She was going to be a small-town physician. He was going to be an environmental lawyer. Meet Daniel and Olivia Budmen, owners of Scout Vineyards in Penn Yan, NY, who started their college days with very different careers in mind.
Story by Wayne Schutz. Photo credits Alice Schutz. Editing by Laura Thompson.
How it All Started
Daniel is from what was once a farming area in Liverpool, NY, and was a student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. He studied with the intent of becoming an environmental lawyer: “I had an adviser who told me I was the happiest when I was in lab or digging soil samples. An opportunity came along to do research about vineyard micro-climates, so I jumped on it. I set up temperature monitors at several places in the Silver Thread vineyard, monitored the micro-climate through the end of fall into that winter. I became fascinated with where the owner had planted his grapes and how well they matched up between location and the cold hardiness of the variety.”
“I applied for an internship in Napa Valley, and I started working with grapevines before I was 21. When that was over, I returned to Hobart and met Olivia on the first day back of Senior year. I tried to woo her with my wine collection that I had accumulated, but she had a lot of questions about wine and winemaking, and I didn’t have a lot of answers.” Together, Daniel and Olivia began to seek out answers to the questions they had.
“I had a dream of being a small-town pediatrician when I started at Hobart and William Smith Colleges,” says Olivia. She is from Fleischmanns, NY, a village in Delaware County. “I was looking for a small college, and Hobart and William Smith was the perfect fit .” She is now a science teacher in Hammondsport and feels that teaching gives her that “small town” connection with the community that she was looking for.
Daniel started working in the Anthony Road vineyard during his senior year. A friend had sent him “Summer in a Glass” (by Evan Dawson) that summer, and he applied to several wineries as a harvest intern. Peter Becraft, the head winemaker at Anthony Road, called him up and invited him for an interview. Upon arrival, Peter said to Daniel, “Yeah, you’ll fit.” Daniel replied, “How do you know? We’ve just met!” Peter then said, “No, I mean, you’ll fit in our smallest tank!”
Peter then introduced him to Johannes Reinhardt (the owner and winemaker at Kemmeter Vineyards), and Daniel said: “Are you the Johannes from ‘Summer in a Glass’?” Being the humble person Johannes is, Johannes replied, “I guess you read the book!” That was the beginning of a warm and fruitful friendship with Johannes, the Becrafts, and the Martini family of Anthony Road Winery.
“We … fell in love with the Finger Lakes wine region right then.”
After graduating from college, Daniel and Olivia went to Napa Valley. “My first job in the wine industry was when we were in Napa, working mostly in hospitality,” says Olivia. “Daniel was given the opportunity to go to New Zealand in 2016. So, we decided to do that, working for Constellation Brands there, making it back in time for the 2016 Finger Lakes harvest.”
“In 2016 I went to work for Hermann J. Wiemer before going back to grad school, and Daniel went back to work for Johannes as he transitioned to working for Villa Bellangelo”. “We started making wine for our own brand in 2017.” In 2018, Olivia and Daniel purchased the property that is now home to Scout Vineyards.
“We were looking for land that met a number of criteria: it needed to be in the area so we could remain close to our new friends; not too big or small; not too far from Seneca Lake and the right soil; gravelly loam for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.” Daniel tells us that they now own 18 acres that they built their house and tasting room on.
They have plans for planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the spring of 2021 with a dream of Chenin Blanc, Gamay Noir and Muscat Ottonel in the future.
“Scout” means “to explore, observe, wonder, and, search.”
When asked how they came up with the name, Olivia explained: “When Daniel was with Johannes, and when I was in New Zealand, much of our job was being vineyard scouts. We monitored the vineyard for pests or disease, or whatever was going to be a problem, and we liked that idea of seeking out and exploring.”
The tasting room opened on August 15th, 2020. “It’s very, very rewarding work to see people enjoying our wines and having conversations about our wines. It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” says Daniel. “We really enjoy talking to people from all over the place, some first-timers to the Finger Lakes. It’s refreshing to hear that people are discovering this region and really enjoying it”.
Daniel and Olivia are now setting up a new production building. They plan to do wine club tasting events and produce the 2021 vintage there. Currently, they handle production at Bellangelo, where Daniel is the assistant winemaker. “Our business plan makes sure that each one of our family members has a role to play, whether that’ll be in the tasting room, vineyard or production,” says Olivia.
Daniel and Olivia’s Winemaking Philosophy
“It’s very hands-off. We believe wines are born in the vineyard and wines are made in the vineyard. Our job as winemakers is merely to guide them from what was harvested to their fullest potential as a finished product. We’re very proud that if we had to list the ingredients, our bottles would only list grapes and yeast. It wouldn’t be truthful to our philosophy if the wines tasted the same year to year.”
They are currently making about 1100 cases, which is the quantity where Daniel and Olivia want to stay. The wine is presently sourced from Peter Martini (Nutt Road); Ken Fulkerson (Lahoma Vineyard); Randy Schotchmer (Purple Foot Vineyard in Hammondsport); Tom Challen (Cayuga Ridge Vineyards); Alan Hunt (AD Hunt Vineyard); and Aniceto Morales (Morales Family Vineyard in Pulteney). “Even after we start taking fruit from our own site, we’ll continue to work with other growers. We have a great relationship with them and really enjoy working with their fruit. Walking other sites and working with other growers has made us better farmers and better winemakers,” recounts Daniel.
Olivia and Daniel poured the following wines for us.
• A 2019 Chardonnay produced in 100% stainless steel without any oak exposure. From the Martini Nutt Road vineyard, it featured a tropical nose and creamy palate.
• The flagship 2017 Chardonnay blended from 5 different ferments with five different yeasts. Aged in 20% new oak, it had a delightful minerality.
• A Chardonnay from the hot, dry 2018 vintage. Aged in 600 liter French Oak barrels, the wine complemented the oak’s floral flavors with stone fruit flavors.
• 2019 Riesling is made by spontaneous fermentation. Consisting of 20% fruit with botrytis, initial high sugar, and acid, a semi-dry tropical tasting Riesling.
• A 2018 Pinot Noir is made from fruit harvested from Quast Vineyard, the oldest Pinot Noir vineyard east of the Mississippi River. This wine spent 22 months in French Oak barrels before bottling.
I look forward to a 2020 Marquette Nouveau for Thanksgiving. It’s made with carbonic maceration in which whole clusters are put under carbon dioxide to convert sugars into alcohol. Daniel promises a sparkling wine will be in a future portfolio.
Why do they do this?
“Even during this pandemic, we’re still able to provide a space where people can talk to other groups from 6 feet away, yet also enjoy conversation with their own family. To be able to host that type of gathering every weekend has been very rewarding for Daniel and me, and it’s something that we really want to continue to do,” says Olivia.
Address: 468 NY-14, Penn Yan, NY 14527
Email: olivia@scoutvineyards, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tasting Reservations: Required, they can be made on the website.