirt sticking to said grape juice), exhausting, and full of problem solving. That being said, I knew after my first harvest, that I just needed to do it again and I have been ever since. 

Getting to Know Peter Martini

Vineyard Manager of the Nutt Road Vineyard

This week both Wine Stories and Aged Wines examine rosé. What better way to prepare for rosé than to learn a bit about the man who manages all the Cabernet Franc grapes that make the wine!

Peter Martini may not be FLX born, but he was raised  in the Finger Lakes and lived all but 10 years post college here. His parents, Ann and John, planted grapes for Taylor Wine Co. in 1972. After the demise of that market in the 1980s they decided to start Anthony Road Winery, in 1989. They began planting some vinifera at that time and maintained some of the hybrids that were already established. 

Peter graduated from Clarkson University in the spring of 1990 with a B.S. in Business Management (he says he failed at his attempt at an engineering degree). He then moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming after college, not willing to become an equities trader right away, fell in love with the place and spent the next 10 years there as an automotive technician at a small repair shop. Peter comments,  “towards the end of my stay in Jackson Hole, I met and got engaged to my wife, Margot, who was from Long Island. We decided to move back East and I would help my parents with the vineyards/winery. I have been the vineyard manager since 2000. This despite hating the vineyards in my youth, now I cannot think of anything I would rather do.”

Peter says, “I currently manage a total of close to 100 acres of primarily vinifera grapes. Our home farm has 35 acres and the Nutt Road Farm is 65 acres. Both are on the north west side of Seneca Lake. We manage the Nutt Road farm for its outside owners. While each season in the vineyard has its bright spots, my favorite time is post-harvest. The crop is in, the work is done, and I can take a break from the vineyards and not worry too much.” Peter approaches each day and harvest with the same work ethic his parents instilled in him. He  constantly and consistently works hard to grow the best possible grapes he can grow and believes in balance in the vineyards.

Peter Martini

Peter lives on Seneca Lake and loves looking at the water, seeing how it changes daily. Peter says, “What I like most about the wine industry here is the great sense of cooperation versus competition. It says so much about the type of community we are.  I enjoy golfing, but it looks like I may have to wait a bit as golf courses are not open just yet.” 

Our Passion, Our Story

A Wine Philosophy

The past few weeks it has been our pleasure to share the various facets of our story with you. So many of you have tuned into our Virtual Tastings, commented on our daily posts and supported us  in many ways. Today, we want to take a moment to show how our story is reflected in our philosophy of making wine.

Bottle of the Knoll in Vineyard
The Knoll

Recently, winemaker Kelby Russell explained our philosophy of wine production. He replied, “Red Newt’s winemaking philosophy has always placed vineyard expression first and foremost, particularly with grapes like Riesling that are so terroir expressive.  We are fortunate to have a remarkably beautiful and diverse set of vineyards to work with, and it has been a pleasure to make wines that show t hose distinctions.In recent years, I have looked to showcase the strength of our vineyards in producing richer, more textured styles of wine.”

This is why, on June 8th, 2020 at 5pm we will conduct a simulcast, from Lahoma Vineyards, across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Founding winemaker David Whiting, winemaker Kelby Russell, and assistant winemaker Meagz Goodwin will lead a “Walk n Talk in the Vineyard.” This is an opportunity to see the vineyard up close and personal, ask the questions you didn’t know you had about the land and the wines. Grab a glass and join us. Better yet, check out the event, and order the wines to taste right along with us! This will be an amazing treat – so we’ll see you in the vineyard next Monday at 5pm. 

A Rewarding Albeit Arduous Task

Inventory ….

Here at Red Newt we can’t help ourselves – we bottle a bunch of unique wines every vintage.  The downside?  The arduous, quarterly-task of inventory day.  From ceiling to cellar, we search the entire building and count every last case and bottle of wine.  This task serves as a great reminder of the beautiful wines we have in stock.

Today in particular we reminisce over the magnums of Riesling: the hand-filling, the hand-leveling, the hand-corking, the hand-labeling, and the hand-waxing. All in all, a lot of extra labor worth every minute of the cellar team’s effort. Plus, magnums hold two bottles, so they make an impressive display. 

We are pleased to be able to present these age-worthy bottles that always end up being the center of attention when they are opened. Let’s be honest, we are pleased we get to enjoy them ourselves as well!

So, the next time you drop by Red Newt Cellars Winery and Bistro, have a look at the magnums. They are stunning, a conversation starter and a celebration in a bottle. We look forward to showing off these wines to you!Line up of magnums

KJR’s First Harvest

Our Memories

Kelby Russell Kelby in vineyard

First days of harvest share a lot in common with first days of school: a beautiful autumn day, new clothes and footwear, the excitement of seeing old acquaintances, the ceremonial first photo… and that they all start to blur together. 

My first harvest, however?  That is one that you never forget.  I showed up on the doorstep at Fox Run Vineyards in early October 2009, just a handful of days into their Chardonnay picking.  I was dressed sharply, under the impression it would be a business interview, and immediately found myself thrown on the crush pad with a broom and a shovel by the irascible Peter Bell.  I loved it, and started showing up every day just to be a part of the magic.  I remember it as being a sun-dappled and thrilling experience through and through.  There was so much to learn and see, new friends to make, invigorating work, and fun music blasting late into the evening.  It was everything I could have hoped for, and it hooked me for life.Harvest Crew Eating

That last part is, as it turns out, not so insignificant.  In the years since I have seen many interns experience their first – and last – harvest.  In wine production, there is a common sentiment that the first harvest makes or breaks someone; either you thrill to the work and pace, or you find it overwhelming or too grueling.  No judgement is attached to that, it is just a reality of determining whether wine cellar work is a good fit or not.  (And frankly, how many of us wish we could have found that out about a career path in 6 well-paid weeks?)  Fortunately for me, it was love at first sight.


Getting to Know Eric from Sawmill Creek

Eric Hazlitt is Finger Lakes born and bred. He was born into a family of farmers that started working the Hector land in 1852. Eric is a 6th generation farmer, who grew up right on the farm learning the ins and outs of grape farming.  He graduated from Cobleskill College and returned to Hector to work the family farm. Eric Hazlitt with Jason and Erin

Eric and his team work hybrid and vinifera grape blocks. Their grapes have produced many quality bottles of wine for nearly two dozen different wineries through the years and decades. As a dedicated grape growing farm, their blocks of grapes have also produced numerous award winning Single Vineyard wines for the most prominent Finger Lakes Wineries. 

After years of working alongside his father Jim, Eric and his wife Tina now run the farm. Sawmill Creek Vineyards is still a family affair as both of Eric’s children also work full time on the farm. The next generation works hard every day learning to mesh tried and true practices with the new techniques of the industry. Eric Hazlitt

Do not worry though, it is not business all the time. Eric and his family are also Seneca Lake lovers. As much as they love the land they work with, they also revere the beauty of the lake. Eric and Tina seize every opportunity to be down by the lake or on the lake.  If it’s a nice day, get the work done, head to the lake, take a deep breath and exhale.  The best way to relax in Hector? Take a boat ride! Make it a family affair!

The Winery Part IV – James Story

A Cellar Rat’s Journey

From tasting room to Cellar Master……..a cellar rat’s journey.

James working in snow
James Anderson, cellar master

I grew up in Pennsylvania but I have been coming to Finger Lakes all my life.  As a kid my family would bring me and my two older sisters to the Finger Lakes for months at a time in the summer.  I learned to swim in the waters of Seneca, climbed the many waterfalls, got cut by zebra mussels, boating, fishing, hiking…I learned it all in the Finger Lakes.  As you can probably guess, I love this area.  I went to school for years studying information technology and psychology.  After a lot of money and time I realized that this was not the life I wanted.  I wanted to be outside getting dirty, I wanted to be so tired that at the end of the day I wouldn’t care that I smelled bad.  I also wanted to be surrounded by caring people.  I found all of that in the Finger Lakes.

When I decided it was time for a change I came to the Finger Lakes and started to apply to the wineries.  One of the first wineries I worked for back in 2009 was Red Newt.  I started in the tasting room having a phenomenal time with the people coming to enjoy the Finger Lakes.  After showing interest, I was quickly tried out in the cellar.  It was immediately clear that I was born to be a cellar rat…..I was hooked.  Since then I have been working in wine cellars in the Finger Lakes .  I worked for Red Newt for a couple of years and then in 2015 I moved to Fox Run for a harvest.  I then moved to Lamoreaux Landing 2016 and did a harvest there.  However, I still missed Red Newt, and in 2017 I found myself back at their doors asking to work with the same people who made me fall in love with this industry and this gorgeous region.

 And I have been a happy Red Newt-er ever since…………..