Bob Madill pouring barrel samples for a customer at Sheldrake Point
Bob Madill pouring barrel samples for a customer at Sheldrake Point

Bob Madill, one of the founders of Sheldrake Point Vineyards on Cayuga Lake, has accepted a new role as Wine Director of Red Newt Cellars on Seneca Lake. Madill, the longtime general manager at Sheldrake, says he will perform duties for both operations.

At Red Newt, Madill will oversee the wine program from the tasting room to the restaurant, and already there are changes. Madill wants to take advantage of Red Newt’s extensive wine library, which contains dozens of older Finger Lakes wines, some more than a decade old. To combat the consternation some diners might have when it comes to ordering older wines, Madill has come up with a solution.

When he’s working in the restaurant, Madill plans to open an older bottle. He’ll taste the wine, and if it’s showing well, he’ll offer guests a taste at no charge. That way, they can decide whether they’d like to purchase a bottle (or a glass, presumably). Diners can look forward to tasting older wines on Thursday nights, which the Newt refers to as “Wine Lovers’ Night.”

“Red Newt’s list of vintage Finger Lakes wines has no equal,” Madill says. Last summer, a bottle of 1999 Red Newt Riesling showed beautifully.

Another significant change will be the addition of non-Finger Lakes wines to the Red Newt list. But this is not going to be another case of, for example, a restaurant adding non-NY wines for no real reason, as the New York Wine & Culinary Center did last year (and then swiftly rescinded that move). Instead, Madill and the Red Newt team will add rieslings from other regions around the world so diners can compare.

“We are committed to becoming home base for riesling from all over the world,” Madill says, adding that this move does nothing to diminish the focus on Finger Lakes.

Instead, he believes guests will enjoy discovering just how well local wines show in comparison to the great rieslings of Germany, Austria, and elsewhere.

NYCR asked Madill if his move to Red Newt means a lesser role — or an exit entirely — at Sheldrake. He says it does not.

“The balance of my energy and passion has brought me to Red Newt,” Madill says. “My time at Sheldrake Point is focused on a few key areas, including distribution, sales, marketing, and Pinot Noir BLK3.”

The hiring of Madill coincides with some other changes at Red Newt. The tasting room now includes a coffee shop, and the dining room has seen some construction to open up the kitchen. Guests can now watch chef Brud Holland and his team in action.

Madill expects to expand the wine education program at Red Newt, beginning with wine seminars this Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. Madill will lead guests on a tasting of Red Newt’s single-vineyard wines.