Review: Hosmer Winery – Finger Lakes, NY

Official Review by The Traveling Winers

9-Hosmer WineryYet another winery in The Finger Lakes, this time on the western shore of Cayuga Lake, that has a family history that goes back generations. If you are in this area during your wine tasting travels, consider dropping by, tasting a few of their wines, meeting their friendly staff and maybe even bringing your picnic lunch and enjoying their grounds. You might also want to ask Tim to explain his vine planting business as it is quite interesting. Read on below as we tell you more about the winery, the here-and-now and the yesteryear.

Kids, dogs…all are welcome at this family winery!

It really was no big surprise that the winery was bubbling with liveliness, between the staff, customers and the wine tasters’ children that were brought in tow, because this is a true family winery from way, way back! The land has been in the Hosmer’s family since back in the 1920’s. The current owner, Cameron Hosmer, doesn’t remember a time in his life when the farm was not a part of his memories. In the 1970’s, Cameron and his wife, Maren, began the journey of growing grapes, at that time, for sale to the large commercial wineries. It wasn’t until 1985, when the commercial grape growing industry in this area began to come to a raging halt, that the couple decided to go off on their own and make their own wine, and opened their first tasting room in a very familiar place – their home garage. It didn’t take long for them to outgrow this space, and in 1990 they opened their new, larger tasting room across the street in an old, renovated barn.

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Tim and Cameron Hosmer

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Old barn, new tasting room

Working in the vineyards, side by side with his son, Tim Hosmer, the duo tend to 60 acres of vines growing a combination of vinifera, native and hybrid varietals.  All of their wine is estate grown, produced and bottled with a production of about 10,000 cases annually. Cameron shared with us, in a very laid back and down-to-earth manner, that they didn’t always produce great wine. With a chuckle he remembered back to when they first started and all the lessons they had to learn to become the successful business that they are today. For instance, he said, “When we started we only made a dry Riesling. That was a mistake. Not everyone likes the dry style, so we had to change to make a sweeter Riesling. You gotta make wine that people like!” Lesson learned!

So what is cover crop anyway?

During our visit the tasting room became quite busy with a lot of families, and Cameron, not wanting to neglect us, sent us off with Tim into the vineyards to learn about Tim’s successful venture of wine planting. It was a lucky break for us as we learned quite a bit about Tim’s company, Benchmark Custom Vineyard Planting, and about soil management.

Tim started off by showing us this huge tractor vine planting machine. His company travels to a number of different state and plants vineyards with the GPS guided machine. It takes three to four men to run the operation during planting, but they can do about 5 acres in a single day. Way faster than planting by hand, for sure!

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Next, Tim explained that not only do they have 60 acres of grapevines planted, but they also have 60 acres of hay. Our first thought was that they must grow the hay and sell it off, but that was a wrong assumption. He explained that they use the hay for cover crop. We had heard the term before, but learned very quickly that we really didn’t understand what it truly meant. So here goes…in case you also don’t know, we’re going to educate you. 🙂 Cover cropping is a way to protect the soil from erosion, Tim explains that they grow it for themselves for mulch hay. They lay it down between the rows for several reasons. First, to add some organic matter back into the soil, replacing nutrients that have been removed or utilized by the vineyards. Second, it helps to prevent soil erosion. In simple terms, this occurs by having a crop present so that when it rains the rain doesn’t directly lash onto the soil and wash it away, but also lashes onto the cover crop, in this case hay. And third, it provides some “footing”, or something to grab onto, for the vineyard equipment. See…interesting, huh?

Our tasting…

We were led through our tasting by David, a very knowledgeable tasting room host. It was quite interesting though as the tasting was led in a fashion that we were not used to.  David had us taste their tannic wines first and then moved to the more acidic wines. This threw us off just a bit, but then he explained that their whites were made in European style and were therefore higher in acids…so the whites came second. All’s well that ends well…we enjoyed our tasting.

As usual, we taste a number of wines at each winery and don’t want to bore you with a play-by-play. In this review, we will focus on our comparison tasting of their Chardonnay.

2014 Chardonnay – First on the nose was a refreshing smell of pineapple with a hint of ….hold on here…could have sworn it smelled like a hint of banana…hmmm. Very different, nice…and refreshingly new. This wine was fermented in 70% stainless steel, 15% American oak, 15% neutral French oak. So smooth and balanced we rated it case-worthy with an “A”.

2012 Limited Release Chardonnay – 100% French oak (5-7 years old). Comparatively, this wine was more floral than the 2014 and had a hint of honey present. Miki, in her somewhat crazy descriptives said it reminded her of fresh laundry on the line.  Perhaps she meant to describe it as crisp?!

Remember, for your visit to Hosmer Winery, bring the kids, bring the dog.  Cameron says they are all welcome! He may even offer the kids a popsicle!

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Tom Joe
“Hops ‘r Better” Winer

David, our tasting host, was very attentive during our tasting however, with the intimate size of the tasting room, it felt crowded as more and more visitors arrived. We interrupted our tasting to chat with Tim, the owner’s son, about his business of planting new vineyards up and down the East coast, from Virginia to Vermont.  It was fascinating to learn this part of the industry.  It  really help us understand what vineyard farmers must go through.

“Hippie” Winer

The 2014 Chardonnay was just excellent.  Smooth and creamy on my tongue.  It did indeed have the scent of pineapple.  Not really a Chardonnay girl but this was exceptionally nice.

“This Is The Life” Winer

The outdoor surroundings were that of a working farm that I found quite soothing.  Although there were a few chairs out, I felt it would have been nice to have an area that really invited the visitors to buy a glass, relax for a while and enjoy the farm. One thing that stood out to me during this visit was the family pride of father and son as they work side by side to run their small family farm, making excellent wine and carrying on the family tradition of growing grapes. They have definitely succeeded here.

“Timeless” Winer

I have to agree that the Chardonnay was excellent.  The color was very nice and the clarity was damn near perfect, catching the sun like a prism.  I loved the scent, pineapples, but where the banana came from I know not.  Happy to have a ‘big boy’ glass of this nectar sitting on my patio.


21-Hosmer Winery  32-Hosmer Winery  37-Hosmer Winery  59-Hosmer Winery  76-Hosmer Winery  78-Hosmer Winery  96-Hosmer Winery audio

The Winer’s Experience

It felt quaint, like coming home to the family homestead. The small, cozy tasting room was located a stone’s throw away from the main house, providing the feel of an intimate connection to the owners. The tasting room was right next to the vines which were planted in 1972.  Surrounding the property were not only vineyards, but also hay fields with the main purpose to provide crop cover to the vines. Small, cozy and intimate, with an upper section that caters for large gatherings.  Not a ton of tasting bar space, so if you are a large group, make sure to call ahead.
Our tasting host, David, led us through the tasting by offering several recommendations.  He interacted with us by sharing his reactions to the aroma and flavors. Everyone here is very friendly and it is apparent that they want you to feel welcome. David  demonstrated his technical knowledge of the terroir as we sampled and related it to each wine.

Vineyard & Winery Information

Hosmer Winery 7020 Route 89, Ovid, NY   14521
Nov to April – Mon – Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pmMay to Oct – Mon – Sat 10am – 5:30pm, Sun 11am – 5pm
Contact form on website (607) 869-3393
Special events – check calendar Yes $3/5 tastes
No Snacks


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