Growing grapes and making wines is probably the last thing Bob and Ingrid Bowen expected to be doing after retirement.
Even Bob can’t believe the turn of events.
He and his wife both worked at Xerox, but after their four boys went to college, Ingrid announced she wanted a horse.
That started the search for a farm in the country.
“John Mortellaro of Batavia was a family friend and he said he knew about a place near Elba,” Bob said. “The farm had been abandoned, the house was a mess and the place was overgrown, but my wife loved it.”
“It was pretty dilapidated,” Ingrid said.
The Bowens retired in 2011 and bought the farm, renovated the house, cleared the land and built a barn.
Then Bob started thinking about what to do with the land, and he has always liked wine and had made wine as a hobby. He realized Genesee County doesn’t have the kind of weather needed for grapes, but he went to Cornell, where they have a grape research facility and took a course on becoming a vintner.
“In 2012, we planted the vineyards with three grapes from Cornell with code names,” Bob said. “They were developed to grow in cold country. Our weather here is colder, because we don’t have hills and lakes to keep the temperature moderate.”
The first year, temperatures were down to zero, with a wind chill of minus 30, Bob said.
“We lost 120 vines and there was nothing we could do,” he said.
The Bowens already knew they didn’t want to rely solely on grapes, and had planted acres of apple, cherry, peach and apricot trees, along with blueberries and raspberries.
They hired Augie Katrencik, of Macedon, as winemaker. He has 10 years of experience in the business and has been a longtime friend of the Bowens.
On Sunday, the Bowen’s officially opened their winery at 6870 Norton Road with an open house.
The Bowens specialize in fruit wines, with apricot, peach, peach and honey, pear, pumpkin and spice, and Traminette* available now.
In June, they will have available blueberry, Dechaunac, Diamond, spiced apple and even tomato wine.
“If you’ve never tried tomato wine, you’re in for a surprise,” Bob said. “It doesn’t look like V8.”
Kim Shay, of Victor, said she loved it.
“It’s very good,” she said.
The idea came from Katrencik, who said his grandparents used to make tomato wine.
Later in the year, the winery will have red raspberry and blueberry.
The Bowens are thrilled to be the first winery in Genesee County and are purchasing everything they can for the business locally. This includes contracting with Hodgins Printing to make their labels.
Bob said they will be at the Downtown Batavia Public Market this summer and at the Genesee County Fair. He is in discussions with local retail liquor stores to carry their wines.
Circle B Winery will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. They can be contacted on Facebook, online [email protected] or by calling (585) 773-4473.
Top photo: Ingrid and Bob Bowen stand in their vineyard at 6870 Norton Road, Elba, where they estabished Genesee County's second winery. They held their premier open house on Sunday.
(*To find out more about Traminette the cold-hardy, fungal resistant, hybrid white grape developed by Cornell University, click here.)
CORRECTION: This story originally said the Bowen's winery is the first winery in Genesee County. Autumn Moon Winery in Bergen opened a couple of years ago.
Visitors from throughout the area attended an open house on Sunday at Circle B Winery, the second in Genesee County. From left, Ken Winburn, of Phelps, Kim Shay, of Victor, Linda Wester, of Farmington and Joe Attinello, of Farmington, sample the wines.
Photos by Virginia Kropf.