When Ed Kwiek’s sister gave him a wine making kit 12 years ago, I bet she never dreamed it would launch her brother’s second career following his retirement from IBM. After making his first batch of wine, he was hooked. The one concord grape vine that twined so gracefully along the trellis in his back yard inspired him to plant 50 more by year 2000, and now he’s up to 100. Although he has all the necessary equipment in his cellar, complete with a 750 bottle wine rack, wine making is strictly a hobby and he reserves the 500 or so bottles he makes for the pleasure of family and friends. The business he started on Ground Hog’s Day three years ago is consulting on backyard vineyards.
I learned of Ed when I discovered a 3-part course he’s teaching at the New York Wine and Culinary Center called “The Backyard Vineyard,” so I gave him a buzz to learn more about this fascinating business that is such a perfect fit for the Finger Lakes Region.
“When I had friends over and invited them into my back yard where I have a vineyard about two blocks long leading to a small fruit orchard, they were always so interested about the vineyard, that I began giving advice. Then I approached the Wine and Culinary Center about teaching a class there. The class was very popular and they asked me to develop a course.”
The first class led to a full-fledge consulting business called Woods Wine Backyard Vineyard Consulting that has attracted clients from the Finger Lakes region, the Hudson Valley, the Thousand Islands, Ohio and even Maryland to learn how to cultivate a backyard vineyard.
“I usually do private consulting in my home, but sometimes I travel. My client from the Thousand Islands came, picked me up in his plane and flew me to his island,” Ed laughed. “He’s planting 500 vines.”
Over the years, Ed has planted about 8 or 9 different varieties of grapes, but the three he’s settled on for his wines are hearty Cornell hybrids including Traminette, Corot Noir and Noiret. The traminette produces a light white wine with a fruity finish that’s good for the summer. The Corot Noir offers a tasty all-purpose red wine that offers a hint of black cherry, and the Noiret delivers a hearty red with black pepper overtones, similar to Shiraz, that’s good for winter.
Unfortunately, his clients never get to sample his wines.
“I’m very strict about that,” Ed stated. “I don’t have a permit to serve wine and if I served wine, I’d risk losing my whole business.”
Although Ed prefers to consult and offer classes in his home where he can give a tour of his vineyards and his wine making facilities, he will also do consulting over the phone and via email, as he did with the client from Maryland. Ed’s product is knowledge and he doesn’t provide the labor, but he often works alongside a crew to make sure the process goes smoothly.
“From the diagrams sent by my client in Maryland, I learned that the backyard was very shady, so he ended up having to de-limb some of the trees, and some clients have to cut some down to put in a backyard vineyard if the yard is too shady. I tell people it’s like family…you can’t always pick your backyards,” he jokes.
“This is the best job,” he exclaimed. “Consulting on vineyards is like delivering flowers. People are always excited to see you show up!”
Ed’s “Backyard Vineyard” course at the New York Wine and Culinary Center is given in three parts and those who are interested may take one, two or all three of the following classes:
- Backyard Vineyard: Introduction and Planning – Saturday, March 12 from 9 a.m. – 12 Noon. $45
- Backyard Vineyard II: Installing and Maintaining Your Vineyard – Saturday, March 26 from 9 a.m. – 12 Noon. $45.
- Backyard Vineyard III: Harvest, Crush, Fermentation and Press – Saturday, April 9 from 9 a.m. t0 12 Noon. $45.
Those who take all three classes will receive a $15 discount and a Certificate from the NYWCC, located at 800 South Main Street, Canandaigua.
For a man who aspired to become a vintner but who was concerned about the investment needed to launch a winery, starting a backyard vineyard consulting business was the perfect way to have his wine and drink it too!
Photos and video courtesy of Ed Kwiek.