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THE PINTCAST: John Martini from Anthony Road Wine Company on growing grapes, making wine and working with family (podcast)

I sat down with John at Anthony Road, with its expansive view of Seneca Lake.

In 1973, a friend told John and Anne Martini they should move to the Finger Lakes and grow grapes. When changes in the industry made it more difficult to sell their crop, they opened Anthony Road in 1990. They scrounged together some equipment and bottled their first vintage from the 1989 crop. The winery has become a family affair, with son Peter taking over the management of the vineyard and other family members helping Anthony Road become one of the most renowned wineries in the Finger Lakes.

We talked about the years-long effort, chronicled in Evan Dawson’s book “Summer in a Glass,” to keep winemaker Johannes Reinhardt from being deported to Germany and how current winemaker Peter Becraft walked in one day, struck up a conversation with Johannes, then took over winemaking duties when Reinhardt left to start his own winery across the road.

We discussed the romance of growing grapes and making wine vs. the back breaking, cold, soggy reality. John told me when someone expresses an interest in getting into the wine industry, he invites that person to join the crew during crush, when the grapes are pushed down and their skins crushed, letting the juice flow. It’s hard work and John says if someone still wants to be involved after a day with the crush crew, he knows he might have a keeper.

You can join John and Ann on a Rhine River cruise in November.

Like a lot of people in the industry, John likes to talk about what he does and he’s seen it all, from the beginnings of the modern Finger Lakes wine industry in the 1970s to today. I was happy to listen, and afterwards, to taste. Anthony Road has gone to the more formal tasting room model that many wineries have adopted since the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll be seated at a table, with your choice of themed flights. I’m partial to our region’s signature dry whites. The 2020 dry Riesling is smooth, with the mineral component I really like and very subtle fruitiness. Another favorite was the Vignoles, a hybrid variety that is usually on the sweeter side, but these grapes were picked early, so the wine retains a strong fruity note, but comes in at just 1.9% residual sugar.

Appointments are requested for tastings. With Martini family members carrying on John and Ann’s tradition, the next 30 years appear bright. I enjoyed the conversation and hope you do, too.

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