Drink in a bountiful fall harvest

A rainbow appears above the vineyard at Coyote Moon Winery, Clayton.

A rainbow appears above the vineyard at Coyote Moon Winery, Clayton.

Northern New York wineries share ‘labor of love’ with communities

As temperatures begin to cool in Northern New York the wine industry is heating up for autumn.

Wineries are booming in the tri-county region. For owners it means laboring with friends, family and volunteers as they spend long weekends in the fields and host fall harvest events, sharing their passion and labor of love with the community. But no two wineries are the same in their harvest techniques and that’s what makes Northern New York wines so distinct and special.

Coyote Moon Vineyards

“Harvest time means 10 things at once,” said Kristina Randazzo-Ives, Wine & Dine manager/Wine Club manager. “We are in it from planting the grapes with our own hands to harvest — we pick them, we make the wine and we taste everything. It’s not just an obsession for my family, it’s a passion.”

Coyote Moon Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery, with the vineyards located on part of a 400-acre farm off East Line Road in Clayton.
In 2008 the Randazzo family planted their first grapes and began selling wine the following year.

Since then the family has launched a line of wine-infused specialty food products, retail items, art works and a continuously growing selection of award-winning wines. The Randazzo family has even expanded to three locations: the Vineyard and Winery, Coyote Moon Wine & Dine and their shop in the Salmon Run Mall, Watertown. Mrs. Randazzo-Ives said that each of these locations are unique and support the family mission to share in their love for good wine.

One of the newest product lines that the Randazzo’s have released is “Wine in a Can.”  

“People love it,” Mrs. Randazzo-Ives said. “At first people were hesitant or thought it was ridiculous.” But after a short explanation from staff of the cans’ convenience they become excited; the cans can travel to the park or on the boat where glass is not allowed, Mrs. Randazzo-Ives said.

Five wines are available in a can: Fire Boat Red, Fire Boat White, River Run Rose, Twisted Sister and Moscato. The wines are packaged in specially crafted aluminum cans, which Mrs. Randazzo-Ives said do not contain the aluminum flavor that typically concerns product newcomers.

But new products and a bountiful harvest season is not the only excitement for the wine-making family. The annual Harvest Festival is just around the corner.

“It is our biggest event,”Mrs. Randazzo-Ives said. “It’s fantastic because it brings so many people out to enjoy the fall, live music, many local vendors and our wine.”

The event will be held Saturday, Oct. 8, from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 or $2 with a military ID. Those under 21 can enjoy an alcohol-free day at no charge.

“This year we have a hot country band coming called Country Swag. They are from Syracuse and have a great following.”


Thousand Islands Winery

As one of the longest-operating wineries in the north country, the Thousand Islands Winery has taken operations to the next level.

The Alexandria Bay winery first opened to the public in 2003 with an inventory of 1,100 gallons of wine. Today, it produces 22 wines and continues to expand.

“Everything we do here at the winery is very detailed,” April Anne Young, winery marketing director, said. “Months have gone into our newest product, the New
York State Wine Slushy.”

Ms. Young said that staff worked closely with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer’s office to develop and patent this special product. The recipe is a “house secret,” specially designed to allow for the home consumer to freeze the wine in a container at home.

The launch of the New York Wine Slushy is its biggest and best new product, Ms. Young said. “Within the first week of posting about the new slushy product we had over 17,000 views of the post. It’s even now in the Syracuse Dome and Lakeview Amphitheater.”

Another new product directly impacting Northern New York is 10th Mountain Division Association Wines. The bottles, adorned with the 10th Mountain Division Association logo, support members of the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry & Fort Drum. A portion of the proceeds from each purchase will be donated to the 10th Mountain Division Association.

All these new products will be featured at the winery’s 13th annual Oktoberfest from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1. The event includes authentic German cuisine, plenty of wine and special Oktoberfest beer selections.


Tug Hill Vineyards

For Lowville’s Tug Hill Vineyards, harvest season isn’t just about its grapes.

The vineyard is multi-purpose and continues to grow in size, diversity and product line.

“We are the only winery in the county (Lewis) that offers a ‘You-Pick’ option for our visitors,” vineyard president and co-owner Susan Maring said. “This year we picked 5,500 pounds of blueberries that are currently being made into wine.”

Established in 2007, Tug Hill Vineyards has expanded its crops to include apples, raspberries and blueberries. Customers can visit the winery, pick fruits and take them home or, Mrs. Maring said, they simply volunteer their time to help with the harvest.

“We harvest each year with the help of volunteers and paid workers,” Ms. Maring said. “Last year it took two weeks to harvest with about 25 pickers each day.”

While many wineries will employ volunteers, for Tug Hill, they have become part of the winery family and Mrs. Maring said the winery makes sure to treat them accordingly with a special Harvest Fest, where they are invited for a fun afternoon at the winery and given gift certificates to the vineyard’s famous brunch.

But the fun won’t stop when harvest is over. Tug Hill Vineyards will keep its doors open to the public throughout the winter. Mrs. Maring said it will host special events and have shorter hours for tastings.


Cape Vincent Winery

In Cape Vincent, located along the shores of Lake Ontario, the Cape Winery is thriving.

“We’ve seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in traffic, enough that we have opened a location in downtown Cape Vincent,” Cape Winery owner David Fralick said.

This is a new venture for the growing winery and one that Mr. Fralick said the neighboring village and local businesses actively support. Located at 2066 Deerlick Road, Cape Vincent, the winery sits approximately three miles from the river community on historic Deerlick Farm.

The downtown location is new for the winery and Mr. Fralick said support from the community and fellow business associates has led to his growing success. Mr. Fralick added that growing events like “A Stroll Down Broadway,” held in the village of Cape Vincent has also helped.

“We opened the downtown location, which has been great for business,”Mr. Fralick said, “The event brought about 400 to 500 people into Cape Vincent.”

“What really separates us out is the land and location. The closeness to the lake and the limestone — the grapes love it; the soil is good. I think it makes our grapes different from others,” Mr. Fralick said. The vineyard is less than three miles from the waterfront village, but with the new downtown location customers are encouraged to visit the vineyards and tasting room.

The increase in foot traffic is good, as harvest is upon the winery and it relies on approximately 20 to 30 people to volunteer with harvesting its  annual grape crops.

“Volunteers sign up when they visit the tasting room. It takes about two to three weeks to harvest. We work hard with volunteers in the morning and then we relax in the afternoon after a day’s labor.” Mr. Fralick said they like to provide a harvest dinner following crop picking, inviting those who volunteer
to sign up for the event.

And harvest is looking good for Cape Winery this year. All grapes are hand-harvested, which Mr. Fralick said decreases the use of damaged grapes and increases the product quality.

“It’s a cleaner product. We don’t pick any bad grapes. We just harvested our LaCresent which was probably the best harvest we have had yet,” Mr. Fralick said.

The winery will be featured at the 8th annual Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Oktoberfest Celebration from noon to 5 pm, on the Village Green, Saturday, Sept. 24.


Northern Flow Vineyards

Northern Flow Vineyards is the newest addition to the 1000 Islands Wine Trail. Owner Phil DeLuke said he couldn’t be happier with his first season.

“It’s exciting and something very new for us,” Mr. DeLuke said. “We’ve been growing plants here for 20 years — trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials — so we knew we are good at growing
and coupled that with my wife’s and my love for wine.”

Northern Flow Vineyards is located on the property of DeLuke’s Garden Center, two miles east of Clayton. DeLuke’s is a full-service garden center that serves the Thousand Islands region and has been in business for more than 20 years.

“We bought an additional 8 acres of land and it gave me the ability to grow grapes,” Mr. DeLuke said.

It’s this additional land and the reputation of the nursery that he attributes to the success of their first year as Northern Flow Vineyards.

The winery and garden center are located in the same building, something that Mr. DeLuke said is an interesting draw for some visitors.

“They would come into the garden center for a hanging basket and leave with a bottle or case of wine after a tasting,” Mr. DeLuke said.

The winery is also focused on developing drier wines, something that diversifies them from the traditional sweet Northern New York wine pallet.

“We do both sweet and dry wines,”Mr. DeLuke said. “But I am a dry wine guy so we are putting emphasis on that.” The winery just released its ninth wine, with a few more left from last year’s harvest that need to be bottled and moved from tanks to make room for the harvest, which is now upon the winery.

“It is harvest time, and we harvest by hand. This year we will only be harvesting 3 acres, which is a small harvest, but we are seeing great grapes this year,” Mr. DeLuke said.

Though the winery will not be holding a harvest event at the property this year, Mr. DeLuke said he’s encouraged by the feedback and traffic it’s had at the new winery and looks forward to what his next year will bring.