Locals taste wine and spirits at Six Mile Creek Winery in Ithaca, N.Y.
Nestled on a quaint 27 acres of land a few miles up the road past Cornell University is Six Mile Creek Winery. Six Mile Creek is the only winery located within the Town of Ithaca and plays a vital role in producing a large number of tourists each year that visit the area wanting to experience the Upstate New York wine trails.
Six Mile Creek offers a tasting room and outdoor patio overlooking its 6 1/2 acres of vineyards. Producing 17 of its own wines, mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Vignoles, Six Mile Creek offers its support of the local Ithaca economy by marketing itself as a destination spot for tourists. The more tourists that visit and the more local hotel and bed & breakfast rooms are booked, the more reservations are made at restaurants and the more customers local businesses and shops see.
October is typically the busiest month of the Upstate New York wine industry season, said Della Hovanec, special events coordinator at Six Mile Creek Winery.
“When leaves change color, we see a lot of people travelling,” Hovanec said. “Leaf-ers” they’re called. They come up here and the Finger Lake Wine Trails are a big draw for something to do with their day.”
The upstate wineries draw in a large and varying demographic. Hovanec said Six Mile Creek sees a crowd ranging from college students to young professionals in their 30s, and many older couples taking a weekend getaway.
“Having these wineries in the region and around Cayuga Lake is a cornerstone for our marketing efforts,” said Bruce Stoff, director of the Ithaca Country Information Bureau. “It is something that really differentiates our area from the rest of New York and even the rest of the country. So it is critically important to us as a region and locality to be able to talk about wine and wineries.”
The wineries around Cayuga Lake get over 500,000 annual visitors combined, said Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, making the beautiful fall scenery of Upstate New York an influencing factor in the local wineries’ busiest months.
With October being the highest grossing month, the local wineries must find ways to keep the revenue flowing during the off season or winter months, winter months.
“A large part of our revenue in the winter months tend to come from the seasonal events that we hold in our tasting room,” said Kelly Miller, assistant general manager at Six Mile Creek Winery. “We also try to build our connections with local restaurants during the winter and get our wine on their menu for the next tourist season.”
“Everything slows way down in the winter, some wineries will even shut down and only stay open on weekends,” Hovanec said. “For those who work in the industry, the winter months are a time for us to get a lot of projects done, talk with owners and work on the products.”
Six Mile Creek also sees a large portion of its revenue in the winter come from its relationships with local restaurants, such as Agava, Bandwagon and other local liquor stores.
As with the flow of the tourists, the work flow in the wineries changes in the winter months as well.
“We harvest in October and then we make the wine, so in the first couple months of winter we are making all of our wine,” Hovanec said. “After that, we just keep an eye on our barrels and make sure we are keeping up everything and it is still tasting OK, then when spring comes around we bottle.”
With the local wineries’ revenue fluctuating with the change of the seasons, it is no surprise that working in the industry can be tough at times, “You have to be a certain type of person to go for a job in this industry,” Hovanec said. “But in the end seeing everyone enjoy the local wines and the beauty of the area we are in makes it worth all of the work.”