The HVADC Cultivator
South Dominion Vineyard
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Though South Dominion Vineyard in Cambridge New York only started planting grapes in 2016, the bucolic young vineyard is already branching out. Started by the Bateman family, using traditional French practices, the four Bateman siblings recently launched a second, more modern brand called Post and Beam Winery.
Luke Bateman, the second youngest sibling, says Post and Beam takes advantage of the fruit forward flavor of the hardy Franco-American hybrid grapes that have been developed to thrive in the wetter, colder climate of northeast New York.
Bateman says the terroir of the character of the Upper Hudson American Viticulture Area (AVA), mixed with the juicy fruitiness of the grapes that have been developed to grow here, is what makes their product stand out. Though it takes years and years for a vineyard to develop, their first vintage hit the tasting room and Troy Waterfront Farmers Market this year.
With the South Dominion brand focusing on classical techniques and barrel aging processes, the Bateman siblings -Sarah, Luke, Will and Seth (named here youngest to oldest) - wanted to bottle new vintages using progressive techniques highlighting characteristics attractive to younger customers like organic qualities, lower sulfites and natural fruit forward flavors. Post and Beam is named for the newly constructed base of operations on the vineyard, a barn that also hosts the elegantly rustic tasting room. As a name, Post and Beam pays homage to what’s new but also honor the history of wine and their own past.
“Yes, we analyzed the market but Post and Beam also came from a desire to connect with each other,” said Luke Bateman, who studied winemaking on a trip to Europe after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in mechanical engineering and design. “Post and Beam brought us together.”
Both South Dominion and Post and Beam are clearly labors of love for the family, however, there was going to have to be an oversized emphasis on labor when it came to bottling. Every wine was going to be processed by hand until the Batemans worked with HVADC this year to procure a New York Grown & Certified producer grant in that program’s recent round of funding. With the new funds they were able to source and refurbish a high quality 1980s vintage bottling line and conveyor tables to automate the process.
The New York Grown & Certified grant program assists farms achieve New York State Grown & Certified designation and administration in the Capital District is a collaboration between HVADC and Hudson Mohawk Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. (HMRC&D). In 2018 HMRC&D was awarded $500,000 by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets toward the program. In addition to administrating the grant program, HVADC and HMRC&D are helping farmers apply for state funds for capital improvements related to food safety, identify sources of financing and HVADC will provide access to technical assistance. Other recent New York Certified & Grown grant recipients through HVADC and HMRC&D include: Berle Farm in Hoosick, Hudson Valley Fisheries in Hudson, and Northern Cross Vineyard in Valley Falls.
“Thank goodness for this grant,” Bateman said. “We were going to hand pour, cork and label 6,000 bottles. Through the grant we were able to take production and quality to such another level. It’s going to enable us to grow for many years to come.”
The new automated Post and Beam bottling system allows the vineyard to produce their own bottles as well as South Dominion’s looking forward, for other small regional wineries in the surrounding Upper Hudson AVA. Bateman says it has been fulfilling to discover how viticulture has evolved in their specific region and he feels proud that the family business is becoming a piece of the culture.
The Upper Hudson AVA has blossomed as a wine region over the past few decades as the ingenuity and perseverance of winemakers found novel solutions to unique problems. The cultivation of hybrid Franco-American grapes that could not only handle cold and damp weather but would also produce delicious wine was the first step. Bateman says another issue for Post and Beam specifically was that the farm soil is primarily shaly loam. While the sloping topography of the vineyard is good for drainage, the grape vine’s roots had trouble breaking through the rocks. So, around the base of the vines the Batemans planted a cover crop of clover which has particularly strong roots. Above ground the clover keep weeds at bay and bellow they help punch through rocks so the vines can reach deeper below the earth.
Like a family, a farm is both sustaining and vexatious. In no other product more than wine are all the influences on cultivation distinctly apparent to consumers. The strong bond of the Bateman family is self-evident in their brand but it will also no doubt be unmistakable in the profile and quality of their wine.
Currently South Dominion’s first vintage can be sampled and purchased at the Troy Riverfront Farmers Market and at their Post and Beam tasting room on the farm in Cambridge. They are also a participant in the Upper Hudson Wine Trail.
For more information about HVADC’s involvement with the New York State Grown & Certified grand program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/nys-grown-and-certified.