The Wine Guy column

It's a long way from Nacogdoches, Texas, to Burdett.    
JEFF RICHARDS/Star-GazetteThe Lost Irishman is a Catawba wine made from grapes grown at the new Catharine Valley Winery in Burdett  

After just one trip down a Finger Lakes wine trail, Donald and Jessica Kilcoyne decided to give wine making a try. 

They had met at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches and dreamed of someday owning and operating a winery. 

During a visit with relatives in Syracuse, Don and Jessica decided to see what Finger Lakes wineries had to offer. When they stopped by Fulkerson Winery, Don asked owner Sayre Fulkerson if there was any work available. 

Don was hired as vineyard manager for the next year. "Sayre is probably the first reason that we decided to stay here," Don says. 

The Kilcoynes planned on getting a couple of years' experience and then moving on to Oregon to chase their dream. However, the more time they spent in the Finger Lakes, the more the area began to grow on them.

Don honed his wine-making skills while working with Poplar Ridge Winery owner Dave Bagley for 4½ years. During that time, it became clear to Don and his wife that they could establish a winery here for a fraction of what it would cost in Oregon. They eventually bought 35 acres for what it would have cost to purchase only two to three acres of land in Oregon. 
As an immediate bonus, their purchase included eight acres of productive vineyards.
Their business, Catharine Valley Winery, is located on the east side of Seneca Lake, a few miles north of Watkins Glen. Don and Jessica delved into the local history with visits to the Schuyler County Historical Society. 

"We liked the name of the region," says Jessica, referring to how they came up with the name for the winery. The name pays tribute to the land nourished by Catharine Creek, winding its way from Pine Valley, through Montour Falls and emptying into Seneca Lake at Watkins Glen. 
Although Don and Jessica have the land and a name for their business, they are still working on their retail sales area. 

"There is a lot of work to do," Jessica says. "We just had to get the doors open." 
The tasting room is a converted horse barn. "It had loose straw piled 12 feet high," Don says. 
They wore protective masks against the dust as they hauled all of the straw out of the building. The dirt floor was replaced with concrete, then Don built a rectangular tasting bar in the middle of the room. The countertop is made of red oak with contrasting trim of hand-rubbed walnut. 
You may yet see a carpenter's bench during a visit to Catharine Valley Winery while the interior trim is being finished. Walk right up to the tasting bar, and either Jessica or Don will be glad to offer you samples of their 2002 wines. 

The 2002 Traminette has a spicy, full-fruit nose. A cousin to gewurztraminer, it has delightful, spicy flavor with a very smooth finish. 

The 2002 Riesling is lighter-bodied than several others from the Finger Lakes. It is a semidry wine that starts with a peach taste and finishes with the taste of green apples. 

The Lost Irishman is a sweet, smooth Catawba wine made from the Catawba grapes already producing on four acres of the Kilcoyne's land. They have planted pinot gris, merlot and cabernet franc grapes, and Don and Jessica plan to next plant grapes for traminette, gewurztraminer and Riesling. 

Their emphasis will be on Alsatian-style wines. "They tend to be drier, bigger and yummy," Don says.

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