Broad River vintner Tom Mincarelli tastes early success
Perched on his hillside vineyard at 3,200 feet, Tom Mincarelli spends much of his time making award-winning wines at home.
Five years ago Mincarelli began making wines with grapes imported from California, and more recently Chile, in what he calls a "sustainable micro home winery and vineyard." Run exclusively by solar and wind power, Eagle's Nest - his mountaintop home with killer views - has been a learning experience.
Mincarelli was one of nearly 3,000 entries into the 2015 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition in Burlington, Vermont, held in April. His only three entries - a Merlot, 50-50 Merlot/Cabernet blend and Syrah/Petite Sirah blend - each earned a silver medal in their respective categories.
"It is always interesting to see what they (judges) have to say," Mincarelli said. "I am kind of a specialist with Merlot. That's what I started with and what I really want to do, is bring back an appreciation for it."
It was in 2010 that Mincarelli first began making wine at his home in the Broad River community. His only prior experience with winemaking was watching his grandfather as a child.
"My grandfather came to New York from Italy, and he made wine," Mincarelli said. "I saw him do it, and I wanted to do that too."
A year later, Mincarelli decided that he was ready to start a vineyard on a south-facing slope of his property, on top of a sunny ridge facing Dill Knob. He believed that the exposure to the sun would complement the rising warmth of the summer months and the air movement that unabated winds provide.
"In Europe many of the vineyards are on hillsides, and I thought this would be a good place to grow grapes," he said. "My goal is to grow them using as few chemicals as possible, and this land seemed like the right location."
Mincarelli planted 12 Regent grape vines and 12 Marquette vines in 2011 and immediately began to learn how to properly care for his budding vineyard.
"Once you see the plants survive that first year, then you know you're on the right track," he said.
The steep, rocky terrain makes the constant maintenance difficult, especially now that he has 115 vines, he said, noting that he works the vineyard alone. He estimates that he spends as much as four hours per day pruning, training and otherwise caring for the grape vines.
The most mature vines are now four years old. Mincarelli will have to wait a few more years before he can use his grapes, as the vines continue to draw minerals from the rocky soil.
"Anywhere between three to eight years is the average for a good harvest," he said. "That's if everything goes right, and nothing does in farming."
Mincarelli's wine ferments in his workshop, acquiring some of its distinctive flavor from the the oak barrels he finishes it in.
He has no plans to sell his wine, but he offers small group tours.
He plans, in the coming weeks, to offer other home winemakers the use of a machine that crushes and de-stems grapes.
Mincarelli writes a blog and shares information on his website about the wines he has made, including detailed notes on the process for every batch.
By sharing what he has learned from reading and researching the craft, he hopes to generate increased interest.
"There is just so much to it, you're constantly learning something new," he said. "You are learning new stuff every year."
For more information on Tom Mincarelli and Eagle's Nest Winery & Vineyard or to set up a tour, visit eaglesnestsustainablevigneron.blogspot.com.