The future of farming and great winemaking in New York: Sustainability at Wagner Vineyards

Five generations of the Wagner family have been growing grapes and making wine in the Finger Lakes for decades. The Wagner Vineyards philosophy is that great wines begin in the vineyard and their success can be attributed to the strict standards of excellence that they employ in their grape growing and winemaking processes. As stewards of the land, they believe that sustainable practices are responsible and respectful to the environment. As a business, they believe that their economic stability is tied directly to how they treat the environment.

Although there is a genuine collaborative effort among wineries and grape growers in the Finger Lakes, sustainability efforts vary from producer to producer. In 2015, Wagner installed a 250-kilowatt solar array comprised of 750 panels on the rooftops of several of their buildings. A second solar project in 2018 put them over 800 panels (one of the largest in the area) which produces more than 60% of the energy the winery needs to operate.  

Wagner’s sustainability initiatives carry over into the vineyard where they focus on vine and soil health and erosion and runoff prevention. Installation of sod strips of an OVN (Orchard, Vineyard, Nursery) mixture assist with erosion prevention, water retention, and weed suppression limiting runoff and the need for consistent herbicide application. Their own organic hay baled directly on the farm is spread across vineyard rows, replenishing the soil and enriching the humus.  

Wagner also employs the Scott Henry trellising system which is designed to better expose the fruit zone allowing for more sun exposure and less canopy manipulation. Essentially, this allows for enhanced ripening of the grapes without exhausting the vine. In the cold upstate New York winters, the protection of the vines where they have been grafted to rootstock is imperative for vine health. By hilling and de-hilling soil around all of their vinifera vines – which are often more susceptible to winter damage – they can ensure vine health and survival.

Picture of New York Wine & Grape Foundation

New York Wine & Grape Foundation

The mission of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation is to promote the world-class image of New York grapes and wines from our diverse regions to responsibly benefit farmers, producers and consumers through innovative marketing, research, communication, and advocacy.