Red Tail Ridge Winery has been The Play Company’s exclusive wine provider for Cabaret Gourmet since 2011, making this their sixth year providing our wine!
Owned and operated by a husband and wife team Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, Red Tail Ridge Winery is dedicated
to producing fine wine in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. They specialize in limited production with the belief that quality is more important than quantity. In addition to supporting PlayCo, Red Tail Ridge Winery is a proud supporter of Good Karma
, a grass roots organization dedicated to feeding the hungry through Foodlink, a regional food bank.
Nancy recently took time out of her busy bottling schedule to talk with PlayCo about her work at Red Tail Ridge and some of her favorite wine and food pairings.
Where does the name Red Tail Ridge come from?
Our winery is named after the two nesting pair of hawks who live in the woods surrounding the vineyard. When myself and Mike were laying the groundwork the name became obvious with the hawks flying over as we cleared the area to plant our vineyard. They are our constant companions when we are working on the vines.
How did your fascination with wine begin?
I come from a family of chemists (father, both brothers, sister-in-law). You can imagine this made for some stimulating nerd speak at the dinner table. I worked as a chemist until I was accepted in to grad school at UCD in the Viticulture and Enology program. Grape growing and winemaking is really an extension of science; but more like a craft. It’s a partnership with nature really. The resulting wine is little bit of self-expression that ultimately participates in the moments of other people’s lives. Pretty cool right?
Really cool. Why did you decide to open develop a winery specifically on the western shores of Seneca Lake?
This is a relatively new and energized industry. Michael and I saw the opportunity a little over ten years ago to become a part of the growth and development of this region; so we moved here from the California industry.
How does growing grapes on the shores of the finger lakes affect the wine?
The climate and soil of this region influence every aspect of every wine. In fact, we could not grow grapes here without our close elevation and proximity to Seneca Lake. It creates the “microclimate” that we need to produce high quality, unique and expressive wines.
We understand that you are the first LEED® gold-certified green winery in New York. Tell us about your green features.
The building was rated on water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design. The building itself runs completely on geothermal heating and cooling that allows us to cut back our energy use by over 50 percent. The system uses the earth’s constant temperature to heat or cool liquid that moves through two sets of heat pumps. The system is incorporated in the floors and tank jackets of the winery allowing for controlled zone heating or tank chilling.
Operating in the Finger Lake district, Red Tail Ridge is known for producing popular cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. What are some of the more obscure varieties are you currently developing?
We believe that experimentation is an important step towards unlocking our vineyard’s, and this region’s, potential. Our Obscure Reds Varietal Series includes, Teroldego, Blaufränkisch, Dornfelder, Lagrein. We also, produce a series of expressive Riesling styles to uncover the grape’s versatility with varying fermentations, must weights, and vineyard locations. (For more information see Red Tail”s experimentation check out their Experimental Section.)
Which wines can we look forward to sampling at Cabaret Gourmet?
Blaufrankisch, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sans Oak Chardonnay, Blanc de Noirs (Traditional methode champenoise)
Any advice about paring Red Tail wines with cuisine? Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing?
With our Blaufrankisch anything with a pepper seasoning or rub pairs nicely. Other suggestions: hard cheeses, grilled burgers, BBQ foods, roasted vegetables.
With our Pinot Noir mushrooms and pork are very pairings. Other suggestions: smoked meat, tuna, salmon, medium sharp cow’s cheese.
With our Riesling you can pair with quite a bit. Suggestions: Goat cheese, chicken, Asian food, most things with lemon, milder curries, duck, fruit salad/salsa, ham, and foie gras.
With our Sans Oak Chardonnay seafood and fresh vegetables. Suggestions: mussels and light salads.
With Blanc de Noirs everything goes! Suggestions: Aperitifs, anything salty, light desserts, smoked fish, shellfish.