Ian Barry’s journey into the wine world began as a part time job while studying to teach English in the Hudson Valley. He was soon bit by the proverbial “wine bug” and the world lost a mediocre teacher and gained a halfway decent winemaker. His journey took him from the vineyard to the cellar to the tasting room to managing a boutique wine shop. He eventually wandered to the west coast and worked in Oregon and Washington before returning to his native state of New York and settling in the Finger Lakes. Here, he won a couple of Governor’s Cups, scored some 90+ scores in major publications and started his own brand, Barry Family Cellars. Most recently Ian was given the opportunity to be winemaker at Six Eighty Cellars where he’s given the creative freedom to make low-intervention wines in weird vessels and to experiment with lots of fun techniques, both ancient and modern. We hope you enjoy reading his responses to our questions!
Why did you choose to make wine here?
I had worked in the Hudson Valley, Oregon and Washington before settling in the Finger Lakes. The thing that I liked about the Finger Lakes was that it seemed like one of the last frontiers of winemaking in the US. It felt like an emerging region with very few established rules or norms and I wanted to be a part of that.
If you had a crystal ball, where do you see the region in 5-10 years?
I think that the wine is going to continue to gain recognition on a global scale. We’ve come a long way but we still have some inroads to make.
What do you find most challenging about making wine here?
The variability of the vintages is the most challenging thing by far. You really have to learn to make the best wine with the weather you’re given in any given year.
What’s your background and education in winemaking?
I started working at a winery as a part time job in college. First in the vineyards and then in the winery and tasting room. I quickly fell in love with the work and starting reading all of the textbooks and industry magazines I could get my hands on. From there I started managing a small wine shop and attended tastings in New York City where I was able to get an amazing education in wines of the world. I had a way of getting in over my head early on in my career and having to sink or swim and generally ended up swimming.
How would you describe your winemaking style?
I would describe my style as low intervention creative winemaking.
What was your biggest winemaking blunder?
Oh man. I’m sure if you asked any of my former employers you’d get a bunch of different answers. I make blunders every year in one way or another. Anytime I bottle a wine that I’m not completely satisfied with I consider it a blunder. Nothing catastrophic sticks out though. I hope I’m not jinxing anything by saying that.
What wine do you love to drink… and your favorite to make?
The same answer applies to to both: Pinot Noir. It’s so satisfying to get it right. When the weather and my winemaking decisions line up to get it right it’s really rewarding. Shameless plug: Try the 2020 Six Eighty Pinot Noir.
What is your favorite non-wine FLX beverage?
There are so many good ones to choose from. Lucky Hare Beer, Pantomime Mixtures Beer, Red Byrd Cider and South Hill Cider are all perennial favorites.
What is your favorite activity outside of winemaking?
I really love spending time with my son. He’s thirteen and we go on lots of adventures. A few weeks ago we were camping near Syracuse and when we woke up he said he wanted to go to Niagara Falls so we went. We do that kind of thing often.
Music choice for harvest vs bottling?
It’s really the same for everything. If I need a little energy I tend to throw on a New Orleans funk mix. The horns will keep me going. I have pretty broad tastes though and don’t tend to be too restrictive of what other people play in the cellar. Except modern country, which is forbidden.
The biggest superstition around here is just not acknowledging when things are going well. If the forklift is running right, the weather forecast looks perfect and the bottling like is running like a top, the worst thing to do is to mention it.
What do you love about where you work?
I love that we’re a region that has found its footing, yet it seems like there is so much of the story to be told. I’m always in awe of the ones who came before us and started this industry, but I feel like there is still so much that will happen before the tale is fully told.
What advice do you have for aspiring winemakers?
Be prepared to work long days with wet feet. Forklift driving is a skill you may not have ever thought important, but it is. You’re going to need to know at least a little about a lot of things that don’t seem to have anything to do with winemaking, but they really do. You’ll see. Also, there are MUCH easier ways to make money. Don’t do this if you don’t feel like you NEED to do this.
Who in the FLX wine community do you admire?
There are so many that I admire, but right now Peter Bell, who just retired from Fox Run comes to mind. He’s advised so many people and done so much to move the overall quality of the entire region forward.
sixeightycellars.com, 3050 Swick Road, Ovid, 315.530.2663
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.