“Tastemaker” is a term typically used to describe a person — either a sommelier or writer in the wine world — who decides what is good, cool or otherwise interesting. With our new #NYTastemaker profiles, I’ve decided to usurp the term to mean someone who actually makes the wines, ciders, spirits, etc. that we love. A “tastemaker” should make something, after all.
I first met Ian Barry, winemaker and general manager of Barry Family Cellars several years ago when he was working at a far-larger winery on Cayuga Lake. He was making at least two dozen different wines every year for that winery. I really liked some of the wines. Some I didn’t like at all.
But what struck me most was the fact that as I talked (or emailed) with Ian, it didn’t seem like he was really making the wines that he wanted to make. With some exceptions, what I was hearing and what I was tasting didn’t quite align.
Fast-forward to today, and that mis-alignment isn’t there anymore. He’s making his wines, for his own label and he seems to be having a great time doing it. Some winemakers are just meant to work for themselves rather than someone else. I think Ian is one such winemaker.
Like many of the newer labels in the Finger Lakes, Ian is working with riesling and pinot noir, but he’s also celebrating some of the diverse grapes and styles at his disposal. He’s a guy to watch.
Location: Burdett, NY
Current Job: Winemaker/General Manager, Barry Family Cellars
Wine of the moment: I’m really into Chardonnay right now. Mainly Burgundy and more specifically Chablis. I’m also finding some interesting and elegant Chardonnays from California, where I’ve never found them interesting in the past. I think there’s a Chardonnay renaissance underway.
My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Honest and straightforward
First bottle of wine I remember drinking: I remember one night in college my friends and I decided to go the classy route and forgo the cheap beer we usually drank in exchange for cheap wine. I think we left it up to the guy with the ID to choose the wine and we ended up with some Bully Hill selections. Sweet Walter and something about a goat maybe? I can’t say those wines influenced my current wine style, but I’m proud that they were Finger Lakes wines and maybe in some subconscious way they did influence me ending up here.
How I got here: The first time I set foot in a winery was to apply for a part-time job when I was in college. I think I was at that job for less than a month when I realized I wanted to have my own winery and vineyard one day. I fell in love with the diversity of the business. One day I’d be in the vineyard, the next I’d be in the cellar. Weekends would be spent in the tasting room meeting wonderful people (and a few not-so-wonderful ones). I’ve worked in a number of wineries in New York, Oregon and Washington, but I feel like it’s all been training for starting my own winery one day.
My winemaking style — in more words: Minimal interventionist. I think that we put vintages on wine labels for a reason and the wine should be reflective of the vintage. I think long and hard before adding or reducing acid or sugar and try to let the vintage dictate the style and type of wines that I make.
Mentors: My family members are my greatest mentors. I was raised by intelligent, artistic, intellectual, off-beat parents who have carved their own path in life and continue to learn and grow every day and they have made me who I am. I married an amazing, compassionate and intelligent woman who supports me in my crazy endeavours and have a wonderful kid who inspires me every day with his humor and creativity.
Music playing in the cellar right now: It’s quiet at this very moment, but I listen to everything from jazz to classic country while I’m working. On a late night during harvest, when I need a little energy to get me through, I tend to either listen to some Grateful Dead from 72 or 77, Phish from 1997, or Willie Nelson’s “Shotgun Willie” album, which I can play on loop for hours and not get sick of.
Favorite thing about Finger Lakes wine industry: The sense of possibility! We have an amazing and fascinating past to build upon, but I’m curious what wine styles and grape varieties the future will hold. Being here really feels like being in a region that’s just getting started.
Least favorite thing about Finger Lakes wine industry: The winters suck. Both for the vines and for personal sanity.
One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Not sure if I’m “really good” at it, but I’ve been into music all of my life and have a pretty extensive collection of vinyl. People are probably not surprised by that.
What I drink: I’m always seeking out benchmark wines of the world that correlate with what I’m doing with my own wines, other than that I have a particular affinity for Belgian beer as well as the occasional artisanal ginger ale.
My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: My wife’s lasagna and a bottle of my 2013 Tuller Vineyard Pinot Noir. It’s all about comfort on that desert Island.