Rachel Hadley joined our team as Associate Winemaker in August of 2017, having previously worked as assistant winemaker at Keuka Springs Vineyard. She also is the Associate Winemaker for our sister winery Knapp Winery, working in tangent with our winemaker Steve DiFrancesco at both wineries. Her experiences in the wine industry include internships and vintages abroad at Framingham Wines of New Zealand and Jim Barry Wines in the Clare Valley of Australia, two very well-known producers of Riesling in the southern hemisphere. With global education always a priority, Rachel knew she needed to continue learning when switching fields to work in the wine industry, hence her decision to work abroad. Knowing she wanted to ultimately work in the Finger Lakes, she focused her international experience on working with aromatic whites, particularly Riesling.
In Rachel’s eyes, “Learning how others do things differently from yourself is essential to excelling in any field–and the best way to do that is to travel and work and speak directly with others. There’s no substitute for that knowledge.” Read on for more from Rachel!
How did you get started in wine?
I was coerced into winemaking by Peter Bell, head winemaker at Fox Run vineyards, while working in the Fox Run tasting room. I visited once just hoping to taste some wine, but he put me to work in the cellar and had me help out with tawny port blending trials (still one of my favorite FRV wines to this day). At the end of the day he said I had good palette and asked me if I wanted to intern for him. The rest is history.
What has surprised you about being a winemaker?
Like most new to wine, I never realized how dirty a job wine making could be. It’s literally been featured on that show “dirty jobs.” But the chance to get outside in the summer, utilize my mind, my senses, and my body all in one day of work has made it the most rewarding and engaging job I’ve ever had.
What is one of your favorite varietals to work with and why?
Gewurztraminer is always a fun grape to work with–it really needs to be cold soaked to extract those exotic and fruity flavors from it’s skins. It also tends to express very different styles of wine depending on the vineyard, which isn’t necessarily true of all varietals. It’s the type of grape that requires a lot of love and attention, and you can really see that love shine through in the bottle as wines with more power and personality.
What excites you about working at Glenora and Knapp with a seasoned winemaker like Steve DiFrancesco?
It’s always exciting to work at wineries with such a rich history and reputation and to keep that history alive and also keep innovating and keep thinking forward to the future. Working with two different wineries means I get so many different vineyard sites and varietals to work with, which as a winemaker is always exciting. Our vineyards and the growers that we work with are always trying new things. The wide variety of vineyard sites means that making wine at Knapp and Glenora allows me to help showcase the both the big picture of wine stylistically in the Finger Lakes as well as focus in on interesting and different projects to show where the region may be heading in the future.
Steve is wonderful to work with–his passion and enthusiasm for the world of wine is contagious and he has an outstanding knowledge of many of the vineyard blocks that Glenora has been working with for years now. It’s great to be able to learn from his triumphs and failures and also be able to look at things at the winery with fresh eyes and ideas.
What is one of the most rewarding things about your job?
Seeing ideas and experiments come to fruition is always a satisfying part of the job. Putting a new wine in the bottle triggers a lot of memories and reflection about harvest and everything the team has gone through to get there. It’s nice to do work that really triggers that kind of reflection on a day to day basis. Winemakers, especially Riesling focused winemakers, also work in a very tight knit yet international community. It’s a global village of sorts. And it’s always special to get together from colleagues from around the world and share our ideas, triumphs, and failures.
In your opinion, what makes the Finger Lakes stand out from other wine regions?
The FLX winemaking community is very collaborative. We consistently gather to discuss our work and how we can improve and grow as a region. I’ve had several winemakers come up to me from other regions and countries and express their appreciation (and a bit of envy) of how close we really are as a group. As an American cool climate wine region, we also have a unique advantage in that we have an ideal climate for aromatic white wines, along with the freedom to push and explore how we make wine in general. We have a history of innovation and exploration here. All of these things make it a very exciting time to be making wine in the Finger Lakes.
Here’s a clip of Rachel in action telling our tasting room and retail staff about our 2017 vintage for Dry Rosé before its release: