From the Civil War era to the 21st century, the Fulkerson family have roots that grow deep in the soil of The Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Their farm and winery sit on the western slopes of Seneca Lake and play host to 110 acres of grape vines, numerous acres of various fruit trees, asparagus and hay. Their business is also unique in that they provide a “DIY” choice, from picking your own produce straight from the field to making wine in the privacy of your own home. In fact, they have been selling home brewing supplies for over 35 years! Follow along with our visit to this winery through the words below.
Listen closely….the past is speaking
It all started with Caleb Fulkerson, a survivor of the Civil War, when he staked his claim of land on Seneca Lake back in 1805. Throughout the 1800’s, the farm was essentially used to provide food and materials to the Fulkerson family. It wasn’t until the 1900’s that they began using the land to grow commercial crops. Initially, the cash crop was raspberries, lasting until wiped out by disease in the 1960’s, and only then changed to grape farming, supplying grapes to large corporations like the Taylor Company and Gold Seal. Planting those grape vines were Roger Fulkerson (5th generation) and his son, Sayre Fulkerson (6th generation), who is now, along with his wife, Nancy, and their son, Steven (7th generation), the current owners of this successful farm and winery.
Both Sayre and Steven graduated from Cornell University studying agriculture – Sayre obtaining a degree in Pomology (the study of fruit production) and Steven graduating with a degree in Viticulture and Oenology (the study of grape growing and winemaking). Today, Sayre is Fulkerson Winery’s winemaker, Nancy is semi-retired and living the good life of traveling as much as possible (Miki is soooo jealous!), and Steven, who loves the customer service aspect of the business, serves as the company’s General Manager and oversees the retail operation.
The family farm is quite large with over 100 acres accumulated over the years. Remnants of the past remain, from the original homestead which now serves as a vacation rental to the family cemetery where Caleb, and the rest of the passed-on family members call their final resting place.
From ice to fertile soil
Although the Fulkerson family have a 200+ year history on the farm, the actual land itself, obviously, has many centuries of existence up on the family. And it is through these thousands of years of existence, and with the assistance of the last glacial movement, various types of soil can be found in different sections of the farm. Although soil is only one factor that influences the outcome of a grape and wine, it is one of the most crucial factors. It can determine whether a certain grape varietal will be welcome in its earth environment and what flavor characteristics the wine will express. At one time, a section of the land was once part of a lake, and therefore has a soil composition of sand and alluvial sediments (def: clay, silt or gravel transported by streams and deposited when the streams slow down). They also have a stream, aptly named Big Stream, to thank as it dumped massive amounts of sediment leaving behind cobblestone fields, fine Howard gravel, Dunkirk soil, Langford soil, clay and sand.
We asked Steven if, since they had so many variable soil types, did they plant the same varietal in different blocks of soil so as to produce different wines of one varietal. Steven said that yes, they do undertake this process, but only for their Rieslings. And what a great lead-in for our tasting at Fulkerson as we started off with a Riesling side-by-side comparison of none other than, different soil types.
Family All the Way.
We enjoyed our tasting with Steven as he conducted it in a “hands-on” learning fashion. He would lead us to the edge of discovering our olfactory senses, challenge us to search our memory banks for a familiar memory of smell, all before giving the result of his olfactory sense. So, suffice it to say that our tasting notes are a combination of our neophyte olfactory senses and Steven’s more practiced nose and memory connection.
2011 Dry Riesling – 0.2% RS, deep clay soil; We definitely noticed the scent of petrol (the characteristic nose of aged Riesling) being present, and also a bit of acid on the back end. We rated this one a “C” (would purposefully order a glass).
2011 Riesling Reserve – 0.2% RS, coming from a mixture of 3 different blocks therefore 3 different soil types; Compared to the 2011 Dry Riesling, this one was much smoother on the palate, less acidic and rated a “B” (would purchase a bottle).
2012 Beartown Block 28 – 1.75% RS, grown in one of the oldest blocks with deep gravel and sand soils; We noticed a sweet, floral nose, perhaps even strawberries, whilst Steven came up with honeysuckles. Sweet, floral wins! 🙂 We rated this one an “A” (case worthy)
2013 Semi-dry Riesling – 2.5% RS, same grapes as the 2011 Dry Riesling (same soil, same technique) but just changing the residual sugar; We found this bright and fruity, not too acidic or sweet. Steve pulls tangerine. Guess we need to eat a few more of those to store the taste and smell in our memory banks! We awarded this one an “A” and brought a bottle home.
2014 Juicy Sweet Riesling – 6.0% RS, a blend of their estate Rieslings, using only natural sugars from the grapes, stopping fermentation half-way through with a remaining alcohol content of only 9%, higher elevated sandy soil; This is a fun wine that yes, was sweet, but not as sweet as you would expect with 6.0% RS. It has a nice honey smell. We rated it a “B”.
A walk through the vineyards for your body and mind
So, go for a visit to Fulkerson Winery and pay the extra couple of bucks for the tour. Although we were unable to take a tour on the day of our visit because Mother Nature also visited the same day with a present of rain, we feel confident that if your experience is anywhere close to ours with Steven, you will not only feel invigorated by the walk, but also return with a broader knowledge base of grapes, soil types and the Fulkerson family.
The Winer’s Experience
|AMBIANCE||GROUNDS & SCENERY||TASTING ROOM|
|Reminiscent of a General Store. As you enter you find the following: all the wine and wine-related merchandise right there in front of you; to your far left are every brewery paraphernalia needed for a home wine-making adventure; on the right, a huge tasting bar; friendly staff to help you with all your needs.||Once again, reminiscent of a time past: antique cars prominently on display and chairs in front of “the General Store” overlooking the Seneca Lake view.||This section housed a large U-shaped bar big enough to accommodate large groups of tasters.|
|WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE||CUSTOMER SERVICE||TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE|
|Steven, one of the owners, pulled out a map of the vineyards and for our first side-by-side comparison, marked off 5 Rieslings, pulled from different parts of the vineyards all with different soil structures; a great experience on how the soil impacts the fruit.||Except when the dogs arrived, Steven was very attentive to not just us, but to all the guests that came in, ensuring that everyone had a tasting host. Apparently, his love for dogs supersedes his love for The Traveling Winers.||Starting off with the terroir, Steven walked us through the vineyards and the wines, as only an owner can do. We were really impressed.|
Vineyard & Winery Information
|Fulkerson Winery||5576 State Route 14, Dundee, NY 14837|
|Jan 2 to JUne 30 – Daily 10am – 5pmJuly 1 to Aug 31 – Daily 10am-6pmSept 1 – to Oct 31 – Daily 9am – 5pmNov 1 to Dec 31 – Daily 10am – 5pm|
|Contact form on website||http://www.fulkersonwinery.com/||(607) 243-7883|
|MUSIC||WINE CLUB||TASTING FEE|
|Special events – check website||Yes||$2/5 tastes|