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Celebrating Our 25th Anniversary

From Land to Wine: Celebrating 25 Years of a Dream Come True

            Driving south down Route 54 from Penn Yan on the east side of Keuka Lake 30 years ago was a different experience. As you looked uphill to your left, fields stretched for miles. On one of these fields Len and Judy Wiltberger decided to plant a vineyard in 1981 to grow grapes and make wine. What began as their family dream in the early 80’s has evolved into a flourishing, successful business in 2010. Today, Keuka Spring Vineyards is one of the most highly regarded wineries in the Finger Lakes.


Mark and Len Wiltberger harvest  Lemberger grapes

        The Wiltbergers’ focus over the years has remained the same; producing consistent, award-winning wine vintages, where extreme care is taken in from vine to bottle. From the beginning they believed that Keuka Lake is both an area capable of producing world-class wine and a place of outstanding natural beauty. The name “Keuka Spring” is derived from a natural spring that flows down the hillside into Keuka Lake and supplies the winery with water. Len and Judy also believe that each visitor to the tasting room should have the best wine tasting experience possible, enjoying fine wine and the company of a well-trained and hospitable staff in an atmosphere that complements learning about and enjoying their wines. Over the years, their children and family members have been involved in various aspects of the business. Now the second generation has assumed more responsibility as Mark, their son, is the winemaker and Jeanne, their daughter, is in charge of promotion at the winery.


Mark, Len, Judy, and Jeanne Wiltberger of Keuka Spring Vineyards

        The initial Keuka Spring tasting room was opened in 1985 in a quaint 1800’s gambrel barn next to the vineyard. In 2004, as the business expanded, the Wiltbergers built a new tasting room and winemaking facility nestled in the vineyard overlooking the lake to accommodate more visitors and greater production. Today the view of Keuka Lake from this location enchants visitors as they enjoy sampling premium wines.


Keuka Spring Vineyards overlooking Keuka Lake

        Another landmark for the winery was in 1999, when Keuka Spring Vineyards received the Governor’s Cup for their 1998 Cabernet Franc. This prestigious award is presented every year from the New York Wine & Food Classic Competition, a highly respected competition, to the wine deemed best single wine among all entries in New York State. Receiving the Governor’s Cup brought recognition and increasing attention in the public eye on Keuka Spring Vineyards’ wines and focus on quality. It also highlighted the capability the Finger Lakes area and Keuka Spring Vineyards had in producing premium dry red wines.


The Governor’s Cup Award at Keuka Spring Vineyards

        An extra reason for the Wiltbergers to celebrate 25 years of quality came earlier this year in the form of special recognition in a San Francisco competition. Their 2008 Gewürztraminer was judged the Best White Wine in the largest competition of American wines, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Out of 4,913 American wines, many of them from West Coast appellations such as Napa and Sonoma Valley in California, only five sweepstakes winning wines were chosen (Best Red, Best White, Best Rose, Best Sweet, and Best Sparkling). The Gewürztraminer was chosen from all the white wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blancs, and Rieslings as the Best White Wine Sweepstakes winner. The Wiltbergers were excited to see Finger Lakes wine take this prize, and of course that is was their own Keuka Spring wine that won.


Mark Wiltberger, winemaker at Keuka Spring Vineyards, met with KGO San Francisco radio personality Gene Burns in San Francisco to receive their Sweepstakes Best White Wine Award

        Over the years Keuka Spring Vineyards has earned numerous other forms of recognition for excellence. Since 2001, in addition to the Best White Wine and Governor’s Cup, they have earned 9 Best in Class awards, 15 Double Gold medals, 44 Gold medals, and countless Silver and Bronze awards as well as achieved scores of 89 and 90 in Wine & Spirits magazine. Their Riesling has been a Governor’s Cup finalist, they have been runner-up for winery of the year, and nearly every one of their wines entered in competition has won more than one medal per vintage.

        The Wiltberger and staff at Keuka Spring Vineyards invite you celebrate 25 years of excellence with them. To all the Finger Lakes residents out there, and particularly those around Keuka Lake, look around and enjoy, for you may very well have a developing Napa Valley in your own back yard! Now is a great time to visit Finger Lakes wine country, and start by sharing in the dream and celebrating 25 years with Keuka Spring Vineyards!


A busy day in the tasting room at Keuka Spring Vineyards

        Keuka Spring Vineyards is located at 243 State Route 54, East Lake Road, just outside of Penn Yan on the east side of Keuka Lake. Owners Len and Judy Wiltberger have been committed to producing premium wines since they founded the winery in 1985. For more information about their wines, the winery, and this year’s events, visit www.keukaspringwinery.com or contact the winery at 315-536-3147.

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Additional Award Highlights
 


 
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Reviews of our 2010 Riesling
The Amateur Gastronomer
Toledo Wines & Vines

Wining Ways
A Wine Story
I Love to Drink Wine

 

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Articles and Interviews

Read Wine road trip: Keuka Lake's elegant message in a bottle
by Jeff Alexander, Philadelphia Wine Examiner

Listen to Judy on Finger Lakes Wine Country blog radio about Barbecue at the Wineries June 26 & 27


Mark's interview on Savor Life about the Best White Wine award

 


"The joy of the business" See Democrat and Chronicle reporter Jeff Blackwell's video about Keuka Spring  and the Keuka Lake Wine Trail

and a written article about Keuka Lake wine


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A great review from Dave Falchek from the Gewurztraminer Twitter tasting on April 14:
 
    "From when I started drinking Finger Lakes wine in the early 1990s I viewed Keuka Spring Vineyards as a good performer, plugging away, but unlikely to rock the Kasbah. Today, I view it as one of the top wineries in the region. Not only has it developed a competency with a range of wine styles, it is a pioneer on the east side of Keuka Lake –one of my favorite places on earth to be. 

    The Keuka Springs wine was off-dry, compared to the other, which were bone dry. The nose hit some vanilla and gala apple skin notes and the flavors were of white peach and spice. A bit candied, but acid and phenolics pulled it all together at the end with nice balance. This wine improved with more time in the glass.  4/5 $17."
    
    Full link at  http://blogs.thetimes-tribune.com/emptybottles/?p=161

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  2009 Harvest Update from Keuka Spring Vineyards
Glorious Gewürztraminer  

We have picked and received all of the grapes for the season, crushed and de-stemmed them. Some, like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, are undergoing punchdown and pump-over a few times daily in order to complete fermentation on the skins and extended maceration. Others are pressed, and in tanks and beginning their transformation into wine.

An example this year for Keuka Spring Vineyards might highlight the Gewürztraminer vintage. Tasting the Gewürztraminer grapes, and then the juice, before fermentation stands out in our sensual memory. Wow. The batch of juicy grapes were bursting with fruit, sweetness, and were a glorious shade of deep pink. When we tasted the juice before fermentation, luscious tropical flavors of lychee, passion fruit, and guava jumped out at us. We received these grapes at the end of October.

Just like the color change this year, our harvest was, in a way, slow and gradual. Like the photographer waiting for the perfect moment when the leaves are that just-right combination of fire red, amber, and pumpkin orange, we waited, and watched, with crossed fingers for the grapes to attain a beautiful ripeness, while hoping to stave off too many cold mornings. We did have that Keuka Lake snow fall, right in the middle of October, but it was a wet and heavy (warm) snow, that, thank goodness, kept our grapes in good shape for harvest. One light frost also was not cause for concern in terms of berry (many still on the vine) survival. And there were those days, when the what we call “Yates County sunshine” blessed us with beams in the afternoon here on the eastern slope of the lake, adding up to just a little more ripening.

Our first batch to come in were Cayuga White grapes at the end of September (25). Harvest lasted a full month (about the time it took for all the leaves to change here). Last to be harvested were Cabernet Franc and Lemberger grapes at the end of October (29). Upon recommendation, we had dropped Cabernet Franc clusters twice earlier in the season to encourage maximum ripeness in the grapes and were hoping it paid off. Each of these batches came in at solid Brix levels. Tonnage was reduced in the Cabernet Franc due to our cluster-dropping (about half average). Lemberger was productive as usual, producing a nice amount of yield.  In between this time Chardonnay (hand-harvested this year), Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were harvested and received, all at Brix levels and quality which Len Wiltberger , owner of Keuka Spring Vineyards , described as “on target.”

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May 2009

        We are now pouring 8 gold medal winning wines in the tasting room. Recent winners include: Riesling Reserve 2007, Riesling, Riesling 2007, Crooked Lake White, Pinot Noir 2007, Lemberger 2007, Cabernet Franc 2007, Merlot 2006 and Miller's Cove Red 2006.  It's a great time to taste these vintages. More on competitions and the 2007 is featured below. In addition, several of our wines have recently been featured in Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, such as Chardonnay 2006 (86 pts.), Gewurztraminer 2007 (85 pts.), Pinot Gris 2007 (84 pts.), Miller's Cove Red 2006 (86 pts.), and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007 (86 pts.). You don't want to miss out on these spectacular wines: come in and taste them or order online!

        Find us on Facebook! We now have a Facebook page and are a Facebook group. We look forward to connecting with you.

        Our tasting room is now open daily so please stop in and visit. The blooms are out and it's really beautiful in Keuka Lake country.

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Febuary 2009                                                                 

Another gold medal for Keuka Spring!

In the recent Florida State International Wine Competition, Keuka Spring Vineyard's Lemberger took a Gold medal. We have entered this competition for a number of years. 1382 wines were entered, of which 180 took gold medals. Other Keuka Spring wines awarded in this competition include 2007 Chardonnay, 2007 Cabernet Franc, Celebrate, Claras Red, 2007 Reserve Riesling, 2007 Merlot, 2007 Merlot Reserve, 2007 Epic Reserve, 2007 Pinot Noir, Harvest Blush, 2007 Seyval Blanc, 2007 Cayuga White, 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Riesling, Crooked Lake Red, 2007 Millers Cove Red, and 2007 Gewürztraminer.

People often ask about competitions. How do they work? Do we travel to each one to enter our wines? The answer is no. We submit our wines to the competitions and they judge the wine with a panel of tasters. Many of the judges have extensive experience sampling and evaluating wines, and biographies of the panel of judges can often be found on the competition's web site. Why do we enter competitions? They give us, and those who taste our wine, a sense of where we stand in wine quality and taste in the wider wine world. Our wines are compared not only with New York and wines from the Eastern U.S., but also compared with wines from the West Coast of the U.S., including California, and all over the country, and most often, with wines from all over the world. We are proud of how our wines and Finger Lakes wines have fared in competition.

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An Outstanding 2007 Harvest
Freshly harvested Cabernet Franc grapes2007 was an excellent season for our wine grapes here at Keuka Spring. We had warm weather, high Brix count in the grapes (Brix is a measure of sugar and ripeness), and outstanding grape quality. As usual, we took great care in the vineyard and winery to ensure that the 2007 vintages will be superb. For example, as in the past, we hand-picked the estate Lemberger and Cabernet Franc grapes.

According to Len, the 2007 season and vintage is comparable to 2005 in terms of warmth and dryness of weather and ripeness and quality of the grape harvest.

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Read our profile from the Democrat and Chronicle's Finger Lakes Wine website:

Keuka Spring Winery


    Len Wiltberger shares a taste for adventure with his wife, Judy. 
    So when he decided to leave behind a 30-year career at Eastman Kodak Co. in the 1980s, Judy was game for the change.
    Taking that risk has paid off for the Wiltbergers, owners of Keuka Spring Vineyards in Penn Yan, Yates County. 
    With help from their kids and 13 staffers, the couple now produces 20,000 gallons of wine annually and manages 10 acres of vineyards.
    With more than 15 selections available for sampling, a visit to Keuka Spring feels like taking a crash course in the breadth of Finger Lakes wines. Options range from the 2006 Seyval ($9.99), a crisp white wine with Granny Smith apple and citrus flavors, to the 2006 Lemberger ($18.99), a medium-bodied red boasting notes of smoke and berries.
    Events featuring food and wine parings have proved critical to the winery’s success, Len says. Two of the most popular are the annual “Shrimp and Chardonnay” in July and “Merlot and Mignon” in August.
    Len also attributes part of the winery’s success to the experience he gained as a systems analyst and strategic planner for Kodak.
    “One of things that (working at) Kodak did was it helped me to see all the dimensions of a large business – everything from marketing to production to distribution,” he says.
    Judy says her prior career as a teacher for the Rochester City School District helps her keep the tasting room staff prepared to answer visitors’ questions. 
    “We’re finding that people (visiting) like to have fun, and they also like to really learn about wine and walk away with some new thoughts and knowledge,” she says. 
    Len says that he’s thrilled with the 2007 vintage, even at this early stage.
    “Even though they’re so young and they might be a little rough at this point, we like the color, the bouquets and the mouth-feel we’re getting right now,” he says.
    To illustrate their confidence in the vintage, the Wiltbergers hosted a barrel tasting in early December. Participants were to taste two whites and three reds from 2007 in the winery’s tank room and then compare them to selections from 2006. 
    The cost ($10) included hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary wine glass.

Keuka Spring Vineyards, 243 Route 54 (East Lake Road) in Penn Yan, Yates County, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, from Dec. 1 to 23. Open January through March by appointment. Hours in April are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Open daily from May 1 through Nov. 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (315) 536-3147. Web: www.keukaspringwinery.com. No tasting fee to sample five wines. Wheelchair-accessible.

By Sheila Livadas, for
www.fingerlakeswine.com