It’s about time. Who hasn’t heard this before, crammed full as it can be with meaning, conveying relief or frustration or scorn. But this is about none of those. This article concerns a winery after all and time, at this moment, is a subject for our consideration. We take time, we make time, we find the time and we bide the time but when do we really consider time. How often do we consider it? Who has the time?
Let’s start with a bottle of wine. Right there on the label is a date, a vintage marking the wine’s place in time. What that wine expressed in that place, at that time. Prejean Winery planted our first vineyards in 1979 and opened our doors in 1986. Time again. James and Elizabeth Prejean, the winery’s founders, met in California , spending their early days together in the vineyards of Napa Valley and kindling a dream, fulfilled later in time.
Our tasting room overlooks Seneca Lake, an immense, deep lake carved out when the Laurentide ice sheet, covering much of eastern North America, receded at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, around 11,000 years ago. The vineyards are here because of the microclimate Seneca Lake provides, a longer growing season , warmer winters and cooler nights. The glacier also left slopes behind allowing for drainage so water and cool air do not stay in the vineyards for too long a time.
Mastodons and Saber-toothed cats walked on a sheet of ice, a kilometer thick, above where we now grow our grapes. When the glaciers receded, their bones were scattered and buried, marking their time spent here on the Earth and a landscape was formed that would, in time, make the Finger Lakes a great wine region.
Long before this time though, the Finger Lakes were covered by an inland sea that left behind sand, mud, salt and a type rock made up of the skeletal remains of sea life, also known as limestone. A soil ideal for growing grapes.
The European varieties, grown in Prejean Winery’s vineyards, are all clones, propagated from other clones of clones of clones going back in time to a mother vine that a Roman farmer or a German monk might have propagated. These vines are genetic copies of vines grown in European vineyards centuries ago. In a sense these vines have leapt over time, they carry with them a glimpse of the eternal, of timelessness.
These vines were brought to America by immigrants and monks, connecting them to their homeland, to their past, keeping their past with them in the present, taking the past out of time. The monks brought the vines so their monasteries would have wine in order to celebrate the Eucharist, the sacred rite that once again connects the past with the present, connecting the eternal and the temporal, the infinite with the finite, in the fullness of time.
A grape grower’s day oftentimes begins with a sunrise and ends with a sunset, the oldest timepiece we have. The heat and light of the day and coolness of the night determine the quality of the wine, ensuring that the wine in that bottle, from that vintage, from that place is memorable, carrying itself over the expanse of time.
So find the time to visit Prejean Winery, share your time with us. It will be time well spent.