Begin with 17 acres of old vinifera plantings. Add a dash of entrepreneurial flair and a desire to create a unique visitor experience. Shake vigorously with three distinct tasting rooms, a microbrewery and a healthy dose of creative labeling. The result? Three Brothers Winery on Seneca Lake, where the tagline, “Pleasure, Passion & Adventure,” says it all.
Local roots, old vines
Dave Mansfield, president and owner of Three Brothers Winery, isn’t your average Joe, but he does have local roots. Raised in Bloomfield, he ran a manufacturing business for 25 years and was involved in a major league sports enterprise with his two brothers before he found himself looking for the next challenge.
“Three years ago, I left the sports venture and needed to find something else to do,” says Mansfield. “There was a lot of New York state assistance available for winery startups and the farming industry in general, so I decided to look into it.”
Dave had been growing grapes on his property for years, but he wasn’t a winemaker. He bought the former Nagy’s Newland Winery just over two years ago and hired owner Dale Nagy as his winemaker. It was a natural fit to have Dale continue to make wine from the grapes he knew so well.
The vines on the property were planted more than 25 years ago by Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station, located in Geneva. Long known for its exceptional work developing hybrids for an upstate climate, the “Ag Station” used the land to test grapes, including Merlots, Cabernet Francs, Rieslings, Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and various hybrids. Now those vines are among the oldest of their types in the Finger Lakes.
“We planted 20 more acres just last year,” notes Mansfield. “We do a fair amount of blending in addition to our vinifera offerings. Although we buy some grapes from other growers, everything we bottle is grown right here on Seneca Lake.” The winery produces between 7,000 and 10,000 cases each year, all of which is sold at the estate.
Tasting rooms with attitude
What makes Three Brothers unique in the Finger Lakes, and perhaps in the country, is its three distinct tasting rooms and the recent addition of a microbrewery. Dave didn’t want to look like all the other wineries and came up with the concept of different tasting experiences, all at one locale.
“There’s a lot of competition among wineries, and most of them can boast a lake view. I wanted to find a way to get people to the winery and give them a reason to stay here,” claims Mansfield.
Indeed, the name “Three Brothers” and the personalities of each tasting room are grounded in his own family. “Stony Lonesome is fashioned after me, and Passion Feet after my younger brother, Mark. My older brother is definitely the inspiration for Rogue’s Hollow. He’s 47, plays in a band and drives a Harley,” says Mansfield.
Stony Lonesome: for the wine connoisseur
The most traditional of the tasting rooms, Stony Lonesome is the place for those who seek an upscale, refined atmosphere and the wines to match. This is the place to sample Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs and the ubiquitous Rieslings.
Summer is the ideal time to enjoy the lake view from the expansive porch. Mansfield suggests that you leave your more embarrassing relatives down the hill at Rogue’s Hollow so you can sip without undue anxiety.
Passion Feet: flirting with the feminine side
For those who like their wines on the sweeter side, Passion Feet is the ideal destination. Think candles, romance and plush couches that invite relaxation, indulgence and laughter.
The wines are all blends, with names representative of the tasting room personality. “Take Me Home,” “Seduce Me” and “Scandelicious” are among the more memorable offerings, as well as the ever-popular Raspberry Riesling.
Rogue’s Hollow: party hearty!
Ever want to slip into a backwoods hideaway in the bayous of Louisiana? If so, then Rogue’s Hollow is a must. Visitors are welcome to show up in a bathing suit, toss peanut shells on the floor and throw back wine served in shots, not glasses.
Rogue’s Hollow removes all pretention about consuming wine. It’s all about kicking back, partying, hollering, partying, grooving to local bands … and did I mention partying? Rogue’s Hollow levels the playing field, where hardened bikers, software engineers and stockbrokers are likely to rub elbows.
As with Passion Feet, the wine names tell the tale. Most of them can’t be printed in a family publication, but a few are clean enough: “Dog Head Red,” “Lonely Sea Man” and “69 Ways to Have Fun.” Don’t miss the Halloween party.
Three Brothers opened its microbrewery, Barley Yards, in May of 2008. Offering traditional beers and creative brews such as Riesling Ale, East Coast Amber and Raspberry Wheat Ale, Barley Yards caters to those whose tastes don’t necessarily begin and end with wine.
A day of tasting is likely to leave visitors famished, and woozy, without a generous meal to soak up the alcohol. That’s why Mansfield brought in the expertise and down-home cooking of the folks who run the Lumberyard Grille in Canandaigua.
“We encourage people to spend the day and finish with a hearty meal to complete the experience.” The menu includes ribs, barbecued chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, salt potatoes and coleslaw, all washed down with a favorite beer or wine.
Three Brothers also hosts special events at Stony Lonesome and the Passion Feet Wine Barn. “We love to see people enjoying themselves,” notes Mansfield, “whether they’re having an elegant wedding or a Harley-Davidson reunion bash. You can bring your own caterer or we can do it for you.”
Making a day of it
Mansfield lives in Honeoye Falls with his wife of 20 years and four children. “I remind people that our winery is less than an hour from Rochester,” he claims, “and we try to make the trip worth it. Our wines and beers are sold only at the winery, so you have to visit to enjoy the experience.”
Most people begin at Stony Lonesome and visit all that the winery has to offer. “Somehow, everyone ends up at Rogue’s Hollow,” notes Mansfield, “doing shots of ‘Gaitor Bait’ and whooping it up. In fact, we’re drawing more and more men here. They can put their feet up and relax with their buddies while their wives sink into the plush chairs at Passion Feet.”
Sounds like a match made in heaven, or like “90 Seconds of Heaven,” as Passion Feet’s sweet blend is affectionately called.
Three Brothers Wineries and Estates is located at 623 Lerch Road in Geneva. For more information, call 315-585-4432 or visit www.3brotherswinery.com.
by Joy Underhill
Joy Underhill is a freelance writer who lives in Farmington. You can reach her at email@example.com.