Our History - Heart & Hands Wine Company
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Our History

The Finger Lakes were formed by glacial activity during the Pleistocene Epoch or Ice Age.  Around 2 million years ago, the first of many glaciers of the Laurentide Ice Sheet moved southward from the Hudson Bay, widening and deepening existing river valleys.  When the last glacier retreated from the region about 10,000 years ago, glacial melt water filled the Finger Lakes – leaving us with eleven pristine bodies of fresh water.  Over the next 10,000 years, rivers and streams surrounding the lakes continued to flow, cutting through soil and shale, and forming the gorges, gullies and waterfalls that make our region so stunningly beautiful.

The topography of the land and the lakes themselves are a gift to today’s winemakers, as they safeguard the vines against extreme temperatures.  During winter, the larger lakes remain unfrozen, and this retained warmth protects tender buds from severe temperatures. During spring and fall, air drainage on vineyard slopes and the warmth of the lakes reduce the risk of frost damage.


Where We Are

The village of Union Springs, located in the town of Springport, derived its name from the numerous and abundant natural springs and the lake ports from the early turn of the 19th century.  The minerals Limestone and Gypsum were abundant in this area and their value as building materials, made Union Springs a bustling village in the 1800s. Limestone removed from the nearby Hamburg quarries was loaded onto barges that were sent through the canal system, and can be still found today in use in regional buildings as well as curbstone located on Wall Street in New York City.  Visitors to the area today will notice limestone foundations and buildings in the villages of Union Springs and Aurora.

Let’s Talk About Limestone

The Heart & Hands estate vineyard is situated on two types of limestone.  The Onondaga limestone is the predominant geological influence on the estate vineyard – underpinning most of the vineyard,  and a small pocket of dolomite (aka. dolomitic limestone) is located in the north middle block of Pinot Noir.

The Onondaga limestone is similar in nature and formation to the Prémeaux limestone formations in Burgundy in that they were created in a lagoon environment under tropical conditions.  The combination of the passage of time, and high pressure caused the mud to cement and form this light colored stone.  Examples of the presence of this stone in Burgundy are Ruchottes, the upper part of Clos de Beze, the upper part of La Tache, and Vosne-Romanée les Brulées.

Dolomite is notoriously hard because it is a crystallized version of calcium/magnesium carbonate – as opposed to the Onondaga limestone which is calcium carbonate.  Dolomite has a tendency to test the weld strength of many of our vineyard implements and we continually move more slowly through those sections when doing anything subterranean.  Our dolomite would be most similar to the Comblanchien limestone deposited in Burgundy in the upper part of Clos de Vougeot, all of Chambolle’s Les Amoureuses, and the lower sections of Charmes-Chambertin and Griotte-Chambertin.


Why Limestone Creates The Foundation For Great Wine

Around the globe, winemakers continually seek out wines from grapes grown on limestone laden soils.  Why is this, you ask?  Limestone, or Calcium Carbonate, is alkaline in nature.  When vineyard soils contain an alkaline, the cooresponding soil pH is likely to be more neutral – perfect for the roots of the vines to locate the nutrients they need.

After the industrial revolution, acid rain began modify soil pH, making it more acidic.  As the soils creep further and further away from a neutral pH, it is more difficult for grape vines to locate the nutrients they need to make great wines.  Because of this, most wine growers need to amend their soils (typically annually) with an alkaline like lime to reduce the acidity of the soil.  However, soils containing an alkaline like Calcium Carbonate, act as a buffer against acid rain, neutralizing the acid and protecting the soil.

Enter Heart & Hands

We approached this dream with careful deliberation and determination.  We spent countless hours poring over old geological maps, soil maps, quarry maps, and traversing up and down the regions’ lakes in the quest for the wine growers gold – limestone.

Finally, in 2007,  we were able to plant our feet in this soil and begin transforming the land into our dream.  In 2010 we selected 7 clones of Pinot Noir and 4 clones of Riesling, and we planted the vines.  In 2012, we harvested the first Pinot Noir from the vineyard, followed by Riesling in 2013.  The estate vineyard is already producing complex, layered wines of distinction – the perfect reward after our long journey.