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.”
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.