It was supposed to be a place to retire. But, now it seems Kimm and Ken Schick are working harder than ever.
Hummingbird Hills Winery is a labor of love, though.
“We actually grow the product and create it here,” Ken says. “When we got in this business, we wanted to create a product that we make ourselves.
“You have to have a passion for it, like any other farmer,” says the former contractor.
Ken and Kimm are New Jersey transplants who sought a quiet country life in upstate New York. After purchasing the former dairy farm, they had to figure out something to do with the land.
“The grapes were not in our minds at all,” says Kimm, who owned a deli back in Jersey. “We actually went back and forth over what we would do.”
Grapes were an odd choice, perhaps, as many varietals are difficult to grow here.
“When we set out to do something, we don’t quit. It’s not in our vocabulary,” Kimm says. “To do something that we love and bring everything full circle is something that keeps us going.”
They certainly went for it. The 1,200 vines they planted in 2001 as a base for their home winemaking has evolved into 28 acres of grapes and a business.
They’ve also got plenty of apples and elderberries. The non-grape wines are where they tend to get the most creative.
“We like to do different and unique things,” Kimm says. “When someone comes into the winery, we always say to keep an open mind, an open palate and just relax and enjoy something different.”
That difference is actually rooted in very traditional methods. For example, the dandelion wine recipe comes from Ken’s grandfather, the elderberry from grandma.
“They had a lot of old-fashioned ways of doing stuff and some of that we still do here,” Ken says. “Some of them are unconventional, but it makes good wine.
“Winemaking is an art, but some people make it more complicated than it needs to be,” he says. “It’s simply producing a product that people want to drink.”
And creating a place people want to come.
“If you’re a wine fan, coming out to Central New York is a totally different experience. It’s a great tasting experience,” Kimm says. “There are a lot of family-owned wineries, a lot of hard-working people and I think a lot of times when you go to the smaller wineries, you feel like you’re in their living room when you walk in.
“We’ve heard so many times that people just feel like they’re coming home,” she says.