“Quality all starts with the grapes,” says Peter Weis, co-owner of Weis Vineyards in Keuka Lake. In 2017, Weis and his wife Ashlee bought a small existing winery in Hammondsport. In the span of five years, they have turned quality grapes from the Finger Lakes into quality wine from Weis Vineyards. They’ve quickly become a celebrated winery in the region, earning the “Winery of the Year” award in the 2022 New York Wine Classic.
“Winery of the Year” goes to the winery with the best overall showing based on the level and number of awards in relation to entries. This year, Weiss entered nine wines. Judges awarded their 2021 Dry Rosé a platinum medal and named it Best Pink Wine, Best Rosé in its class. Their 2020 Winzer Select A, Riesling earned a gold medal and judges named it Best White Wine and Best Overall Riesling. Of the remaining seven wines, six earned gold medals and the final wine earned a silver medal. Not a bad showing for a five-year-old winery.
How does a winery that’s so young become so successful? It helps to not start from scratch.
Weis, who was born in Germany, is a sixth-generation winemaker from the Mosel region. He grew up in the wine business, his father, Karl Peter Weis, owns a small winery. Between his experience at the family winery and an apprenticeship at another Mosel winery along with the time he spent honing his skills in Germany’s Nahe wine region, Weis had plenty of experience working with cool climate grapes when we came to the Finger Lakes.
“Working in different wineries in different regions pretty much opened the spectrum of winemaking. I saw how grapes could perform in different ways. You have to figure out your own style. The more you see, the more you can find your own style,” he says.
Before settling in the Finger Lakes, Weis spent some time in California working with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but in 2006 he took a job at Keuka Lake’s Konstantin Frank Winery. In the Finger Lakes, he found a cool climate terroir that felt deeply familiar, and was in fact very similar to the Mosel’s climate.
“I was in charge of the German varieties and white varieties,” Weis says. He also managed vineyards while working at Konstatin Frank, one of the region’s oldest wineries. Twelve years later, he started the region’s newest winery, having finally experienced enough to settle on his own style.
Weis describes his aromatic white wine style as “crisp, clean, refreshing, and mineral driven with a nice balance.”
“For reds,” he says, “I like deeper, bigger-bodied reds that still have nice fruit because we are in a colder climate area.”
Weis works with 22 growers throughout the Finger Lakes to source the majority of the grapes he turns into the wines made in his style.
“As a winemaker, I can only preserve the quality of the grapes that I’m getting. That should be the goal of winemaking to preserve the quality and then put it in the style of wine you like.”
The “Winery of the Year” award and the excellent scores his wines received at the New York Wine Classic is an indication that Weis is reaching that goal.
“I’m quite honored to have this award,” says Weis, who is overwhelmed with all the congratulations he’s received. He jokes that the “pressure is on for next year” before making sure to give his whole team the credit they are due.
“It only works as a team, he says. “My wife and me. The winemaking team and the tasting room team working as a whole. We wouldn’t be where we are right now if we didn’t have the team, and that starts with the growers.”
What’s next for Weis and the winery? They’re adding niche products to their portfolio for wine club members. And, next year, they’ll release a wine that Weis is very excited about—their first traditional method sparkling wine that’s been resting on the lees since 2017.
- Varieties: 58% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 17% Blaufränkisch
- Appellation: Finger Lakes
- Sweetness: Off Dry
- Analysis: 12% Alc, 6.4 g/L TA, 10 g/L RS.
Winemaker Notes: Our 2021 Dry Rosé is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Blaufränkisch sourced from vineyard sites on Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake. It was cold soaked up to 48 hours. Delicate on the palate with aromas of strawberry and dark cherry and a smooth mouthfeel. This wine is easy drinking and can stand alone or be paired with a fresh summer salad.
- Variety: 100% Riesling
- Appellation: Finger Lakes
- Sweetness: Sweet
- Analysis: 10.5% Alc, 7.9 g/L TA, 46 g/L RS.
Winemaker Notes: This late-harvest Riesling showcases delightful sweetness, fruit forward notes, and vibrant acidity. The A in the name is utilized to signify a reference to the German style of Riesling, Auslese, meaning “selected harvest.” The grapes for this wine were hand-harvested with a portion of them affected with bortytis, also known as Noble Rot. This botrytis influence lends itself to beautiful sweetness. This particular vintage is brilliantly balanced with acidity and bright notes of pineapple and honey.
Organized annually by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the New York Wine Classic celebrates a diverse selection of world-class wines from producers within the State. Judging for this year’s competition took place from April 15th – June 15th, 2022 and included 694 entries from 101 wineries from across the state. A total of 7 Platinum, 234 Gold, 324 Silver, and 110 Bronze medals were awarded.