Hobbs expects wine production in 2018
BURDETT--International winemakers Paul Hobbs and Johannes Selbach -- whose latest venture includes establishing a winery in the Finger Lakes -- are expected to be producing area wine by 2018. That is what Paul's brother David Hobbs said while meeting with the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club Thursday afternoon, May 12, at the Watkins Glen Elks Club. David Hobbs gave a presentation to the club detailing what they have done so far to establish the winery, located along Route 414 in Burdett.
Paul, who grew up in upstate New York, has been called the "Steve Jobs of wine" by Forbes magazine and is known for his impact in the winemaking industries in both California and South America. Selbach is a German winemaker from Mosel, a region known for its Riesling and growing wine grapes on steep slopes.
David said while his brother was in California, he was in Rochester and started tasting more Finger Lakes wine around 2008. He noted he had not tasted much Finger Lakes wine before, but eventually began tasting every weekend. David said he would call Paul to tell him what he is missing, finally getting Paul to visit the area in 2012.
David said they then began searching for land to purchase, noting they looked at Keuka and Cayuga Lakes along with Seneca. He said they decided on the Burdett property in 2012, due in part to the similarities it had with the Mosel region in Germany. They brought on Selbach in 2013, who David added was immediately interested in the project, as he was looking to become established in the U.S. market.
David said they started clearing the land on their 67 acre Riesling-focused winery shortly after Labor Day in 2013. David noted they planted three acres of grapes in 2014, 13 acres in 2015 and will plant another 18 acres in 2017 along with five acres on the steep portion of their property in 2018. He added they are planting with tight spacing, with the rows of grape vines running parallel to the slope as opposed to perpendicular. David said this leads to wind advantages coming off the lake, allowing airflow between the vines resulting in less fungicide and insecticide spraying.
David also spoke about some of the other sustainable growing practices they are implementing. This includes not using herbicide spray, but rather by removing the weeds between the rows and planting thyme as a low-growing cover crop once the vines are established. He noted it only grows four to five inches tall and will help maintain erosion control.
David added they have also learned about one of the bad things about the Finger Lakes region.
"You guys have some crazy thunderstorms here," David said, highlighting some of the heavy rains that have caused damage at their property. "It really took us by surprise."
Because of this, the Hobbs brothers installed a storm water drainage system that is "good for a 100 year storm." David said the water will go to a retention pond which will then slowly release the water while also reducing the water's turbidity.
While planting the grapes, David said they developed a punching system to punch the vines into the soil without compacting the dirt around it. He called this system "one of a kind in the world," adding they had to develop this system due to slate conditions at the site. David noted it allows the vines to better penetrate into the soil, adding Paul hopes the vines go down 30 feet into the earth in the next 10 years.