Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #2-Bob Madill, Winegrower at Sheldrake Point

Our Finger Lakes Visionaries interview series continues with insights from Bob Madill, Winegrower and General Manager at Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake, Vice Chairman of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and Chair of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

MD: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

BM: I began to visit the Finger Lakes in the early 90’s to attend the Geneva Wine Workshops. In 1996 Thomas Henick-Kling (Cornell Station) introduced me to Greg Sandor who was putting a group together to purchase the farm on Cayuga Lake that became Sheldrake Point Vineyard. I had been working in the wine industry in Canada and was looking for a suitable opportunity. After several visits and spending time looking over the property I joined the founding group and was able to secure our start up capital. Having traveled looked at opportunities elsewhere in the US and Canada I was struck by the beauty of the area and the opportunities to produce fine vinifera grapes and thereby fine wines in an area that had such wonderful tourism values. We secured the farm in Jan 2007 and planted our first five acres that year.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

BM: 1. Superb growing circumstances with Lake Ontario to the north, deep lake microclimates and well drained slopes facing east and west.

2. Consistent regional wine profiles that exhibit fresh fruits, liveliness, moderate alcohols, with world-class aromatic white wines – most particularly Riesling.

3. Terrific hospitality and very consumer friendly pricing.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

BM: The Finger Lakes is gaining visibility on the strength of Riesling and aromatic white wines. As Chair of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and President of the Cayuga Wine Trail – we have been developing and offering media visitation and tasting programs, coordinated participation in national wine media evaluations and the expansion and enhancement of visitor facilities.

A comprehensive program of traveling tasting programs for consumers and media in major markets, modeled after the FLWA Riesling Summit in New York City would further energize interest and support for the Finger Lakes.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

Consistent and stable funding for outreach programs such as those provided by national agencies in Germany, various French export groups, Italy and others.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

Continued growth in our visibility and recognition as a world-class region for wine growing and visitation leading to wider distribution of our wines directly to enthusiasts.

MD: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

An invitation to taste, visit and enjoy Finger Lakes wines and wineries!

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