Tastemaker: Paul Brock, Silver Thread Vineyard

For one reason or another, some winemakers just seem better suited to working for themselves rather than for someone else. I was first introduced to Paul Brock’s wines when he was the winemaker at Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars. The wines were good — always clean with obvious attention to detail. But, when I tasted them against other Finger Lakes wines, they rarely stood out.

Now that Brock is making wine at Silver Thread Vineyard, which he co-owns with his wife Shannon, they do. Taking care of the wines from grape to glass clearly works for Brock. His single-vineyard rieslings are distinct and distinctive. His pinot noir is lithe and delicate. And his gewurztraminer is one of the great white wine values in the Finger Lakes.

Brock is also a family man and our kids are similar in age. So, when I spent some time with him last spring, we had more than wine we could talk about.

Get to know a winemaker who is making wine grown in beautiful spot on Seneca Lake. These are wines, and this a man, you need to know.

Location: Lodi, NY

Current Job: Owner/Winemaker/Vineyard Manager at Silver Thread Vineyard and Assistant Professor of Viticulture and Wine Technology at Finger Lakes Community College

Wine of the moment: Anything pink and dry. Enjoyed a bottle of 2010 Chateau Frank Brut Rose over the weekend.

My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Reflections of vineyard and vintage.

First bottle of wine I remember drinking: In high school, a cheap bottle of Sherry with a bunch of friends… that probably should not count, though. When I first got into wine, my wife Shannon and I drank a lot of Gewurztraminer. It’s that initial love affair with this fascinating grape that propelled my interest in pursuing viticulture and wine.

How I got here: Luck, as defined by when preparation meets opportunity. Shannon and I had both separately earned respect from our peers within the Finger Lakes wine industry. Me as a winemaker and Shannon as a wine educator. We knew a lot of people and it was these connections that helped Richard Fiegel decide to sell to us. Silver Thread had the varieties planted that we were interested in growing. When Richard wanted to retire it took 2 years to convince him and close the deal. He figured we were his best option to take Silver Thread to the next level.

My winemaking style — in more words: The most important things that happen to grapes between the vineyard and your glass are fermentation and bottling. I do not want to mess with good grapes otherwise. I feel the truest expression of the grape, vineyard and vintage occurs by using technology to ensure both fermentation and bottling have as little impact as possible on the vineyard. I like to consider my wines finished as soon as a healthy fermentation is done. Let’s get the wine clear and bottled ASAP.

Mentors: I have many people I have respected in the wine industry and life in general that have inspired me to get to where I am today. My wife, Shannon, has had faith in me to allow me to craft wines that we both believe are true, honest expressions of their vineyard. My mother inspired me and allowed me to think independently in life. My father taught me that anything I put my mind to can be accomplished. Morten Hallgren was a great influence on and helped me develop my own style of fermentation management. Professor Joe Fiola from the University of Maryland gave me my first opportunity in the industry. My club soccer coach back in high school explained what engineers do and encouraged me to pursue Chemical Engineering as my first degree.

Music playing in the cellar right now: In the cellar, Phish. I do not control the tasting room! Phish makes me and the wines happy while we are together. If not Phish, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd or anything else that I can sing and dance to.

Favorite thing about the Finger Lakes wine industry: History, riesling and camaraderie.

Least favorite thing about the Finger Lakes wine industry:  No bridges over or ferries across the lakes to make travel faster.

One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Juggling — balls, pins, torches…you name it!

What I drink: Cans of Genesee Cream Ale, other local craft beers from a can or tap; and any well-made, cool-climate wine from anywhere in the world.

My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: I hope its an island with a cool climate. I suppose I could grab some lobster or other shell fish off shore. Give me a well-made crisp dry Riesling from anywhere that has 5-8 years of age on it. Throw in whatever local vegetable is around on my island, and maybe something to add some spice. As precise as I am with my viticulture and winemaking, I am happy with just about any good quality local, fresh food.

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