Every now and then, it's important to hear voices that dispute the conventional wisdom, that attack a meme, that detonate groupthink with all the subtlety of a tractor trailer crash. Enter Jason Hazlitt of the brand new Hector Wine Company on southeast Seneca Lake.
"Opening a business in a bad economy isn't as bad as it sounds," he says, then goes further: "It's easier to open when the economy is struggling, because banks want people to succeed. You can get what you need."
We should all hope that Hazlitt is right. He and Justin Boyette are the owners of this new wine producer, which will launch with 1,000 cases and a goal of eventually making 6,000 annually. Hector Wine Company sits on Route 414, between Atwater Vineyards and Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, on what has become home to the busiest cluster of wineries in the region. There are now 12 wineries open in that span of roughly six miles.
Hazlitt says Hector Wine Company has already proven it can differentiate and succeed in a bustling stretch.
"We've decided to stay open until 7 p.m., which is later than almost everyone else," he explains. "People can still buy a bottle of wine after dinner. We've had more business between the hours of six and seven than any other time of day, so I feel like that validates the idea."
For now the Hector Wine Company is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but Hazlitt says that will likely change.
Boyette is the winemaker — Hazlitt says customers can expect bigger wines with earthy character — while Hazlitt is the grower and marketer. All of the fruit comes from the famed Sawmill Creek Vineyard, where Hazlitt says he grew up. He is part of the sprawling Hazlitt family, which owns and operates Hazlitt 1852.
Beyond the wine, Hazlitt says HWC will partner with local artists in a constant effort to showcase talent.
Like so many of their fellow winemakers, Hazlitt and Boyette feel welcome in the growing wine neighborhood.
Boyette is well known from his work at several area wineries, including his time as assistant winemaker at Atwater Vineyards. "We love what we're doing, and they seem to love having us here," Hazlitt says. But you can't credit him for going against conventional wisdom on that score; we've long known that Finger Lakes winemaking is a more open, friendly industry than most.
And in a bad economy, that can only help a new business like Hector Wine Company.