Located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Red Tail Ridge Winery is owned and operated by husband and wife Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan. As a former executive in charge of viticulture and oenology R&D at a large winery, Nancy strongly believes in sustainability. Not only is Red Tail Ridge farmed in a sustainable manner it is also the first LEED certified winery in New York. Everything at Red Tail Ridge reflects Nancy and Mike’s attention to detail – the winery that they built from scratch to their limited production, premium single varietal wines. The bulk of Red Tail Ridge’s production is Riesling, but Nancy and Mike have also planted several clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir alongside small experimental plots of Blaufrankisch, Dornfelder and Teroldego. Mike and Nancy’s early efforts were duly noted by the press – they won several Gold and Silver medals, Wine Business Monthly named Red Tail Ridge one of its Hot Small Brands of 2008 and Eric Asimov the wine critic of The New York Times has lauded them for their efforts.
Red Tail Ridge is a 35 acre vineyard and winery located on the western shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of up-state New York. It is named after the two nesting pair of hawks who live in the woods surrounding the vineyard. They are our constant companions when we are working on the vines. We are a husband and wife team, so vineyard development, winegrowing, winemaking and marketing are currently divided up between us, Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan.
At Red Tail Ridge Winery we specialize in limited production wines because we believe that quality is more important than quantity. Keeping our production down allows us to better monitor the details of the wine making process. We produce small-lots (sometimes less than 50 cases) to further preserve and enhance the varietal characteristics that we generate in the vineyard.
picture of winery overlooking Seneca Lake
We also believe that experimentation is an important step towards unlocking our vineyard’s, and this region’s, potential. We have 20 acres of cool climate varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. While you may be most familiar with these cool climate varieties, we are also examining some more obscure red varieties that work well in cooler regions of Europe–namely, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Trentino Italy. For example, we currently have a small plot of Teroldego, and a few rows of Dornfelder. Teroldego is a red Italian grape variety grown in Alto-Adige. The wines produced from this variety have been compared to Zinfandel due to their deep color, brambly blackberriness, solid acidity and moderate tannin structure. Dornfelder is a red variety grown in Germany that produces medium body wines with velvety texture, slightly floral notes and flavors of plums, blackberries and/or cherry. We also make Blaufrankisch from a local vineyard. The variety is well known in cooler regions of Europe; the wines are peppery and cherry with slight herbal notes of oregano and rosemary and a good balance of acidity in the finish. Over the next couple of years we will be planting small experimental plots of other obscure varieties to examine their potential to produce high quality dry red wines in the Finger Lakes.