A Long History of Sustainability at Silver Thread Vineyard

Attitudes, practices, and policies have been changing especially in the last decade with regards to sustainability. There is mounting concern for personal health, and environmental and social problems that the world is facing including sickness and disease, extinction of plant and animal species, depletion natural resources, global warming, etc.  

An increasing number of New York’s 450+ wineries focus on sustainability and biodyanamics in their farming, winemaking, and operational practices because they feel it’s their responsibly consider their impact not only on the present social and natural environment, but on future generations. This month we will focus on two wineries in the Finger Lakes that have been leaders in biodiversity and sustainability practices for nearly 30 years. 

Turtle-Petroglyph

The turtle image on Silver Thread’s label was carved in a rock beside one of New York’s woodland creeks by a Native American artist many centuries ago. As an earth symbol to the Haudenosaunee people, the turtle reminds us to care for the land and water that give us the gift of wine. This artifact is on display at the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, NY.

Silver Thread Vineyard was established in 1982 on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, at the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region. At this location the bottom of the lake drops almost 200 feet below sea level, a dramatic mass of water that creates a distinct microclimate on the leeward (eastern) hillside — cooling breezes in summer, radiating warmth through the winter, and extending the length of the growing season. On this hillside 250 years ago, the Haudenosaunee (a.k.a. Iroquois) people tended huge peach orchards, a testament to this temperate ‘island’ within a cool region. 

Silver Thread’s original 6-acre vineyard and ecologically-designed wine cellar were established by organics enthusiast and author Richard Figiel. Since the late 1980’s, the vineyard has followed the principles of sustainable farming, and it even held an organic certification from 1992-1997. 

Their energy-efficient tasting room and wine cellar building, built in 1995, is set into the hillside for natural temperature control and to take advantage of gravity flow in the winemaking process.   

Since the winery’s first release in 1991, Silver Thread earned critical acclaim for its wines. Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were lauded in Wine Advocate, The New York Times, and The World Atlas of Wine during the 1990s, when Finger Lakes wines were virtually unknown outside the region. 

Heralded winemaker Paul Brock and wine educator Shannon Brock assumed ownership of Silver Thread Vineyard in 2011. Paul and Shannon have carried on the focus of sustainability in their production of premium estate wines. In 2014, Silver Thread was recognized for its farming practices that help to protect the water quality of Seneca Lake by New York State’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program.  Since late 2015, the winery generates 100% of its energy needs for tasting room, winery, and warehouse from a 28kw solar system located on-site. 

Silver Thread’s story is still being written.  We are constantly learning, improving and applying new knowledge to their vineyard and winery in their dedication to a more sustainable world. 

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Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper

Jenn manages Membership and Events at the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.