After over 30 years of experience in vinifera grape farming, Steve Shaw has come to a few conclusions about viticulture in the Finger Lakes.
Sustainable is the way to go; most of the weed control is done mechanically at Shaw; we do not strive to be a magazine-cover vineyard or a manicured golf course.
The “wild” vine look at Shaw is no accident. Steve Shaw believes that the vines find their own balance and avoids over cultivation. Vines are allowed to form multiple trunks, lessening the chance of catastrophic winter damage.
Vertical shoot positioning (VSP) is a popular trellis system in the Finger Lakes, but Shaw uses something akin to Pendelbogen as it flourishes in the wild vine style.
Pruning is done sparingly in the early season until the extent of winter and frost damage is assessed. Overall, the emphasis is not on cane control but yield control. Fruit is dropped halfway through the growing season in a “green harvest.” Shaw believes that this leads to lean, tight clusters with small-to-medium sized berries bursting with flavor.
Extended hang time is the norm at Shaw Vineyard. It is not unusual for some of the varieties at Shaw to be some of the very last picked in the region. This is the challenge of cool-climate winemaking if consistency remains the primary goal.
Finally, all grapes are picked by hand at Shaw. Every single one. Field sorting provides diversity of tones and flavors — variations (minor flaws) lead to interesting wines. Shaw Vineyard grapes are a reflection of the season, not of a preconceived ideal.
During most days in the summer and fall, Steve Shaw can be found in the vineyard hours before the tasting room opens. At Shaw the winemaker and vineyard manager are one and the same.