Meet Your (Wine) Maker: Shawn Kime of Thirsty Owl Wine Company

“As a Finger Lakes native, I am proud of the fact that we are producing cool climate varietals that are on par with any region in the world. We are subject to seasonal variation here, and I like the fact that we have the opportunity to embrace those variables. Our goal is to make changes in the vineyard and winemaking to produce wines that not only reflect our region but the growing season.”
Shawn Kime, Winemaker Thirsty Owl Wine Company

Shawn Kime has been Vineyard Manager and Winemaker for Thirsty Owl since they opened in 2002. Originally from Romulus, NY, he attended and has degrees from Morrisville College and Cornell University.  Since age 14, he has spent most of his life working in agriculture, getting his start in the winemaking industry by working for one of the earliest Finger Lakes Vinifera growers.

 “As a Finger Lakes native, I am proud of the fact that we are producing cool climate varietals that are on par with any region in the world. We are subject to seasonal variation here, and I like the fact that we have the opportunity to embrace those variables.  Our goal is to make changes in the vineyard and winemaking to produce wines that not only reflect our region but the growing season.”

Shawn likes to spend time in the outdoors with wife and two daughters. We hope you enjoy his answers to our questions!

Why did you choose to make wine here?

“That’s very simple. This is my home. I was born and raised about 15 minutes from Thirsty Owl. A lot of people have been inspired to come to this region to make wine. For me, this region inspired me to become a winemaker. I wouldn’t even consider doing this any place else.”

What’s your background and education in winemaking?

“I think I might be one of the last of the generation of FLX winemakers who learned by doing it. I began by hand picking grapes and pruning at NewLand Vineyards in 1999. The region was very different back then. Cornell and FLCC were still several years away from having viticulture and enology programs. People learned from mentors and peers in the industry. I had the good fortune to work for Nancy Newland, an under-appreciated innovator in the Finger Lakes. I got to work hands on in the vineyard, winery and tasting room. I became the vineyard manager and came to Thirsty Owl in the same role after she sold her winery. We hired her a consultant and she helped me transition into the role of winemaker over a couple of seasons. “

What wine do you love to drink…and your favorite to make?

“It is really hard to narrow it down to one, but I’ll have to say Gewürztraminer. Most people either love it or hate it and I love it. It is a great fit for the region and there is a lot you can do to tweak it both in the vineyard and the cellar.”

Harvest Habit/superstition/tradition

“One thing I really like to do every year is to get my daughters involved a little bit. If I have to come in for a few hours on a Sunday I will bring one of them to ‘help out.’ We’ll grab breakfast in town then come do whatever has to be done. They love to taste fresh juice. Gewürztraminer is their favorite. I guess they take after me.”

What do you love about where you work?

“The best thing about working in the Finger Lakes is the cooperation among wineries. Sometimes you just need some advice. Sometimes a key piece of equipment has gone down and you’re dead in the water. You can always count on a neighbor to help out. We will always do anything to help our friends out and they do the same for us. I’m not sure if that happens everywhere.”

Thirsty Owl Wine Company, 6799 Elm Beach Rd, Ovid, (607) 869-5805

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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