Anthony Road Wine Company

After reading Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes, I knew a trip to the Finger Lakes would not be complete without a stop at Anthony Road Wine Company.  I was delighted when the owners, John and Ann Martini, as well as their winemaker, Johannes Reinhardt, all agreed to meet with me. And then, when John and Ann invited my family (along with our three young children!!) to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, I was really blown away and amazed at their kindness and hospitality.

Here I am, chatting with John and in awe of his ability to wear a T-shirt and sandals in the cold.

But I am getting ahead of myself. First let me tell you a bit about the Martini’s story…

In 1973, John was working in Baltimore when a friend suggested he buy land and grow grapes in the Finger Lakes. At the time, there were just 18 wineries in the state. (Now there are 109 bonded wineries in the Finger Lakes region of New York alone, and more than 300 wineries in the state, according to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.)

Ann’s parents were living in Geneva nearby and John and Ann decided to take the plunge and buy 100 acres of land on Seneca Lake.

After purchasing the land, though, they learned it would take three years for the vines they planted to produce grapes for wine. So John took a job at Cornell’s Agricultural Experimentation Station in nearby Geneva to earn an income while Ann managed the vineyard and raised their children, one of whom, Peter, is their vineyard manager now.

From 1973 until 1989, the Martini’s grew grapes for the Taylor Wine Company and eventually also other wineries across the state. Then they decided to grow and make their own wine and, in 1990, they formed the Anthony Road Wine Company.

“We knew we had to get out or go deeper,” John said. “So we decided to start making wine on our own.”

They pulled out the French American hybrids they were growing for Taylor and planted vinifera instead.

In 2000, Johannes Reinhardt, who comes from a family of German winemakers dating back to the 1400s, joined their team as winemaker.

The Martini’s hired him after following the advice of a neighboring winemaker, Peter Bell of Fox Run Vineyards.

“Peter Bell said to look in Australia and Europe for a winemaker, as our viticulture is different than California,” John says.

At first Johannes, who was in Germany, and who had worked in the Finger Lakes region before, wasn’t interested in the position, but John convinced him to fly in for a talk.

“I never even tasted his wine,” John says. “We just talked about his philosophy of winemaking.”

His philosophy has paid off in award-winning wines and a true friendship.

His 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling at Anthony Road was the 2009 winner of the state’s Governor’s Cup.

In 2010, he released a Riesling TBA, as well as a Vignoles TBA. I’ll let Evan Dawson of the New York Cork Report, who was on the sorting line for the Riesling TBA, tell you more about those truly unique wines and the stories behind them.

A proper TBA can only be made when conditions are right, so rather than attempt to force the wines again, Johannes and John explained to me that they will only make it again if the growing conditions allow for the same level of quality.

“When you charge $100 for a bottle of wine, you have to offer the same quality the next time or else people can’t trust you,” Johannes said.

Aside from the winemaking and business side of things, it doesn’t take long to tell that Johannes is like another son to John and Ann. Johannes and his wife Imelda are definitely a part of the Martini family. And together, they have braved their ups and downs as they made their way through Johannes’ battle to remain in the United States.

Johannes philosophy, much like John’s, also embraces collaboration.

Each year he and two other winemakers, Peter Bell of Fox Run Vineyards and David Whiting of Red Newt Wine Cellars, select Rieslings from their vineyards to combine and release as Tierce. In 2007 they also offered a red Tierce blend.

So through the years, from 1973 until now, John says they have learned a lot through trial and error and dumb luck.

“We learned a lot and we grew great wines. It’s been dumb luck,” John says.

But dumb luck doesn’t bring you an amazingly gifted winemaker. And dumb luck doesn’t keep you in business for nearly 40 years. And dumb luck doesn’t inspire you to make the roundtrip each week to sell wines on a street corner at New York City’s Greenmarket.

Nor does it encourage you to collaborate with potentially competing wineries to create wines together or promote the region together.

That’s what dedication to a creating a quality wine, learning about an industry from the ground up and committing yourself to working hard for the right things causes to happen. And that is exactly what I found in the people of Anthony Road.

And, not surprising at all, Anthony Road is definitely a family-friendly winery.

My kids loved exploring the garden just outside of the tasting room (they are still talking about the raspberries!) and I appreciated the crackers and juice they were offered. Plus, they even have a step in the bathroom so kids can reach to wash their hands without help. (Bonus!)

And the wines? Outstanding! My favorites were the 09 Semi-dry Riesling, the Tierce Red and, of course the Martini Reinhardt Selection 2008 Riesling Trockenbeeren (swoon!).

I only wish they shipped to Texas and had distribution here. I guess we’ll just have to go back.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll share more of our Finger Lakes adventure and what it’s like to taste wine with a supertaster…

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