Owner and winemaker Vinny Aliperti got hooked on winemaking as a teenager in his grandfather’s cellar in Queens, NY where he was first introduced to his family’s annual tradition. After college and a stint in the Peace Corps, Vinny was offered an apprenticeship at Wolffer Estate in the Hamptons on Long Island.
After three vintages (1997- 1999) producing mostly Chardonnay and Merlot with long-time winemaker Roman Roth, he moved the family to the
Finger Lakes to begin his next chapter at the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard. It was there that he was first exposed to Riesling production during the 2000 vintage.
In 2001, Vinny joined then startup Atwater Estate Vineyards, where he continues today heading up winemaking operations of over 15 different varieties and a multitude of styles. In an unexpected twist of fate during the summer of 2006, Vinny and his wife Kim were offered the opportunity to purchase Billsboro Winery from its founders Bob Pool and Jennifer Morris.
From the start Billsboro has worked with Seneca Lake wine growers to bring classic, European-style dry wines to its customers; Vinny’s winemaking style is often described as energetic and fruit-driven with a focus on creating textural, contemplative wines. His dynamic approach has earned him praise both locally and nationally, including several write-ups in Wine Spectator, The Washington Post, Wine and Spirits, Wine Enthusiast and the New York Cork Report.
What do you find most challenging about making wine here?
While most people know that producing wine in a cool climate is inherently unpredictable, I embrace ‘vintage variation’ and look forward to all the nuances and challenges each year brings. Each vintage is a snapshot of the growing season and how your team handles the twists and turns of working with finicky vinifera varieties is the story that will be inextricably tied to the life of that wine. I do think however the biggest challenge we face is the threat of climate change on winegrowing. The increase in humidity levels, higher nighttime temperatures, frequent heavy rain events and invasive pests are putting extraordinarily pressure on our vineyards and potentially the integrity of the wines.
What was your biggest winemaking blunder?
During my first harvest on Long Island in 1997 I was very fortunate to start working at the newly built state-of-the-art cellar at Wollfer Estate in the Hamptons. Picture tiled floors, wrought iron chandeliers, stainless steel everything, including an enormous catwalk hovering over two dozen wine tanks. All of this magnificence was in view for visitors from the tasting room via floor to ceiling windows. On this day I was tasked to pump over our red fermentations from the perch of the catwalk and to my surprise out of the corner of my eye I saw my proud parents walking past the windows at the same moment I just engaged the awaiting must pump without opening the valve on my end of the hose! Well let’s say I officially christened the brand new cellar with a generous helping of Merlot up and down the viewing gallery windows.
What is your favorite activity outside of winemaking?
Running. I guess it first started by default during my soccer playing days but later running became a way to leave everything behind, unplug and refresh.
Any harvest habit/superstition/tradition?
While I didn’t start this harvest superstition per se, my first mentor at Wolffer Estate, Roman Roth, loved the number 22. So to this day I vicariously acknowledge when the Brix comes in at 22 or an addition calls for 22 pounds/kilos as a good omen for the future of that wine.
What do you love about where you work?
When my wife Kim and I launched Billsboro Winery in 2007 it was only possible because of the support and enthusiasm we received from my employer at Atwater Vineyards. The partnership we have developed over the last 15 years is built on shared values, trust and friendship; Billsboro will always be indebted to the Atwater family.
Billsboro Winery, 4760 W Lake Rd, Geneva, billsborowinery.com, (315) 789-9538
The Edible Finger Lakes Meet Your (Wine) Maker column is developed in partnership with the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance whose mission is to increase the visibility and reputation of the Finger Lakes AVA, its wines, and wineries.