Every aspect of our operation at KLV starts in the vineyard. Like most others in the Finger Lakes, our plants draw character from the rocky soils and steep slopes that they grow in. However, our approach in the vineyard is tailored acre by acre.
Our goal is allowing our vines to thrive as an integrated part of their ecosystem, and we prioritize the health and expressiveness of the vintage over high yields or manicured rows. We do as much work as possible by hand, drawing on the talent and experience of our vineyard staff to get the best out of our wines. We do not use herbicides, which limits chemical exposure on our grapes and enriches the acreage for pollinators. We farm our hybrid varietals with traditionally vinifera-exclusive techniques, which elevates our expressions of the fruit in the winery.
Ultimately, sustainability is our mission. In 2023, we were in the first group of New York vineyards to be certified as a New York Sustainable Winegrower. We are passionately dedicated to protecting and nourishing the Keuka Lake ecosystem, and that passion informs all of our decisions in the vineyard.
Directly adjacent to the winery and tasting room are three of KLV’s premier vineyard sites: Goldman, Evergreen Lek, and the beloved Falling Man.
The soils, a mixture of glacial till and shale, are planted almost entirely with Riesling, save for a handful of rows of Pinot Noir.
The Goldman vineyard, named for Mel’s dad Jack, is where KLV began in 1998. Mel and Dorothee personally planted all 1.5 acres of this gentle slope, where the grade ranges from 5-10%.
Aside from the four rows of Dijon clone Pinot Noir at the easternmost end, Goldman is planted entirely with Riesling. The yields from this site produced the 2003 trial vintage that, upon receiving high praise in Paris, motivated Mel to move forward with the winery.
Evergreen Lek is among our most cherished Riesling plantings on the estate. Its namesake is twofold: evergreen, for the thick grove of spruce that borders our western estate vineyard, and ‘lek’, the Nepali word for a high ridge.
The steep terraces of this vineyard and the influence of its neighboring flora endow it with an unmistakable identity: our typical bright acidity braced by a gravelly minerality and, at times, a balsam character.
At a sharp 30% grade, Falling Man earned its name from slips in the early days of KLV, before the rows were leveled. The Catawba that was originally planted here by the Taylor Wine Co. was removed in 1993.
After 8 years strengthening the soil Falling Man was planted with Riesling in 2001. Today, with more topsoil and better drainage than its west-side neighbors, Falling Man impresses every year, almost always yielding fruit deserving of a single vineyard bottling.
In 2004, Mel purchased our Eastside vineyard from a retiring farmer. Although today most of the KLV fruit comes from the Eastside, the vineyards look very different now than they did.
Initially, the property (about 76 acres in total) was mostly either fallow or forested, with only about one third planted under native varieties. Mel got to work, diversifying the plantings and tailoring them towards winemaking, with plots of Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Vignoles, and eventually, Leon Millot.
In 2004, 20 long rows of Riesling were planted on a gently sloped, well-draining plot over glacial till and gravel soils. 20 Rows had been planted in the past, but the vineyard at this site was removed more than ten years prior to KLV plantings.
The nine short rows added in 2009 bring this vineyard to a total of 4.5 acres, making it KLV’s largest Riesling Planting. 20 Rows is characterized by consistently clean tasty fruit and has become one of KLV’s regular single vineyard wines.
About 200 feet uphill from 20 rows, Upper Eastside was planted with Riesling in 2004. Although the early vines had high mortality rates, supplemental plantings in 2007 and 2008 have rounded out the rows.
At about 5 degrees steeper than 20 Rows, the slope is still gentle. Fruit from this site is often closer in character to our westside vineyards.
Planted with Vignoles and spanning 1.5 acres, Turkey Run is named for the local fowl that decimated its first crop in 2007.
With one planting in 2004 and one in 2009, the eight 800-foot rows undulate with gravel soils on the southern side and sandy soils to the north. Wildlife permitting, Turkey Run consistently produces delicious fruit.
Technically three adjoining plots, Silvernail is our largest Vignoles planting at 3.5 acres.
These vines were put in between 2004 and 2010 on a gently sloped hillside with stunning views of the lake.
It was only the mid-2000s that Cabernet Franc really started to gain a foothold in the Finger Lakes, owing to its fruity lighter character and cold-hardiness relative to other red vinifera varieties. After a 1/3-acre sample planting in 2005 excelled, more than 6 acres have been planted gradually since 2009.
Although the larger planting is still developing, the established vines produce some of our most distinctive wines vintage after vintage, and we are excited to see what the estate will bring in the future.
The Fournier Vineyard, owned by Dr. Morgan Paul, has been under KLV management since 2004. However, its history extends far beyond that. The 5-acre plot was an experimental vineyard planted around 1950 by Finger Lakes pioneer Charles Fournier working for Gold Seal Vineyards.
Today, the surviving portion of the vineyard is 1.3 acres of Leon Millot, a hybrid varietal formulated by Eugene Kuhlmann in 1911. The two clones of Leon Millot add complexity to the varietal wines it produces, with one third being the Foster clone, sometimes called Leon Millot Rouge, and the remaining two thirds the Boordy clone, called Leon Millot Noir.
Steeped in history, this is one of our proudest sites. By improving drainage and transitioning the trellising to vertical shoot positioning, we aim to nurture this vineyard for many more years to come.
At just under 1 acre, our Pinot Noir plantings are a work in progress. Originally planted in 2004 and then added to in 2009, the fruit from this site has been primarily used for blending.
However, the 2020 vintage produced a remarkable varietal wine, and 2023 yielded an exceptional sparkling wine to boot. As we master the idiosyncrasies of this grape, we are excited to see what coming vintages will bring.
Carrie and Marco Radivoyevitch purchased the neighboring vineyard to our Eastside Vineyard in 2021, and they asked KLV to take over the management in 2022.
The Seyval Blanc vines are roughly 50 years old, and have produced excellent still and sparkling wines in our first efforts.
Cuttings from the Fournier vineyard make up this small second plot of Leon Millot about 100 yards north east of the original.
Still in its infancy, this vineyard is starting to produce remarkable fruit.
Small but mighty at 1/3 acre, this former flower garden has a handful of hearty Vignoles plantings that reliably produce good clusters.
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