Planting the Seeds for a Finger Lakes Winery

By Karen B. Moore

F or Brian Cadamatre ’05, M.P.S. ’06, owning a winery was a goal before he came to ESF. “It was one of those grand ideas you have when you’re young and think, ‘How hard can it be?’ Fifteen years later, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s that hard,’” he said, standing in the field that will one day be home to Trestle 31 Winery in the Finger Lakes.

Cadamatre graduated from ESF with a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a master’s degree in natural resources management. After graduation, he and his wife, Nova, moved to Fresno, California, where Nova had a job as a winemaker waiting. Cadamatre had a harder time finding a job in the forestry industry. When the couple moved to Napa, he, too, entered the wine industry. “I ended up with Treasury Wine Estates in Napa doing supply-chain work, which was my first real introduction to the wine industry outside of my wife.”

The natural resources education paid off. “It’s just taking all the critical thinking and analytical side of things, exclusive of what the subject is, and applying that to a different product,” he said.

After building their careers in California, the couple saw their stars align on their dream of building their own winery. At about the same time that they put in an offer on the Seneca Lake property with the intention of holding it until they were ready to move forward, Nova was offered a job at the Canandaigua Wine Co. in Canandaigua, New York, about 25 miles west of the winery site.

Brian Cadamatre stands at the site of the future Trestle 31 Winery.

The Cadamatres want to keep some income flowing and self-finance the venture as much as possible, so they haven’t quit their day jobs as they launch their winemaking operation. Cadamatre still works as the finance manager of Constellation Brands, the biggest wine company in the world, and Nova is the director of winemaking at Canandaigua Wine. “We’re willing to take as much time as needed,” he said. “We want to limit exposure in terms of debt. Especially in an industry like wine that is capital-intensive and you don’t necessarily see revenues that fast.”

The Cadamatre property sits on 12 acres on the northern end of Seneca Lake, six of which will be planted in vines, three of riesling and three of pinot noir, by 2018. “I think we can do an awesome pinot here. It’s just that it’s such a fickle grape. We plan to keep the area as natural as possible,” he said.

Until the vineyard goes in, the Cadamatres are sourcing their grapes from a neighboring vineyard. “It’s right next door,” he said, “so in terms of environmental factors that influence flavor, it’s close to what Trestle 31 will produce. We’re trying to mimic as much as possible as to what might be here.”

They are working with a fellow vintner who is producing wine for them under Nova’s guidance. They expect their first offering to be available this fall.

Cadamatre has an architect working on plans for the winery and a tasting room that will be nestled in the back of the property. “I’d like the building sooner rather than later so we can have a tasting room and establish our position here with a road frontage sign that says who we are,” he said. Cadamatre estimates a 2021 target date for a complete winery and vineyard.

Until they have a building, sales will be online and through self-distribution to restaurants and bottle shops.