A Pittsburgh native, Ben attended the University of Pittsburgh for neuroscience and chemistry. After graduation he did research on schedule II drugs and their physiological impacts on brain chemistry. By night he tended bar, cultivating a love of food and wine.
On a motorcycle trip to Ushuiaia, the southernmost city in the world, he discovered the sheer beauty of high-altitude vineyards in Chile and Argentina juxtaposed to the colossal Andes. He realized then that he would rather explore a career in wine.
Ben worked as a sommelier and eventually Wine Director for a Pittsburgh restaurant group. The idea of integrating the scientific processes of viticulture and enology, working with the land and interpreting the seasons to create a bottled expression of a sense of place resonated with him. So he crossed the Atlantic and studied viticulture and enology at the University of Bordeaux. During his tenure in France, he worked at Chateau La Conseillante and Chateau Pichon Baron. He went on to work at wineries in Napa and New Zealand before landing in the Finger Lakes in 2020.
“This is a wine region defined by ancient geological events that affords us the possibility to grow grapes. We are able to produce wines, particular our Rieslings, with distinctive power and concentration. We focus on small lots, coercing the identity and uniqueness out of each vineyard that carries through to the glass. I am excited to be a part of a region that is on the cusp of becoming a world renowned producer.”
Katie Cochrane—Cellar Master & Marketing Manager
Katie arrived at Keuka Lake Vineyards after working the 2020 harvest at Red Newt Cellars in Hector, NY, and years spent in breweries around the U.S. and abroad. She earned a degree in Food Science at Penn State, then worked in the lab at Tröegs Brewing in Hershey, PA, before attending the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Munich to study beer and brewing. From there, Katie moved to Denver where she brewed first for Great Divide and then TRVE. She returned to the east coast to join the Mikkeller NYC team to open the brewery at Citi Field. While living in New York City, she also worked at a number of beer bars and taprooms. She was afforded the opportunity with Carton Brewing in New Jersey to lead a fledgling sour and experimental brewing program where she worked until pandemic-related closures left her looking for a new direction.
Her focus on mixed culture fermentation and sour beers led to an interest in winemaking. "I was using cabernet franc and syrah barrels, sangiovese puncheons, merlot pomace, riesling juice, and I couldn't tell you anything about the specific history of these grapes. I just knew I loved the aromas, the depth and complexity they gave my beers and that I wanted to learn more."
Mel Goldman—Owner and Vineyard Manager
On a family camping trip that included a college visit to Cornell University in 1992, Mel and his wife Dorothee fell in love with the Finger Lakes and felt inspired to realize their dream to plant a vineyard. After a career working in industrial and agricultural development in both in the US and in developing countries—time spent on a friend's grain farm in Michigan, a kibbutz specializing in table grapes in Israel, work through the Peace Corps in Nepal—Mel took early retirement and moved to the region in 1997. They purchased a few acres of the old Taylor vineyard and established Keuka Lake Vineyards.
Mel's first plantings were Riesling and Pinot Noir vines. A small patch of vineyards served as his stand alone operation for a few years, selling grapes. After making a trial batch of wine with a neighboring winemaker. Mel and Dorothee carried bottles to France to share. The feedback was not merely diplomatic, and the wine was highly praised in blind tasting. So Mel set out to make wine.
The first vintage in 2005 was made for the winery under the guidance of Morten Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars fame. Mel tried his hand at winemaking for a couple of years and realized the importance of employing a top class trained winemaker if he wanted to make wines worthy of KLV grapes.
Today Mel enjoys the lively activity in managing Keuka Lake Vineyards. Visitors to the winery, however, know that he frequently makes time to discuss the wines and vineyards.