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Finger Lakes winemakers land a ‘home’ for their new property ahead of 1st release

How well are things coming together for winemakers Kelby James Russell and Julia Rose Hoyle as they build the foundation for a new Finger Lakes winery called Apollo’s Praise?

Based on the set of circumstances that occurred with an 1840s farmhouse located across the road from the Lahoma Vineyards they will source for their line of wines, the run-up couldn’t be going much better. They purchased that farmhouse today, which they plan to use for dinners and pick-up parties for members of their wine club in addition to making it available as an Airbnb.

Russell says he had seen the farmhouse for years during his stint with Red Newt Cellars, where his stellar reputation grew with the world-class Rieslings and other wines he produced before this latest venture. “But Julia, one day we were driving around and she made the comment, ‘If that ever went up for sale, my gosh, what a perfect addition to the property [that would be].’ For all we know it might have been the original farmhouse because there used to be an orchard where the vineyard is.”

Lo and behold, last August it went on the market. “We’re like, well you don’t really get to choose when opportunity strikes, even though it wasn’t necessarily the ideal timing to make another big move,” Russell says. “I guess we feel really happy we made the offer because the last time it sold was 1947. “

While the couple has no short-term plans for a tasting room, Russell says this gives them a cozy home for club members and others to visit. “It’s nice to have sort of a hearth to welcome people to,” he says.

A Finger Lakes native, Russell left home for Harvard, where he studied Orchestra Management. According to a June 2023 story on the New York Wines website, it was winemaking that drew him back in 2009, and he began his tenure as Red Newt winemaker in 2012. His accolades include outstanding reviews and a spot on Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40 Tastemaker” list, and last year he was honored by his colleagues in the New York Wine and Grape Foundation with the “Phyllis Feder Unity Award.” He also played a key role as a co-chair for the “FLXcursion” International Riesling Conferences in 2019, ‘21 and ‘23, which have helped to showcase the region and its extraordinary wines.

Russell left Red Newt last spring around the same time he and Hoyle were purchasing Lahoma Vineyards — a source of grapes for several Red Newt classics such as the “Big H” Riesling and The Knoll Riesling as well as other wine producers — from grower Ken Fulkerson and setting in motion their plan to start Apollo’s Praise. The vineyard and farmhouse are both located across the lake from Red Newt Cellars, in Rock Stream, New York.

The name is inspired by a song entitled “Glorious Apollo” that Russell sang in the men’s choir, one that was familiar to members through the years. He says since his career path was meant to be Orchestra Management, “this is a way to tie everything back together.” While Russell is now focused exclusively on this winery, Hoyle will continue as the winemaker at nearby Hosmer Estate Winery while serving as her husband’s co-conspirator, as she references it on the website, with their ambitious project.

The availability of grapes from the 55 acres of vines located on Seneca Lake’s southwest shore figures to change very little, he says, even with their venture. “There’s been no shortage of demand for the fruit. We weren’t looking to upset the applecart in any way,” adding that “it’s been a very easy path to keep a little bit of what we wanted and keep supplying a lot of the longtime customers.”

If there was one setback, it was the infamous May 18, 2023, late frost, which robbed Fingers Lake vineyards of tons of potential fruit, including at Lahoma, where Russell and Hoyle lost half of their available fruit a month after purchasing the vineyard. Still, Russell told New York Wines, “We’re going to make people sit up and notice with the wines we do get to make.”

In an interview last week with PennLive, he says they have cleared the main hurdles, securing their bonded winery permit and approval from the state. They are aiming at releasing around half of their wines to members of what they call their Wine and Glee Club on May 1 and then the second set on Sept. 1. Club membership, of which there are still some openings, will include six wines from each of their two releases, which can either be shipped or picked up.

Skurnik will otherwise provide distribution to several states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and probably California. “We’re not expecting to sell a ton in California,” Russell says, “but there are some wine restaurants out there, of course, that we’d really like to showcase [our products] to the wine world.”

The portfolio at this point will include nine wines, starting with some Finger Lakes classics — a dry Riesling, a Kabinett-style (made from fully ripe grapes) Riesling, a dry rosé of Cabernet Franc and a stainless-steel Cabernet Franc, with the remainder of the list, Russell says, featuring “some of the things that are unique to us”:
  • Reserve Cab Franc that’s done in a 400-gallon oak tank, “very Old World-inspired in that way”
  • Gruner Veltliner
  • Barrel-fermented Chardonnay
  • The reserve Riesling, The Knoll
  • And “a real perky one called Scheurebe. It’s widely planted in Germany, especially in the faults in the Rheinhessen, which is where I had it when I was visiting some states in 2016 and just really fell in love with the grape,” he says. “The owner at the time of Lahoma Vineyard, he had a little half-acre parcel and he asked what I’d be curious to see planted, and that just kind of stuck out to me.”

Their first commercial crop from that trial plot was harvested last year. “It’s a really fascinating combination of things in terms of how it presents,” he says. “It has a little bit of, sort of like, acidity and fruit of Riesling, but also has some of the spice notes from Gewurztraminer.” While he expects that wine will require a bit of education for consumers, he anticipates that it will become as much a cult wine as anything. “That would be the sort of goal for this wine. In a good year, [production] might be 100 cases” that will be offered as a wine club exclusive.

Read the rest of the original article on Penn Live.

Main Street Drivers provides customized experiences in the Finger Lakes for wine enthusiasts of all levels. If you are traveling to the area, check out the details on our affordable Finger Lakes Wine Tours.

Unveiling the art of wine tasting: A journey through the senses

Wine tasting, often described as a sensory symphony, is a delightful journey that invites enthusiasts to explore the nuances of flavors, aromas, and textures encapsulated within each bottle. Beyond a mere beverage, wine is an intricate tapestry woven with the essence of terroir, varietals, and the artistry of winemaking. In this exploration, we delve into the captivating world of wine tasting, understanding its rituals, and appreciating the subtle complexities that make each sip a unique experience.

The rituals of wine tasting
Wine tasting is an artful practice that engages multiple senses, inviting enthusiasts to explore and appreciate the intricate flavors and aromas encapsulated within each bottle. The rituals of wine tasting are a blend of observation, olfaction, and palate exploration, creating a delightful journey for the senses. Let’s delve into the essential rituals that make wine tasting a captivating experience:

  • Observation: The ritual begins with a visual appraisal. Pour a small amount of wine into a clear glass and hold it against a white background to assess its color and clarity. This visual examination provides initial insights into the wine’s age, grape variety, and even potential faults.
  • Aromatics: Swirling the wine in the glass awakens its aromas. The bouquet is a crucial element in wine tasting, revealing a spectrum of scents from fruity and floral to earthy and spicy. Take a moment to inhale deeply, identifying the layers of fragrance that emanate from the glass.
  • Sipping and savoring: The first sip introduces the palate to the wine’s taste profile. Allow the wine to coat your tongue and palate, noting the interplay of flavors—sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and umami. Savor the complexity and evolution of taste as the wine lingers on your palate.
  • Mouthfeel: The texture or mouthfeel of a wine is a crucial aspect of the tasting experience. Is it smooth and velvety, or does it possess a more robust and tannic structure? The mouthfeel provides insights into the winemaking process and the grape varieties used.
  • Finish: The finish is the lingering impression left on the palate after swallowing. A long and persistent finish often indicates a well-balanced and complex wine. Pay attention to the aftertaste, noting any lingering notes of fruit, spice, or minerality.

Exploring wine varietals
Wine, a beverage that transcends time and culture, is a symphony of flavors derived from the diverse varietals of grapes and the unique characteristics of the regions where they are cultivated. Each varietal tells a story of terroir, climate, and winemaking techniques, creating a rich tapestry of tastes for enthusiasts to explore. In this exploration, we dive into the world of wine varietals, understanding the distinct qualities that make each grape variety a captivating chapter in the oenophile’s journey.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Boldness in every sip
Cabernet Sauvignon, often referred to as the “king of red wines,” is known for its bold and assertive flavors. Expect to encounter intense notes of blackcurrant, cherry, and plum, accompanied by hints of cedar, tobacco, and sometimes green bell pepper.


  • Robust tannins: Cabernet Sauvignon is characterized by its firm tannic structure, contributing to its age-worthy nature.
  • Aging potential: This varietal tends to age well, developing complex flavors and aromas over time.
  • Food pairing: Ideal companions include hearty dishes such as grilled steak, lamb, or mature cheeses.

Merlot: Elegance and approachability

Flavor profile: Merlot is celebrated for its softer and more approachable characteristics. It often showcases flavors of ripe plum, cherry, and red berries, coupled with notes of vanilla, cocoa, and herbs.


  • Velvety texture: Merlot is known for its smooth and velvety mouthfeel, making it an excellent choice for those new to red wine.
  • Versatility: This varietal is versatile and pairs well with a range of dishes, from roast chicken to pasta.

Pinot Noir: Delicate and complex

Flavor profile: Pinot Noir is celebrated for its delicacy and complexity. It offers an array of red fruit flavors such as strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, often accompanied by earthy, floral, or spicy notes.


  • Light to medium-bodied: Pinot Noir is typically lighter in body, allowing for a nuanced tasting experience.
  • Sensitivity to terroir: This grape variety is highly responsive to terroir, showcasing the unique characteristics of the region where it’s grown.
  • Food pairing: Ideal with dishes like grilled salmon, roasted chicken, or mushroom risotto.

Chardonnay: A canvas of expression

Flavor profileChardonnay is a versatile white grape that can be crafted into a myriad of styles. Common flavor profiles include green apple, citrus, and melon for unoaked versions, while oaked Chardonnays may display buttery, vanilla, and tropical fruit notes.


  • Barrel aging: Oaked Chardonnays are often fermented and aged in oak barrels, imparting richness and complexity.
  • Crispness: Unoaked Chardonnays maintain a crisp and refreshing character, allowing the purity of the fruit to shine.
  • Food pairing: From buttered lobster to creamy pasta dishes, Chardonnay complements a range of cuisines.

Sauvignon Blanc: Zesty and refreshing

Flavor profile: Sauvignon Blanc is renowned for its vibrant and zesty character. Expect citrusy notes such as grapefruit and lime, along with green bell pepper, passion fruit, and a refreshing acidity.


  • High acidity: Sauvignon Blanc’s high acidity makes it a refreshing choice, especially in warmer climates.
  • Aromatic intensity: The varietal is known for its aromatic intensity, with expressive and distinctive aromas.
  • Food pairing: Perfectly suited for pairing with light salads, seafood, and dishes with fresh herbs.

Riesling: A symphony of sweetness and acidity

Flavor profile: Riesling, a versatile white grape, spans a spectrum of sweetness levels. It can range from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, offering flavors of peach, apricot, honey, and floral notes.


  • Versatility in sweetness: Riesling’s versatility in sweetness levels makes it suitable for diverse palates.
  • High acidity: Even in sweeter styles, Riesling maintains a vibrant acidity that balances the sweetness.
  • Food pairing: Pair dry Rieslings with spicy cuisines, and sweeter versions with desserts or spicy dishes.

Rosé wines: Elegant blushes of flavor

Flavor profile: Rosé wines, crafted from red grape varietals, showcase a spectrum of delicate hues and flavors. Common notes include fresh berries, watermelon, citrus, and a subtle minerality.


  • Diverse styles: Rosé wines can be still or sparkling, dry or sweet, catering to a wide range of preferences.
  • Refreshing and crisp: Rosés are known for their refreshing nature, making them perfect for warm-weather enjoyment.
  • Food pairing: Versatile with various dishes, from salads and seafood to grilled meats.

Avinturo: Elevating the wine tasting experience

In the pursuit of enhancing your wine tasting journey, consider exploring unique and curated selections from Avinturo. Avinturo brings a collection of exceptional wines, each telling a story of its origin, craftsmanship, and distinctive character. From Old-World classics to New-World discoveries, Avinturo invites wine enthusiasts to embark on a sensory adventure that transcends geographical boundaries.

Pairing wine with culinary delights
The art of wine tasting extends beyond the glass to the table, where the harmony between wine and food creates an exquisite symphony of flavors. Consider these classic pairings:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled steak: The robust tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon complement the savory richness of a perfectly grilled steak, creating a match made in culinary heaven.
  • Chardonnay with buttered lobster: The buttery notes of Chardonnay beautifully complement the succulent sweetness of lobster, resulting in a luxurious and indulgent pairing.
  • Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese salad: The zesty acidity of Sauvignon Blanc cuts through the creaminess of goat cheese, while its herbal notes harmonize with fresh greens, creating a refreshing combination.
  • Pinot Noir with mushroom risotto: The earthy and fruity notes of Pinot Noir complement the umami-rich flavors of mushroom risotto, offering a nuanced and satisfying pairing.

Read the rest of the original article on TravelDailyNews.

Main Street Drivers provides customized wine tours  for enthusiasts of all levels in many wine regions throughout the country, including tours of our featured location this month for Walla Walla Wineries.