By Wayne Schutz, Photo Credits Alice Schutz
With a welcoming smile, Ian Barry greeted us at the door of his historic tasting room in Burdett. Built around 1819, the building serves as a perfect venue for tasting Ian’s excellent wines. Located in the heart of the village, just a few miles north of Watkins Glen, the Barry Family Cellars’ tasting room occupies the site of the former post office. Ian and his family have preserved the rustic charm of the period while adding their own, with their love of music and art, and of course, great wine.
Barry Family Cellars was born out of Ian’s desire to craft quality wines in his own winery. Founded in 2011, the first vintage was release in 2014. At the time, Ian didn’t believe that a tasting room was needed. “Reality happened there, I had hoped to make a small amount of wine and sell it in New York City and such … having a tasting room helps to give a face to your brand.” When his production outpaced his ability to sell through his distribution channels, he started looking for a good location, searching in Watkins Glen and Trumansburg. Every day Ian would walk his dog past the old post office, unused for eight years at the time, thinking “somebody really needs to do something with that place”. Then one day a light went on: “Maybe I’m the one that needs to do something with this building”. After spending four months getting the room ready, the tasting room opened on August 27th, 2016.
Ian and his family have created an experience that is much more than a tasting room. The building maintains its rustic charm and even some artifacts from when it was a post-office. Ian loves music, and he loves music on vinyl. So when you visit, he’ll probably have one of his favorite vinyl records playing in the background. Art works from a local artist (Melissa Goodwin Photography) adorns the walls and is for sale, along with handmade goods. Last winter, and most coming Wednesday nights this year beginning at 5:30pm, the tasting room becomes a gathering place for local acoustic musicians of all skill levels and people who just love music at the ‘Wednesday Night Acoustic Jam’ sessions. “I love having the free form open jams here, people are here to socialize and here to play music and listen to music.”
Prior to starting Barry Family Cellars, Ian was already a well known, award winning winemaker in the Finger Lakes. (Swedish Hill Winery won the 2010 Governor’s Cup for Ian’s Riesling Cuvée and the 2008 Governor’s Cup for his Vidal) Born in Hoosick Falls NY, on the Hoosick River by Vermont border, Ian went to college at SUNY New Paltz, where he was studying to become a teacher. But instead of reading books about education, as his classmates did for fun, Ian read books about wine. An ad for help in a local newspaper brought him to a Hudson Valley Winery. The welcoming spirit there cemented his interest in wine and becoming a wine maker: “At Adair Vineyards, I kind of fell in love with the idea of owning my own winery.”
Ian traveled to Oregon in 2001 and worked with Pinot Noir. From there he went to Washington state and spent time learning about Chardonnay.
“In 2003, I felt it was time to come back to New York, with my goal being starting a winery. If I ever wanted to start a winery with limited finances, the Finger Lakes was the place to do it. You could buy vineyard suitable land for two to three thousand dollars per acre at that time.”
“While I was in Washington, I sent resumes to a bunch of Finger Lakes wineries. This was the early days of the Internet, and there weren’t a lot of wineries that had a website yet. I sent resumes to the 10 wineries I could find out about.” The people at Fox Run Vineyards forwarded Ian’s resume to Heron Hill Winery on Keuka Lake, he flew out for an interview, it seemed like a good fit, and he got the job as assistant winemaker. He has also worked at Swedish Hill Winery and Kueka Lake Vineyard.
In 2011, Ian decided it was time for him to make wine under his own label. It became obvious that his family was interested in being part of his adventure, so with his father Ken, his mother Hope, his brother Brian and his wife Tricia, Barry Family Cellars was born. Ken acts as general handyman, and the hard work, the craft of it, is what appeals most to him. Hope helps with decorating and creating the atmosphere in the tasting room, her hand made goods are for sale there. Brian comes up with ‘Bright Ideas’ and contributes to the winemaking. Tricia helps with the marketing side of the business. Everyone helps out in the tasting room when they can.
One of Ian’s most pleasant surprises about owning his winery happened on opening day of the tasting room: “I laid awake the night before, worried that no-one would show up. As it turned out, we were packed. Ted Marks was the first guy in the door. Everyone was so supportive!”
In addition to being the winemaker at Barry Family Cellars, Ian also finds time to consult with Buttonwood Grove Winery on Cayuga Lake and Barnstormer Winery on the west side of Seneca Lake. Ian is also a member of the three man team that produces Fossil & Till (http://www.fossilandtill.com), a naturally made Riesling PetNat (petillant naturel).
While Ian was still at Heron Hill Winery, the family decided to buy 22 acres on Seneca Lake and start a vineyard. Ian originally thought that he would grow his own grapes and then make wine from them, but after spending time with local grape growers, it became obvious that he should first focus on being a winemaker: “I consider myself a winemaker way more than I consider myself a grape grower. There’s a high learning curve to growing grapes, I’m learning a big lesson every year, but I’m far from an expert grape grower.” Several acres of new vines are planted, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Saperavi and St. Laurent. Ian plans to continue to grow the vineyard and start producing estate wines.
Ian takes a minimalist approach to wine making. Believing that the grapes should be free to “express themselves”, he eschews additives like sugar and acid. This approach even applies to yeast inoculation, as most of his reds are wild ferment. “There is some yeast in my cellar that has a unique characteristic to it, and I think that the wines I make with the yeast in my cellar tend to have a savory note to them, they are not just fruit driven, they have herbal notes to them.” Fossil & Till takes this natural winemaking to approach to the max: “Native yeast fermentation, no additions of acids, sugars or enzymes, little or no fining or filtration and minimal additions of sulfur”.
This year, Ian will be able to produce about 2000 cases. He best selling wine is now the “2016 Gridley Bluff Point Vineyard Riesling”, which is sold out.
- 2012 Dry Riesling- “Looks for a nuanced nose with hints of lemon, peach and butterscotch. Look for texture a savory note on the palate. Long, dry finish.”
- 2016 Gridley Bluff Point Vineyard Riesling- “Hand picked the last week of September from young vines, this semi-dry wine displays abundant tropical fruit and peach notes on the nose and palate.”
- 2016 Chardonnay (unoaked)- “Harvested by hand on Sept 19th from the Tuller Vineyard. Displays depth and concentration while still maintaining a certain lightness. Look for notes of melon and lemon on the nose and palate”
- 2015 Pastiche- “41% Pinot Gris, 22% Gewurztraminer, 37% Riesling. An assemblage of grapes from distinct sites throughout the Finger Lakes. This wine was fermented in stages in a single 110 gallon French Oak Puncheon. As each variety reached ripeness it was added to the blend to co-ferment. Only ambient yeasts were used.”
- 2016 Rose of Cabernet Franc- “Beautiful hints of cherry and watermelon rind mingle with an underlying savory note. Grapes grown on the eastern sore of Keuka Lake were picked and pressed within hours.”
- Brian’s Bright Idea- “Looking for something completely different? Look no further than this carbonated blend of Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and some native grapes. Fun and fruity, yet completely dry, this is the ultimate odd-ball that seems to pair well with just about everything.”
- 2014 Cabernet Franc- “Partial whole-cluster fermentation produces a uniquely fruit-forward, soft, and easy drinking Cabernet Franc. Elevated in older French oak barrels for one year”
If you’re planning on visiting the wineries on the east side of Seneca Lake, you must stop by this tasting room. Take Route 79 north out of Watkins Glen for a few miles. If you’re traveling south toward Watkins Glen, turn left past Ryan William Winery onto Route 5 (you’ll see a sign for Barry Family Cellars) . They are located at 3897 Willow Street, Burdett, NY, phone: (607) 569 2352, email: BARRYFAMILYCELLARS@GMAIL.COM. Their website is: http://www.barryfamilywines.com .