Vineyard Manager & Proprietor
On a visit to Cornell University in 1992 with their son, a prospective college student, Mel and his wife, Dorothee, fell in love with the beauty of the Finger Lakes landscape and the warmth of the local people. These inspired Mel to put into action his longtime desire to run a farm. Soon after, they purchased the old Taylor vineyard land on which Keuka Lake Vineyards is now established.
Mel quickly recognized after sampling the products of local wineries that Riesling grapes made wines of superior quality.
In 1997, after a career working in industrial and agricultural development in developing countries, he took early retirement and moved to the Finger Lakes and officially started Keuka Lake Vineyards. Mel's first plantings were Riesling and Pinot Noir vines.
The vineyards served as his stand alone business for many years until Mel realized that the riesling grapes on the property were superior and that the only way to be financially successful was to make wines from his own grapes, "The bug was always there, it just took some time to build confidence as well as learn the art and science of winemaking." He started with a couple of small batches for family and friends; by the fall of 2005, the first vintage was made for the winery under the skilled guidance of Morten Hallgren, winemaker and owner of Ravines Wine Cellars.
It was a series of experiences that led Mel, a relative urbanite, into his current role as vineyard and winery owner. From time spent on a friend's grain farm in Michigan and a kibbutz specializing in grapes in Israel, to work through the Peace Corps in Nepal and a family vacation on a small vineyard in Burgundy – Mel came to appreciate the work and beautiful environment intrinsic to a rural lifestyle. "I was inspired to discover that with a small acreage and hard work, it was possible for a family grower to succeed."
Now Mel enjoys the constant activity inherent in managing Keuka Lake Vineyards. When visiting the winery for a tasting, people are apt to run into Mel as he tends to too many tasks at once. Regardless, he always seems to make the time to talk with people enthusiastically about his wines.
Raised in the Finger Lakes, Staci's first exposure to the world of wine was through an undergraduate wine appreciation course at Cornell. After college, she headed out west to California to attend graduate school for genetics, but also spent weekends pouring wine and lending a hand in the cellar at Thomas Kruse Winery in Gilroy. It was during this time that Staci decided to switch careers.
Staci entered the wine program at the University of California at Davis and received her Master's degree in Viticulture and Enology. She followed with hands-on winemaking experience in back to back vintages across hemispheres: Ornellaia in Italy, Hardy's Tintara Winery in South Australia, and Williams Selyem in Sonoma, California.
Staci returned to the Finger Lakes for the 2005 harvest, working at Dr. Frank's and Lamoreaux beforing teaming up with Keuka Lake Vineyards.
For many of you who are longtime fans of KLV, you will recognize Jan who has been with us since 2007. Jan is a gem. She came here initially, because she liked good, dry Rieslings. She makes the tasting room experience an educational and pleasant one and is a fabulous listener. She is kind and we hope that she will be with KLV for many years to come.
Matt is a stay at home dad during the week and morphs into our most animated pourer to date! He is attentive to wine tasters and appreciative of the conversation, whether novice or conniosseur. His favorite KLV wines are the Evergreen Lek Riesling and KLV Red.
Karin started with us in the summer of 2015 through none other than her love of Riesling and other dry wines. She has been an asset to the Tasting Room, as well as becoming a regional Sales Associate for KLV. Karin is most happy with a glass of Gently Dry Vignoles and a good book.
Maria spends her summers on Keuka Lake and helps out part-time in the tasting room. She is fantastic and more than helpful at the winery as she keeps surprising us with her many talents, one of which is master gardener. Check out our lovely flower beds thanks to Maria!
John Orsino grew up and graduated high school in Honolulu Hawaii before meeting and marrying a Corning girl and settling in Hammondsport. He began working in the vineyard in the late 1980s and has wide experience in all aspects of vineyard work, from grafting and pruning vines to managing them through harvest. John is quite gifted and truly understands the vine. He has worked for several well-known vineyards in the Finger Lakes.
Wayne's dedication shines through in his loyal care and attention to the vineyard. If something needs to be done, you can find him staying late and arriving early. You can also always count on Wayne for a good laugh.
In Memoriam Ray Hughes
Ray was born, raised and died on Keuka Lake. Even in his latter years, while still young at heart, he brought endless experience to the vineyard. He started tying vines and harvesting when in school and then returned to the vineyard after college. He worked with three generations of farmers and with almost every grape variety; Vinifera for more than 30 years, hybrids and natives for over 50 years. He brought the intelligence that combines rich experience with different growers and styles together with a thirst for researching vineyard issues in the literature and more recently on-line. Many old-timers in the Finger Lakes attested to his vast knowledge and talent. He was particularly creative in designing new equipment and solutions to problems that no one else could deal with. Keuka Lake Vineyards was his proud employer for the final years of his life. He will be sorely missed. He passed away on July 5, 2014.