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