Putting down community roots: 20 Deep Winery

By Wayne M. Schutz

When I asked David Gascon, the co-owner of 20 Deep Winery the meaning of the name, he replied: “The name started with the fun fact about grape vines. When they’re fully established their roots can grow 20 feet deep into the ground. This resonated with our vision and our commitment to bring a winery to the Rochester area. When we say we put down roots here, we literally mean it. The name 20 Deep Winery, showcases our commitment. Commitment to our community. Commitment to craftsmanship. And commitment to really good times.”

Asked to describe their vision for the winery “Impromptu parties are special occasions. The people you’re with matter more than tasting notes. Laughter is the best complement to a fine wine. This winery is built on a deeply rooted commitment to giving you an experience you can always come home to. Rooted in Mendon, NY, 20 Deep is a family-run winery with brewery vibes. While obsessively devoted to craft and integrity, this wine is best enjoyed in the company of family and friends. Stories, camaraderie and good times always encouraged here.”, replied Michaela, David’s wife.

Both Michaela and David are from Skaneateles, NY  (home of Doug’s Fish Fry!).  They met in middle school and had an “on again, off again”  relationship until their freshman year of college in Geneseo.  Michaela tells how David got into wine: “My father and his friends made wine at home and when David would visit he’d try it.  He introduced David to his winemaking club and the world of wine.  They took a very laid back approach to winemaking so the quality varied quite a bit from vintage to vintage.”  David thought that perhaps wine could be made better, so he started learning about wine himself, taking viticulture and enology classes at Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC), working in a hobby winemaking supply store in Fairport NY and eventually interning at Casa Larga Vineyards, also in Fairport NY.

“We took several of her father’s best vintages, went into the basement and had blending sessions.  We put the wine into bottles and gave them out to all our guests at our wedding reception in 2010.   For our honeymoon we went to California’s wine regions and were inspired.”

Both Michaela and David had the kind of jobs where they had little interaction with their customers.  David ran his own staffing agency for trade shows and Michaela works in the healthcare market intelligence and insights industry helping companies develop new products.  “Visiting wineries, being in the vineyard made Michaela and I realize that we wanted to be outside and work with people that we’d see often and get to know.  In the trade show business I’d see my customers maybe once a year.  We wanted to be part of something more permanent in the community and said ‘Hey, we can do this, and we can offer this to the Rochester community‘.”

At the end of 2016 they started looking for land.   They had several important requirements for the property:  it had to be within 20 minutes or so from Rochester, it had to have the right soil, nutrients and slope for growing grapes.  After a year and a half of looking at properties and having Cornell test soil samples, they found the place that they fell in love with in Mendon NY, about 25 minutes from downtown Rochester. 

“We have eighteen acres behind deer fencing, of which we can plant sixteen acres.  Right now we have five and a half  acres planted of Chardonnay, Riesling, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir and  Grüner Veltliner.  We’re planning on planting another two and a half acres next year.  This year will be our first harvest and we’re hoping to get about 700 cases from it.” David tells me.

Michaela and David are actually partners with Matt Cassavaugh.  Matt is the winemaker and currently overseeing vineyard management.  David met Matt while at Casa Larga, where Matt worked in the vineyards and as winemaker for their winery.   Both of them are FLCC graduates, and a partnership was formed once they realized their creative visions for what a craft winery could produce were highly aligned and symbiotic.  

They hope to break ground this Summer for a tasting room / production facility.  “We’ll have a space for small events like birthday parties and bridal showers.  We’re planning on kegging our wines for the tasting room to cut down on the waste from glass bottles and provide us with an agile format for small batches of wine.   Keeping the wines separate gives us lots of flexibility with how we ferment, blend, and release wines on a rolling basis. It’s unorthodox, but we’re really excited about how we can push the boundaries of what to expect from vinifera wines.” says Michaela. 

Since they have no wines available yet, instead of the traditional wine club David and Michaela created a ‘Founder’s Club’.  Michaela explains:  “At key points in time, members of the Founder’s Club will be involved in the life cycle of making wine.  We have a ‘Founder’s Block’ near the road where members can plant their own vines.  At harvest time they’ll pick the grapes.  Over the winter they’ll participate in blending sessions where they can blend and bottle their own wine and take it home.  And before we open the tasting room to the public, we’ll have a pre-launch party for the Founders members.”

Current plans call for the opening of the tasting room area in the early Spring of 2022 with their first vintage being available at that time.

David summed up their philosophy about the winery:  “Our philosophy is a dedication to quality in a ‘laid back’ atmosphere.  We want to bring people together over a glass of wine so they can unwind, share stories, and laugh.”  Michaela adds: “We’re committed to a high quality product in a place where people want to linger and feel part of the community.”

Their website is https://www.20deep.com/ where you can find out more info about the Founder’s Club and winery.  They are located in Mendon NY.  Instagram @20deepwinery, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/20deepwinery.

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