Finger Lakes Wine History

The mission of the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium is to tell stories about the impacts and interactions that have taken place between the ecological evolution and human occupation of the 9,000-square-mile Finger Lakes Region since the last glacial recession ended some 12,000 years ago. One of the ways it does that is through programs like wild bird identification walks, kayak paddling events, wetland and woodland exploration, and wildlife photography workshops. While the museum project itself is still in early development phases, these programs enable people to participate in museum activities and learn more about our region’s cultural and natural history.

Another way the museum teaches is through the production of documentary films focused on various aspects of Finger Lakes history. The first public showing of its initial production will be presented at the Star Theatre in Dansville at 11:00am on Saturday, September 2nd, during the New York State Festival of Balloons on Labor Day weekend.

Dreams Into Nectar: New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Story is a two-part miniseries that chronicles the history of grape-growing and winemaking in the Finger Lakes Region. It is the first documentary film ever produced on the subject.

Part 1, which is named Collision Course: Wine and Temperance in New York’s Finger Lakes, explores the hardships that early colonists and pioneer grape growers confronted in their unsuccessful efforts to establish the nation’s first vineyards—and then how a social movement later devastated that industry once it finally became established. It is a 45-minute film that begins during the time of New World colonization and ends at Prohibition. It was written and directed by winemaker and wine historian, Dr. Gary Cox, and includes interviews with notable wine experts, Thomas Pellechia and John Brahm with historical content provided by author Richard Figiel.

Part 2, entitled Regional Resurrection: A Return to Prosperity, is still in production. It begins with the Repeal of Prohibition and proceeds into today’s modern and mechanized vineyard and winery operations. It includes interviews with former New York Lt. Gov. Mary Anne Krupsak and national wine industry expert Jim Trezise.

As the film’s executive producer, I am soliciting funds through tax-deductible contributions and program sponsorships in order to complete the production of Part 2. We are in talks with PBS Television for national broadcast of both parts back-to-back as soon as Part 2 is finished. Anyone wishing to contribute or become a sponsor can email me at

I want to take this opportunity to salute Edgar Schmidt, co-owner of the Dansville Star Theatre, for his generosity in donating his venue for our use. All ticket sales will benefit the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium—and popcorn and refreshments will be available to help the theatre cover its operational costs. So please plan to attend—and bring an appetite.

An adult ticket price is $10. Tickets for children under 14 are $5 and all children must be accompanied by an adult. You can pay with a credit card online at Programs and Events Page or pay with cash at the door.

Dreams Into Nectar is just the first of a series of educational documentaries being planned for production by the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium. Filming has already started for From the Brink of Extinction: New York’s Bald Eagle Story, which we hope to finish sometime next year. Please consider a contribution or sponsorship to help make these things happen.

 Story and Photo by John Adamski

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