Finger Lakes winery puts emphasis on organic farming, an educational experience in tasting room



Winemaker Paul Brock and wine educator Shannon Brock took over Silver Thread Vineyard in Lodi, New York, in 2011.

It’s an owner-operated, boutique winery in the Finger Lakes known for sustainably-grown estate wines. The Brocks practice a holistic, regenerative style of farming called biointensive viticulture, according to their website. The winery generates 100% of its energy needs from a 28kw solar array located on-site.

Production is currently 3,000 cases per year. Wines are available for sale at the tasting room, through the wine club, via mail order, and in select stores and restaurants in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Ohio and Massachusetts.

Silver Thread Vineyard is located ¾ mile off Route 414 (the wine trail) in a quiet setting overlooking Seneca Lake. The winery is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., May through October. Reservations are encouraged, but the winery will accommodate walk-ins when possible. Here’s a link to the experiences it offers visitors.

As for Brock, his background is in chemical engineering. He told the Finger Lakes Times in a 2014 interview that he and Shannon, living in Washington D.C., developed a five-year plan in 2001 that got them to the Finger Lakes and the wine industry. He attended grad school at Cornell and at the time of the interview was an assistant professor of viticulture at Finger Lakes Community College.

Brock was one of the 12 winemakers who attended the last East Coast summit at Karamoor Estate Vineyard & Winery in suburban Philly in early August. He brought a 2021 Dry Riesling and, as a treat, a 2014 Estate Riesling Summit.

Thanks to Shannon and Paul for sending back answers to these questions from PennLive about the winery, the grapes it grows and the wines it makes.

Q, Amid all the other wineries up there, what makes Silver Thread unique?

A, Silver Thread is a boutique, artisanal winery practicing biointensive and regenerative agriculture. We farm as close to organic as possible, which is beneficial to Seneca Lake, our land, our employees and our customers. The difference shows up in the wines through increased purity of flavor and complexity.

Q, and … what can visitors expect to find once they arrive? I saw there were a few options, from a premium tasting to a tour of the vineyard. Any food available?

A, We were recently rated one of the top 10 wineries to visit in the Finger Lakes by Reader’s Digest. They cited our educational mission and recommended it for returning visitors to the Finger Lakes who want to get an up-close look at vineyard and winemaking practices. We offer a vineyard tour and library tastings that feature older wines. Our premium tasting includes a flight of wines with a small local food pairing. We don’t have a restaurant, but we serve our wines with some food to give people a sense of their versatility. Our tasting room is small and off-the-beaten path. Visitors enjoy that aspect, and the chance to engage with our professional and knowledgeable staff. Everyone who works here is WSET-certified (Wine & Spirit Education Trust).

Silver Thread Vineyard

Silver Thread Vineyard offers a vineyard tour and library tastings that feature older wines. Its premium tasting includes a flight of wines with a small local food pairing.

Q, Obviously the sustainability aspect is important to you both. Why .. and what does that mean in terms of how you manage the vineyard? I think the answer will appeal to a lot of readers.

A, Silver Thread is a 40-year-old vineyard and has been farmed organically or sustainably throughout its history. The previous owner was 20 years ahead of his time. When we took over the business in 2011, we changed course from his focus on traditional organic farming and moved toward biological and regenerative management. There are a lot of newer options in the biological realm – plant extracts and active live cultures – that have become available to grape farmers in the past 5-10 years. We confront a lot of fungal disease pressure in the Finger Lakes, and it has to be controlled if we want to have any grapes left at the end of the season. We find that biointensive management works better than conventional farming. Instead of worrying about killing pathogens, we focus on strengthening our vines to fight off disease on their own, and encouraging a healthy microbiome in the soil and vineyard canopy to out-compete the fungal and insect pathogens. It’s not easy to farm this way, but we need to have more farmers moving in this direction. Paul formed a Biointensive Grape Grower group a few years ago for other interested vineyards to learn more about these practices. Everyone in the Finger Lakes needs to head in a more natural direction if our industry is going to survive long term.

Q, Are you still doing the virtual tastings? How successful have they been and why do you like them?

A, Yes, we are still hosting virtual tastings. At this point, we think of them as on-line wine classes. During the pandemic pre-vaccination times, people were staying home a lot and were desperate for interaction. That was definitely the peak of frequency and audience for the virtual experiences. Our most successful programs during that time were the most educational ones, so we have continued offering those. We have an audience that is eager to learn more about wine, and that plays to our strengths as wine educators. Our popular Riesling Expert and Wine Sleuth classes will continue to be offered on-line for people who are interested. We’re going to offer those during the winter months later this year and early next year.

Silver Thread Vineyard

Harvest time in the 40-year-old vineyard at Silver Thread in Lodi, New York.

Q, I think, finally .. maybe give readers a peek at the kind of wines they can expect to try there? If Paul just wants to chime in with his goals, that would be fine.

A, We definitely consider ourselves “classic” wine producers. Silver Thread produces cool-climate Finger Lakes wines from classic European varieties like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Our unique take on them is that our farming is different and we hope people can taste that purity and energy. We also explore single vineyard sites through our Riesling winemaking, and we have some interesting blended white and red wines that people really enjoy. Sparkling wine is a relatively new area that we’re delving into the past few years, and we have two sparkling wines available this fall.

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