by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Luanne Mansfield credits her husband for developing a successful winery in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.
“He had owned a couple of manufacturing companies over the previous 20 years and was itching to do something different,” Luanne explained, “perhaps something we could do as a couple and involve our children — and something that wouldn’t require so much travel and desk work!”
Dave’s grandparents were farmers, and both he and Luanne liked the idea of “returning to the soil”— even though neither had previously attempted to make a living at it.
“We both have always been enamored with the intricacies of wine,” said Luanne. “As a former lab scientist and health promotion advocate, I also was intrigued with the wine making process. Romance aside, we did have to consider we had four young children, with college plans in all of their futures, so Dave also did due diligence to research industries experiencing growth in the Finger Lakes region. Bam! Wineries showed up on the list!”
After searching the region, Dave found what was previously Nagy’s Winery.
“I hired a consultant, and he said this was probably one of the best vineyards in New York State — with vinifera vineyards,” stated Dave. The original vineyard had been established in the 1970s, with experimental vines — graftings to increase winter hardiness of viniferas.
The couple purchased the vineyard in 2006. “We had 13 acres of producing grapes, which was part of the allure, because they were some of the oldest grapes in New York State, so, it was a great start!” Another 26 acres were added the following year.
“The concept of Three Brothers was also Dave’s mind working overtime!” Luanne says with a laugh. “We found, when we went wine tasting with friends, it was sometimes difficult to find wineries that would cater to all of our tastes.” Dave’s idea was to create a place catering to all. “Hence, Three Brothers was born!”
On Sept. 8, 2007, the doors were opened to the public. “Here people could experience three distinct wineries, each with its own personality and wines.”
Dave wanted Three Brothers to be something more memorable for people out on the wine trail.
“What we had always experienced when we went on wine tours, is you have sort of the same thing by the end of the day,” remarked Luanne. “You have beautiful wineries, beautiful settings, wonderful wine and wine trinkets. We wanted to do something different.”
The wineries at Three Brothers include Passion Feet, Stony Lonesome and Bagg Dare Wine Company.
“Passion Feet is geared a little bit more towards the women and has a little bit more girly feel to it,” Luanne says. “Sort of a red high heel experience.” Semi-sweet and semi-dry wines are available there and their signature wine slushie.
Stony Lonesome is the more traditional winery on the premises. Contained in a beautiful Adirondack chalet, it houses the “estate” wines — most of the dry wines and award-winning reds and whites. “Here we also highlight our ‘4 Degrees of Riesling’ — four Rieslings, finished dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet and dessert,” said Luanne.
Bagg Dare Wine Company has a 1930s Louisiana-bayou feel. Mansfield says Bagg Dare is perfect for the “beginning wine taster, who doesn’t want to be intimidated by the more refined folks!” Sweeter wines rule here. And each weekend, weather permitting, live music highlights the atmosphere.
During their first years of business, the Mansfields noticed that the one thing missing was male participation.
“They often sat back, tasting a little, but letting the women make the wine purchasing decisions.” When asked, the men said that a microbrewery would improve things at Three Brothers. “Well, we gathered up some resources, pulled some favors from friends, and soon War Horse Brewing Company was up and running!”
With a World War II theme, the brewery is a tribute to Dave’s Corsair-flying grandfather and Luanne’s Corsair-building aunts and uncles. “Both Dave’s grandfather and my father proudly served in World War II,” reported Luanne. “This is a nod to them and all that have fought to give us the freedoms to create a business such as this!”
Mansfield’s son, Jon, having grown up with the vineyard, became Brewery Manager in 2013, after graduating from Ohio State University.
“Brewing has taken off in the U.S., but, especially in the Finger Lakes in New York State in the last five or six years,” Jon said. “That’s due to a lot of things. People want to buy from people that they know and from local places where things are made with care.” Jon says they started with a Riesling ale and beer — still their most popular — by the name of Peace Bomber.
Jon has noticed a change over the past few years in the ladies that now ask for a hearty, “hoppy” beer instead of the light beer that they used to request. “Now they say, ‘I like beer dark and heavy!’ We know there is going to be a market for everybody that comes here. There’s something for everybody.”
While Dave says hops are not easy to find, there are opportunities to purchase them in New York State. However, he notes that there is still a problem acquiring barley. “That’s the hard one,” he admits. “”The barley’s coming. Everybody’s working to get a good barley crop in, but it’s not there yet.”
Vineyard manager John Wilkins, a Cornell graduate, is astute about scouting the vineyard on a daily basis. “There’s always a lot of disease pressure,” said Wilkens, giving examples of downy mildew and powdery mildew. “Some of the main things we do to control those diseases are canopy management and managing the vineyard floor through weed management and mowing, which help air flow.”
Birds can also be a problem to the crop. He uses balloons and air cannons to scare the birds off, but he still says that up to five percent of the crop is lost to birds. The business may look into netting in the future to add more protection.
In addition to Wilkins, Luanne is quick to credit the rest of the “team” for the business’ success. Almost any Saturday in autumn will find about 75 employees working at the establishment.
Three Brothers has recently begun a new venture — a satellite tasting room at Eastview Mall in Victor, NY. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the area. “It’s sort of a new concept. Last year the governor said we could now have up to five of what they call ‘branch offices,’” said Luanne. “Our intent is to further spread the love of all that is Finger Lakes wines.
Dedication and teamwork spell success at Three Brothers Winery and Estates
by Elizabeth A. Tomlin