Thousands of years ago, glaciers gouged their way through this region of New York, carving through slate and shale, leaving behind eleven glorious lakes. The Iroquois Nation that once thrived in these fertile valleys believed the Great Spirit had blessed the land by placing her hands on the earth and after she lifted her fingers, the remaining impressions left on the land filled with water and became the eleven lakes we know as the ”Finger Lakes”. However the lakes were formed, the rich, fertile soils combined with the deep lakes and rolling valleys create an ideal climate for growing grapes.
Our vineyards, located on the southeastern hillsides of Seneca Lake, date back to the early 1900’s when native varieties like Catawba and Concord reined the region. In the early 1970’s, local grape grower and wine entrepreneur, Bill Moffitt, purchased the eighty-four acres of land on Seneca’s eastern shore, and began planting French-American hybrids and vitis vinifera on the farm. By the late seventies, Chardonnay, Marechal Foch, Seyval, Chancellor and Chelois had started to take root and were flourishing well.
By early 1980, Moffitt had sold the land to locals Ed & Joanne Grow who opened Rolling Vineyards Farm Winery under the New York Farm Winery Act of 1976. This new law enabled grape growers to open a winery on their farm, and was the true beginning of today’s thriving Finger Lakes Wine Region. Ed continued to plant more grape varieties, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Vidal Blanc, and continued to make and sell wine using the farm’s early-century barn as the production facility and tasting room.
From 1981 to 1991 Rolling Vineyards continued to operate, and even tied with Wagner Vineyards to win New York State’s first ”Governor’s Cup”, the highest award a New York wine can win. However, the wine business in the Finger Lakes during this time did not have the respected recognition or tourism-interest it has today, and Rolling Vineyards closed its doors in 1991.
The vineyards were still cultivated and the grapes were contracted out to other wineries in the region. In 1995, the previous tasting room of Rolling Vineyards was rented to Swedish Hill Vineyards to use as a tasting room for their line of sparkling wine. Dubbed as the ”Finger Lakes Champagne House” the tasting room continued to operate out of the old barn until moving north to a new building in early 1999.
Later that year, local entrepreneur Ted Marks purchased the established vineyards and Atwater opened its doors for wine tastings and sales in September of 2000. With the help of his previous son-in-law, Phil Hazlitt, whose winemaking expertise, vineyard knowledge and high standards helped establish our philosophy of creating consistent, clean and innovative wines, Atwater quickly gained reputation as one of the most exciting new wineries of the region.
The vineyards continue to develop as we increase the vinifera acreage, including Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Currently planted with sixteen different varieties of grapes, we continue to expand and experiment with other varieties such as Syrah and Lemberger.
Over the years, Atwater has been gaining a reputation as producers of consistent, clean wines, vintage after vintage. A small, boutique winery, Atwater’s production level is limited to around 8,500 cases annually. The quality of our fruit, grown on our own land in controlled quantities, gives us the opportunity to give careful attention to each and every vintage.
A friendly and knowledgeable staff welcomes visitors all year long to taste the wines, learn about the region and take in the breath-taking panorama of the vineyards overlooking the beautiful waters of Seneca Lake.