Meet Your (Wine) Maker: Julia Hoyle of Hosmer Vineyards

"I think of myself as a "classic" winemaker. I am sure that this makes me "uncool", but so be it. We have been making wine for centuries, modern science has shown us very simple ways to make delicious wines, and I am all about making the best wines possible."
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Julia Hoyle, Head Winemaker at Hosmer Vineyards on Cayuga Lake

Originally a native of Philadelphia, Julia Hoyle found her way to the Finger Lakes of New York State by studying at William Smith College. The local wine industry piqued her interest as an undergrad student, which led to her apprenticing at Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake. After working as Assistant Winemaker at Sheldrake Point Winery, and a sabbatical harvest at Yalumba Winery in the Barossa Valley, she is now the head winemaker at Hosmer Winery on Cayuga Lake. Julia lives in Geneva and when away from the winery can be found digging in her garden or canning up her newest jam or marmalade.

Why did you choose to make wine here?
I cannot say that there was one day I suddenly made a conscious choice to make wine here. It was more of a slow realization, informed by lived experiences, that I did not want to live anywhere else or be pursuing any other career. I fell in love with the region while attending William Smith College (class of 2011). I left my parent’s house just North of Philadelphia to pursue my undergraduate degree in the “countryside”, expecting to move back to an East Coast city after graduation. My junior year of college I was looking for a part-time job, and per my Uncle Fred’s suggestion, I applied to a few wineries. Dan Mitchell hired me to work in the tasting room at Fox Run Vineyards, which led to bottling line work and eventually cellar work. I quickly realized that winemaking was a career that would long interest me. I love knowing that there is never one right answer-every vintage is going to be different, every idea has to be well thought out and have multiple backup plans, nothing is stagnant. Winemaking is a daily reminder that change is constant and that should be embraced.

How would you describe your winemaking style?
I think of myself as a “classic” winemaker. I am sure that this makes me “uncool”, but so be it. We have been making wine for centuries, modern science has shown us very simple ways to make delicious wines, and I am all about making the best wines possible. Additionally, I work for a family that has been growing grapes for 50 years and they are really good at it. I want the hard work of the Hosmer family to shine through in the wines that I work on in the cellar. Of course, I love to tinker, but most of my “quirky” projects get blended away. They are fun exercises in trialing new (to me!) techniques, but a wine has to really stand out in our cellar to be kept separate and bottled under a unique label.

What is your favorite non-wine FLX beverage?
I have to give Autumn Stoscheck from Eve’s Cidery a shoutout. I have loved Albee Hill since I first tried it in 2013 or 2014. Her still ciders have been a long time favorite and the sparkling ciders are equally delicious!

Any harvest habits/superstitions/traditions?
I only wash my pants once per week during harvest. Harvest is such a messy time of year, I am always at the winery, so why bother washing my pants?! Some weeks they can stand up on their own, but I still make them wait until the weekend. The only wine to ever stain my black pants? DeChaunac.

Who in the FLX wine community do you admire?
Dave Breeden is high on my list of “most admired”. Dave is my most important mentor, and will likely always be my most important mentor. I showed up to work one ice wine harvest day late 2013 and he kept asking me to come back, eventually this turned into a full time job as the assistant winemaker at Sheldrake Point. Dave entrusted me to make decisions, while always holding in balance that at the end of the day he was the head winemaker for Sheldrake Point and there is a different level of responsibility associated with that. I always told him if I did something that did not seem right and we would work it out. Of course mistakes happened, but with honest communication I was able to learn from Dave and I learned the importance of staying calm when things go awry.

Hosmer Winery, 7020 Route 89, Ovid, (607) 869-3393, hosmerwinery.com

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.

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