Classically trained in France as a chef, Azure Hill Winery winemaker Joe Sheehy left the culinary world to work in wine eighteen years ago. That was before he and his wife, Leslie Knipe, a former art director and senior graphic designer, fell in love with the Finger Lakes and decided to start their winery on the west side of Keuka Lake. In addition to making the region’s flagship varietal, Riesling, Azure Hill focuses primarily on two red varietals not found in many FLX wineries: Saperavi and Zweigelt.
Think Zweigelt is tough to say, at least that replaced the original name for the grape developed in 1922 (from Saint-Laurent and Blaufrankisch) which was Rotburger. This hybrid is the mostly widely-planted red-wine grape in Austria and does quite well in cold climates making it an excellent choice for the Finger Lakes region. With traits of both parent grapes, Zweigelt typically has bright, Pinot-like aromas with a certain spiciness and acidity that makes it very appealing.
While their main focus is on crafting wines made from their own estate-grown grapes, each year Azure Hill buys guest grapes from local growers around Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake to make some speciality wines. “Our most popular wines,” says Joe, “are our Sparkling Rieslings made in the traditional méthode champenoise style.”
Co-owners, Joe and Leslie are involved in everything from grape growing and vineyard management to designing the logo, from making the wine to bottling and labeling every bottle they produce to serving each guest who visits the tasting room.
This small-scale winery offers an unique and intimate tasting experience. Flights are available for tasting. Or purchase wine by the glass, sit outside at one of the tables on a sunny day, and enjoy the wonderful views.