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Ravines Wine Cellars Expands

Finger Lakes winery acquires White Springs Winery vineyards and production facility

by Hudson Cattell
ravines white springs vineyard
Ravines Wine Cellars acquired 42 acres planted to grapevines from White Springs Farm Estate Winery.
Hammondsport, N.Y.—Morten and Lisa Hallgren, owners of Ravines Wine Cellars near Hammondsport, purchased vineyards and an old barn used for wine production from Carl Fribolin, owner of White Springs Farm Estate Winery located in Geneva, on the west side of Seneca Lake. The sale involved 60 acres of land, 42 of which are planted to grapevines, plus the vineyard and winemaking equipment. Fribolin is retaining 100 acres of land, the White Springs Winery tasting room and the White Springs brand name. Hallgren, who has made wine for White Springs in the past, will continue to be its winemaker and serve as general manager for White Springs.

Until the acquisition of the Seneca Lake vineyards, the Hallgrens had 6 acres of grapes at the Keuka Lake winery and purchased fruit from an additional 45 acres of vineyards in the Finger Lakes region. Hallgren has always been very conscious of terroir and where his grapes come from. Even though his acreage has expanded significantly, he plans to continue working with growers he originally selected to provide the winery with exactly the grapes he wanted.

When Hallgren bought the additional vineyard acreage on Seneca Lake, he knew the growing conditions would be very different from the glacier-carved hillside at his Keuka Lake vineyard near Hammondsport. The newly acquired vineyard is close to the extension of the Niagara escarpment and has calcareous soil with pH values between 7 and 8. He said he is confident that Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer grown at the site could make outstanding wines.

The production facility is located about 1.5 miles from the White Springs tasting room, and one of the first wines to be produced at the new facility will be a sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Part of the old barn, which has a newer addition, will serve as a Ravines tasting room. Hallgren expects the Keuka Lake tasting room will get more traffic because his wife Lisa (also an owner and general manager of Ravines) has created The Ravinous Kitchen, which specializes in wine and food pairings. Vineyard and winery tours are the emphasis at the Seneca Lake tasting room. Ravines is known for its quality wines, and Hallgren wants visitors to see the grapegrowing and winemaking processes behind his wines.

Ravines’ wine production was 11,000 cases in 2011; it will increase this year to 15,000 cases. While the acquisition of White Springs’ vineyards and production facility will permit production to increase to 25,000 cases, Hallgren is conservative about winery growth and said he will plan carefully. Since not all 42 acres of winegrapes will be needed at Ravines, some will be used to make wines for White Springs, and the remainder will be sold.

Hallgren told Wines & Vines, “We want to be part of a group of winemakers who are establishing the Finger Lakes as the premier cool-climate winemaking area in North America.”

The Ravines story
Morten Hallgren grew up in Provence, France, where his family owned and operated Domaine de Castel Roubine, a 270-acre estate with 170 acres of vineyards. For many years he worked in the vineyards and in the cellars, where he learned the traditional methods of European winemaking. After coming to the United States, he earned a master’s degree in physics at Boston University and then worked on a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Florida.

After returning to France, he received an advanced degree in both enology and viticulture at Montpellier and then worked the harvest at Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux. He came back to the United States to work for a French negociant in West Texas and then moved on to Biltmore Estate for 2.5 years. In 1999 he was recruited by Willy Frank to be chief winemaker at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, where he remained for six years.

In 2000, he and his wife Lisa purchased 17 acres of land on a hillside located at the widest part of Keuka Lake—a site selected to take maximum advantage of temperature moderation from the lake. Their hillside is situated between two deep ravines that drain cold air from the land during the winter; these ravines later inspired the name of the winery. In 2003, the Hallgrens opened Ravines’ tasting room.

The principal wines at Ravines have been Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. A Meritage wine has also been popular. With the acquisition of the vineyard at White Springs, Hallgren has high expectations for Gewürztraminer.

Ravines Wine Cellars has distributors on the East Coast from Maine to Florida and westward to Chicago, Colorado, Texas and California. Many of the sales in California are to restaurants that pair Ravines wines with food. Morten Hallgren recently told Wines & Vines, “I’ve always felt that the wines I make should pair well with food. Too many wines today are out of balance—the high-alcohol wines of California being an example. To get the proper balance, I rely on Old World winemaking tradition with New World innovation.”  

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