Billsboro’s Tasting Room is housed in a restored 19th century barn overlooking the northern tip of Seneca Lake, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is surrounded by century old walnut trees, terraced fields and a deep wooded ravine. Owners Vinny and Kim Aliperti established the winery with the intent to focus on vineyard designated micro-lots of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Their main source are the south-west facing, shale infused hillsides of Sawmill Creek Vineyards, a location considered among the most exceptional on Seneca Lake, with excellent drainage and number of growing degree days. As a result, the wines express a cool-climate sensibility of balance and grace.
Vinny started his winemaking journey as a teenager, vinifying each fall a barrel or two of wine with his grandfather. After graduating college and a stint in the Peace Corps (where he met Kim), an opportunity arose to pursue commercial winemaking on his native Long Island. From 1997 to 1999, Vinny apprenticed under European-trained winemaker Roman Roth. In 2000, Vinny and Kim moved their young family to the Finger Lakes, where Vinny was hired as Assistant Winemaker by the acclaimed Riesling pioneer Hermann J. Wiemer. Just a year later, Atwater Estate Vineyards lured him over to the east side of Seneca Lake, in the revered “banana belt”. Since 2003, Vinny has been the head of winemaking and oversaw the expansion of vinifera plantings on the estate. Billsboro is his personal project, that he started in 2007. Today, Vinny processes both domaines under one roof, strategically located within a mile of both Sawmill Creek and Atwater Vineyards.
Vintage notes – 2014: The growing degree days for the season (2456) were in line with the long-term average of a typical vintage in the Finger Lakes. 2014 started off with a cool spring, thus holding bud break back until early May. The summer had some warm stretches but was mostly cool with lower humidity than in recent summers. July was wetter than normal but most importantly, August through October saw below average rainfall with many dry, sunny days. The lower disease pressure throughout harvest allowed the grapes time to catch up and finish maturing before the first frost.
Vintage notes – 2015: The year started off with a major chill across the Finger Lakes, shattering the record for the coldest February in Central NY. Fortunately, Sawmill Creek Vineyards saw only minimal damage, even in tender varieties like Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Following a cool Spring, May through July were humid and featured many torrential downpours. Mercifully the weather dried out in September and provided above average temperatures, which allowed the grapes to ripen and maintain excellent integrity. October also saw below average rainfall thus allowing late ripening varieties the opportunity to mature unencumbered by disease pressure. Bottom line: after a dubious start, the 2015 harvest was among the most cooperative in recent years.
Vintage notes – 2016: After a couple of tough winters, 2016 was a welcome relief. Though there were a few abnormally cold nights, only minimal winter damage was incurred. The spring was relatively dry and uneventful thus allowing bud break to proceed with little threat of frost damage. As summer took hold so did drought conditions, from April to September the region saw only a fraction of its normal rainfall. The dry weather and record breaking heat accelerated ripening which set the stage for a compact and hectic harvest schedule. In the end, the yields were solid, the fruit was clean and concentrated and the harvest crew exhausted.
Vintage notes – 2017: The winter was the mildest of the last four with no sub-zero temperatures reported in Geneva. A cool spring held back bud break (and potential frost damage) until May. These two factors combined to set the stage for a fruitful vintage. The GDD’s (growing degree days) were close to average through June and July but dipped in August. Rainfall was above average right through the growing season which inevitably increased disease pressure and crop load. Thankfully, September and October were warmer and drier than average, thus allowing the grapes to mature and develop flavor. 2017 pulled off the seldom seen scenario of high quality wine in a high yielding vintage.
Farming/winemaking practices: sustainable farming. The wines are vegan.
“As the proud 6th generation owners of the family farm, the goal is to strive for quality production in the vineyards, using sustainable viticultural practices. This means using environmentally and economically sound practices ensuring the health of our family farm for generations to come.” Tina Hazlitt, proprietor of Sawmill Mill Vineyards (from which Billsboro sources its grapes).