Although the winter season isn’t conducive for cultivating grapes, Owera Vineyards is growing.
Thanks to a $994,000 grant, recently awarded by the Central New York Regional Development Council, Owera plans to introduce a new white wine this year, as well as construct a production barn and a community events center/tasting facility on their property at 5276 East Lake Road in Cazenovia, and hire six new employees.
“Barring a huge change in the weather, we will go into the ground here in mid-March with our first initial production barn … which will house all of our wine-making, as well as our storage,” said Owera Vineyards Director of Operations Ben Reilley. “What that will allow us to do is cut the road back to our main tasting facility and community events center. It will be almost a half-mile back from East Lake Road on our property.”
While many of the grapes the vineyard uses in its wines are currently grown in Cazenovia, the wine-production has been taking place at a facility in East Syracuse. The new 6,000 square-foot production barn in Cazenovia will allow Owera to make and store their wines on-site, enabling the company to better manage production schedules.
Reilley explained all 10 wines were previously bottled by a third party in a mobile 18-wheeler, so being able to produce and bottle the wine on a lengthened schedule is a welcomed change for the growing winery.
“One of the other things the grant allowed us to do is purchase our own bottling line,” Reilley said. Wines mature at different times throughout the year. Rieslings and table-whites can go into the bottle shortly after the first of the year. Other red wines tend to take a little bit longer to age. With this bottling line, we can put together a production schedule, put it right on the calendar, and be more proactive in our business.
The steel structure will be constructed over the remainder of the winter season, as Reilley estimates construction will be completed by the end of May. Large glass windows are planned for inside the facility, allowing visitors to observe the day-to-day operations of the wine maker and production assistants.
In addition to the barn, a 6,000 square-foot community center/tasting facility is planned to be constructed on the East Lake Road property, 2,700 linear feet from the road. The facility will be fashioned out of mostly wood, and act as a venue for weddings and community occasions, as well as tasting events and educational tours. Reilley said construction on the events center/tasting facility should conclude by autumn 2012, opening the facility to the public by 2013.
While the community event center is being constructed, Owera will establish an interim tasting room within the production barn. Currently, four workers are employed at the winery, and Reilly said anywhere from six to 10 workers will be brought on the Owera workforce, some full-time, some seasonal.
Following a statewide application period, the CNYREDC received $103.7 million of economic development funds for 74 projects in Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties. The amount of funding awarded was based on the endorsement of the local regional council and the analysis and evaluation of various state funding agencies.
“Owera Vineyards is a successful operation that is quickly outgrowing its facilities,” said Jim Fayle, Empire State Development Central New York Regional Director and CNYREDC Executive Director. “The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council selected Owera as one of its priority projects because it aligned with its strategy for the region’s growth as well as leveraged two of the council’s industry clusters — agriculture and tourism — to accelerate revenue and local job creation. It’s projects like this that will bring significant capital investment into our region and result in healthy, vibrant communities.”
“When you look at all the other regions, a lot of their [grant applications] were based on projects that were either publicly-funded or very heavy on the public sector,” Reilley said. “This particular region did a really good job of identifying where private money had already been invested. We have a lot to offer in this area.”
Owera Vineyards was the first winery to open in both Cazenovia and Madison County. The winery sits upon 57 ½ acres in Cazenovia and utilizes a multitude of grapes grown on more than four acres of Cazenovia soil, as well as areas within the Finger Lakes. Having already won numerous awards for their popular wines, Owera has plans to develop a new table-white wine for consumers, similar to their “Owahgena Red.” Reilley, a Skaneateles native, moved to Cazenovia with his family last year.
For more information on Owera Vineyards and their many accolades, visit their website, oweravineyards.com, or call 815-5026.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org