Mountain Home, October 2021

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HOME Pennsylvania & the New York Finger Lakes

Something Old, Something New


Old World Tradition Meets New World Wine at Forge Cellars

as the


By Jan Bridgeford-Smith

Cornelius O’Donnell 1935–2021 Orlando Rodriguez Crafts Graft Sh!tshow in Wyalusing



g n i d

e u s Is


Volume 16 Issue 10

14 Sometimes You Feel Like

Something Old, Something New

a Nut

By Maggie Barnes

By Jan Bridgeford-Smith Old world tradition meets new world wine at Forge Cellars.

Saving the world one squirrel at a time.

16 The Last Word

By Cornelius O’Donnell

Our dear friend, Mountain Home columnist and chef Neal O’Donnell, has passed away.

WEDDING SECTION 24 Natural Unions


By Karey Solomon

Life Is Good On the Hill

Sharing a tradition of long-lasting marriages at Fulkerson Winery.

By Lilace Mellin Guignard And weddings there are even better.

26 Orlando Rodriguez

Crafts Graft

By Karey Solomon

The award-winning chef celebrates local foods in a place of his own.

34 Back of the Mountain By Linda Stager How great thou art.

20 Sh!tshow

By Maggie Barnes Wyalusing’s Grovedale Winery bottles good wines for hard times.

Cover photo: Rick Rainey, courtesy Forge Cellars; cover design by Gwen Button; this page from top: Rick Rainey, by Jan Bridgeford-Smith, middle: Tracy Parker Films and Photo, courtesy Torie Mead; bottom: Maggie Barnes.

30 26 3

w w w. m o u n ta i n h o m e m ag . co m

Editors & Publishers Teresa Banik Capuzzo Michael Capuzzo Associate Publisher George Bochetto, Esq. D i r e c t o r o f O pe r a t i o n s Gwen Button Managing Editor Gayle Morrow Interim Editor Karey Solomon S a l e s R ep r e s e n t a t i v e Shelly Moore Circulation Director Michael Banik Accounting Amy Packard Cover Design Gwen Button Contributing Writers

Maggie Barnes, Lilace Mellin Guignard, Carrie Hagen, Don Knaus, Dave Milano, Cornelius O’Donnell, Brendan O’Meara, Linda Roller, Jan Bridgeford-Smith

C o n t r i b u t i n g P h o t o g r ap h e r s

Anne Barnett, Helen Barrett, Justin Barrett, Bernadette Chiaramonte, Chris Espenshade, Garrett Hamilton Photography, Brianne Hultzman Photography, Michael Johnston, Mike Kissinger, Beate Mumper, Tracy Parker Films and Photo, Jerame Reinhold, Travis Snyder, Linda Stager, Sarah Wagaman

D i s t r i b u t i o n T eam Brian Button, Grapevine Distribution, Linda Roller T h e B ea g l e Nano Cosmo (1996-2014) • Yogi (2004-2018) ABOUT US: Mountain Home is the award-winning regional magazine of PA and NY with more than 100,000 readers. The magazine has been published monthly, since 2005, by Beagle Media, LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901, and online at Copyright © 2021 Beagle Media, LLC. All rights reserved. E-mail story ideas to editorial@, or call (570) 724-3838. TO ADVERTISE: E-mail, or call us at (570) 724-3838. AWARDS: Mountain Home has won over 100 international and statewide journalism awards from the International Regional Magazine Association and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for excellence in writing, photography, and design. DISTRIBUTION: Mountain Home is available “Free as the Wind” at hundreds of locations in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Union, and Clinton counties in PA and Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, Seneca, Tioga, and Ontario counties in NY. SUBSCRIPTIONS: For a one-year subscription (12 issues), send $24.95, payable to Beagle Media LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 or visit


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Something Old, Something New Old World Tradition Meets New World Wine at Forge Cellars By Jan Bridgeford-Smith


t’s intentional, deliberate, enticing­­—a venue inspired by a passionate love for a beverage whose existence relies on the kindness of nature and near-constant attention from mere mortals. Rick Rainey, managing partner of Forge Cellars, on the east side of Seneca Lake, appreciates this relationship and never tires of sharing his knowledge and pithy observations on the complex and unpredictable adventure of wine making.

See Forge on page 8


Amy Dickinson

A room with a view: Forge Cellars co-owner Rick Rainey stands in the winery’s Salon, built by master builder Bruno Schickel (in red hat), enjoying Forge’s award-winning wine with Bruno’s wife Amy Dickinson (seated back to the camera) and Atlanta friends Bob and Mary Hughes.


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Forge continued from page 6

At Forge Cellars, Rick, in collaboration with master building contractor Bruno Schickel, created a beguiling space they call The Salon to embody his poetic ideas of the emotional experience possible when a human mouth encounters a superb wine. Spending time in The Salon turns a visit to Forge Cellars into an exceptional event. From the moment you enter, it’s evident why “salon” is such a suitable designation. The word first appeared in France in the sixteenth century to refer to a popular style of Italian gathering where educated, amusing individuals were brought together for an evening of sophisticated conversation and mutual enlightenment. The French version of this social function, which flourished in urban centers across Europe from the seventeenth century onward, became a forum for the exchange of ideas, particularly by writers, philosophers, academics, and artists—think spending the evening eavesdropping on the chatter within small groups of TED Talk enthusiasts. Wines, spirits, coffees, and assorted foods were served to keep the atmosphere relaxed and rumbling stomachs from competing with lively discussions. This centuriesold French custom of drawing people together to share ideas and intimate conversations over drinks and small plates of edible delicacies inspired The Salon at Forge Cellars. The French influence at Forge isn’t a happy accident or pretentious façade. Rick’s partner in the winery is Louis Barruol, owner/winemaker at his family’s vineyard Château de Saint Cosme. Located in the Southern Rhone valley town of Gigondas, Saint Cosme has been producing wine from their own vineyard for generations, eighteen to be exact, since 1570. In 1992, Louis took over management of the estate after a stroke affected his father’s health. Louis was twenty-three. Two decades later, a 2013 profile inWine Spectator credited Barruol with transforming Saint Cosme into “the top winery in Gigondas, and arguably into one of the best estates in the Southern Rhône.” The architecture mirrors his winemaking, a mix of tradition and innovation. While Louis’ path to master of Saint Cosme, traced through centuries of ancestors, has an Old World vibe, Rick’s journey to Forge presents as thoroughly New World. He was born in Florida, then his family moved to Pennsylvania when he was ten. He began his work life in restaurants around Philadelphia, the upscale Ritz-Carlton being his last stint in the city. Recruited by the late Dano Hutnik, celebrated chef and owner of Dano’s on Cayuga and later Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca, Rick arrived in the Finger Lakes in the early 1990s. Learning how fine food is prepared led to an appreciation for the complexity of flavors, textures, and emotions emerging when people share a meal. Rick came to understand the experience could be deepened and enhanced with wine selected to complement the fare. “Wine at the table,” he says, “should elevate the pleasure of the meal, spur conversation and slow down the experience.” By the late 1990’s, Rick immersed himself in the world of wine when he went to work for Winebow, a national distributor of fine wines and spirits. It was as a member of the Winebow Imports team, when he first crossed paths with Louis. A beautiful friendship unfolded between the American and the Frenchman, a one-off replay of the Rick Blaine-Captain Renault alliance in

the movie classic Casablanca. Rick stayed with Winebow for years, forming a close, professional connection with Louis. He developed a keen respect for Louis’ knowledge, management skills, and commitment to winemaking as a collaborative process. Working for Winebow also brought Rick into contact with Dewi, a successful businesswoman who became his life partner. Formerly the owner of the popular Ithaca restaurant, Maxie’s Supper Club & Oyster Bar, Dewi Rainey now owns Ithaca’s Red Feet Wine Market & Spirit Provisions. She, too, became entranced with the art and craft involved in the making of fine fermented beverages. Rick credits Louis with convincing him it was time to act on the challenge of developing a winery in the Finger Lakes, a venture the friends had often discussed. Louis, interested in establishing a presence in the U.S., agreed to a partnership. By all the metrics, Rick figured it was an insane move on his part. After all, it was a commitment to a way of life based on passion, rather than a sound business decision based on profitable return for a reasonable investment. But his heart screamed, “Do it!” loudly enough and often enough to finally drown out the practical voice in his head. Forge Cellars was formed. Louis and Rick began the hands-on work at Forge in 2009, with a third partner, Justin Boyette, winemaker and co-owner of the nearby Hector Wine Company. Justin moved on several years ago to concentrate on his own projects. Rick calls himself a slow decisionmaker when it comes to taking risks, a curious paradox given that everything about winemaking is one giant gamble. But he exudes a humor, energy, and temperament ideally suited to an endeavor he calls “amazing and addictive while handing you a daily spoonful of humility.” For eleven years, Rick kept his day job at Winebow while developing and refining the Forge Cellars business. He kept a brutal daily schedule starting at 4:30 a.m. with most workdays continuing through late evening. Still, Rick kept up the marathon pace until September, 2021, when he decided he was ready to give Forge his full attention. He’s gradually getting used to the slower rhythm of ten-hour days—though they’re often longer in harvest season.

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See Forge on page 10 9

Forge continued from page 9

(2) David O’Reilly (3) Courtesy Forge Cellars

A storyteller with earthy, philosophical overtones, Rick has a flair for social interactions with strangers, a gift that resonates with customers, suppliers, growers, and colleagues. His chin-length, corkscrew-curly reddish-blonde hair tumbles from his head and frames his face rather like a lion’s mane. His appearance and expressive countenance command attention, adding to his appeal as a raconteur. When he speaks of wines and vines, soils and fruits, climate and harvests, he talks as if he were the composer of a symphony who understands that the exquisite balance of tones and notes and rhythms all contribute to the score. But he also recognizes he’s the conductor of the orchestra playing the composition, the man who knows every night the music will be different, depending on factors over which he has little or no control. He frames it this way—“There’s no other business where you only get one chance, one chance, to cook the product. And if it falls flat, you have to wait a whole year before you get another chance to make it right.” But Perfect pairing: Rick he makes this statement with a gleam in his eye Rainey (top) and Louis and a hint of laughter in his voice. It’s not just Barroul’s (bottom) Rick’s talent for talk or enthusiasm for engaging partnership has helped with new people that’s served to establish Forge them develop wine that Cellars’ reputation as a premier winery. There is, tastes like the land that after all, the wine. produces it. The mission statement on the Forge website sets the tone on the approach Forge takes in the making of its wines: “Our goal is for our wines to reflect the place that they come from, because this is where the pleasure is. When you smell a wine, you should be transported to its origins and see the landscape. It should relate to good memories, and provide a strong feeling of identity. This is why we try to listen, be soft and transparent in our winemaking.” How Forge realizes their goal of expressing terroir—“wines to reflect the place that they come from”—is boldly spelled out in the subsequent paragraph. This winery makes choices in the cellar, to protect the uniqueness of each vineyard where their grapes were grown. Simply put, this boutique winery proclaims its love for the old ways—harvesting and sorting by hand, loading the fruit presses by hand, and shoveling the vats out by hand. A process of spontaneous fermentation is utilized, which, according to Bon Appetit, “is what happens when a winemaker leaves the inoculation (the moment when yeast and bacteria come in contact with the liquid) up to whatever organisms happen to be in the air or on the fruit that they are fermenting.” Fermentation at Forge happens in small lots, a protocol allowing for a better sense of the expression of the character of individual vineyards each year. This means making their red wines in small—228 liter to 600 liter—barrels of neutral French oak. Neutral, in this context, means the barrels are four to twelve years old, making the oak’s contribution more subtle. Batches of the same varietal are kept separate by vineyard of origin, each with its own story and personality. Taking a stroll through the room where the barrels live, each its own handmade work of art from the hands of a master


cooper, adds to the winery’s seductive power as Rick talks about his reasons for using these expensive containers, about $2,500 or more per barrel depending on size, with a useful life of not much more than a dozen years. It’s one more old-school element he believes aids in the transformation of grapes into singular wines. Forge makes wine from grapes harvested from seventeen different vineyard sites. Fifteen of them are located on an eight-mile stretch along southeast Seneca Lake; two are on the western edge of Cayuga Lake. Rick specializes in producing bone dry Rieslings, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. In 2020, the winery scored a major accolade when its 2018 Forge Riesling Seneca Lake Dry Classique was named to the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List. But even an award-winning winery needs a way to distinguish itself in a small region crowded with all manner of beverage makers, and Rick knows it. He’s positioned the winery as an accessible yet exclusive destination. For example, no signs offer a clue to Forge Cellars’ whereabouts just off NY State Route 414, the main northsouth road on Seneca Lake’s east side where

most area vineyards and tasting rooms are located. Un l i k e p r o p r i e t o r s o f o t h e r establishments along the Seneca Lake wine trail, Rick isn’t interested in attracting limousines and mini-vans filled with tourists. If you know the address, 3775 Mathews Road, Burdett, are familiar with the area, or have a well-functioning GPS, the winery’s location isn’t difficult to find and, once on the road leading to the site, it’s impossible to miss. Some distance before you reach the driveway onto the property, two sleek, shiny black steel structures rise up, like the mythical Brigadoon, against a backdrop of hills dotted with stands of trees, lush meadows, farmed fields, small ponds, and scattered houses of varying eras and styles. Looking a mile or so to the west, Seneca Lake shimmers or glowers, depending on the cloud cover du jour. The first unusual thing a guest spots on arrival is a newly constructed, small white building with red trim. This is Forge Cellars’ Summer House where guided wine tastings are conducted. Reservations are required and currently only available Wednesdays through Saturdays at specific

times. Well-behaved dogs are welcome, according to the website, while lateness to a tasting is politely, but firmly, discouraged. Light-filled, the pine-paneled, airy space can accommodate a maximum of twelve guests seated at two tables and a small, bar-styled counter. The room’s bleached white furnishings are modern, minimalist surroundings meant to minimize distractions while tasting is in progress. The entrance to The Salon at Forge Cellars is a few yards away, directly across from the Summer House. It’s hard to imagine a more vivid embodiment of the Forge Cellars approach to the significance of wine than the Salon, a seasonal pop-up in the production areas of interior press room and exterior press pad. Through the creative arrangement of carpets and comfortable, colorful chairs, small couches, and tables into semi-private lounge areas, a working area is transformed into gathering spots where guests can share stories, ponder the primordial questions of humankind, reflect on the meaningful moments in their own lives, read a book, or simply breathe. See Forge on page 12


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Depending on where seated, the guest might be witness to the daily hum of winemaking activities inside the winery, or an outdoor view of work in Bellows Vineyard, the winery’s home vineyard where Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc grapes are grown. Spectacular pine barn door panels on two sides of the press pad may be slid open in fine weather. The Salon’s rich, honey-colored knotty pine interior infuses the area with an inviting warmth resulting in a cozy ambiance despite its sixteen-foot-high ceiling. Forge Cellar wines can be enjoyed by the glass, bottle, or flight as well as a selection of wines from Forge’s sister wineries in France, Chateau de Saint Cosme and Chateau de Rouanne. To accompany the wine, guests can also create a plate of tapas (snacking) fare from artisanal delicacies such as baguettes, local cheeses, tinned fish, and imported ham. In France, Rick says, there is no comparable word for winemaker. The closest French word, vigneronne (feminine) or vigneron (masculine), translates as winegrower. The making of wine is never the handiwork of one individual. Instead, it’s a communal affair involving an assemblage of cooperative, passionate people to get the wine in the bottle. It’s certainly true at Forge where the entire staff numbers four, including Rick. Kristina Rose, Director of Operations, works on Forge’s visual design, organization, communications and accounting. Cellar Master Julia Alvarez-Perez holds a master’s degree in food culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. Josh Falco worked with nationally known wine producers in Napa and Sonoma Valley before returning home to the Finger Lakes. Standing with this small group are a cadre of farmers and growers, cork makers and coopers, bottle producers and label designers, truckers and pickers. Beyond the human connections, wine demands its human helpers also be intensely engaged with the natural world—from bugs to bacteria, sunshine to soil, precipitation to blight. From this perspective, producing a bottle of wine is like raising a child—it takes a village. Evidently a winery is not a business for the faint-hearted. The margins are razor thin and the outcome of a season can turn on a dime with the track of a storm, a change in the wind, a bolt of lightning, or a shift in how the surface of the ocean and the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific come up against each other. So what, exactly, was the appeal of this venture, beyond satisfying a romantic sensibility? When I ask Rick, he laughs. “Maybe,” he says, “it’s knowing that every season you might, just might, produce an affordable bottle of great wine. That’s the golden ring, you know. Making a great affordable wine against all odds.” He pauses. “Yeah, it’s crazy.” Connect with the winery or plan a visit at or call (607) 622-8020.

Jan Bridgeford-Smith, a freelance writer from Ithaca, New York, has written for numerous national and regional publications including Smithsonian Air&Space, History Magazine, and Life in the Finger Lakes.

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Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut Saving the World One Squirrel at a Time By Maggie Barnes


e’re all here, so let’s get started.” It was the 10,000th Zoom call of the year. We were planning a commemorative coin if it went well. I settled in for another hour in front of my screen, staring at my colleagues in their corporate Hollywood Squares boxes. My part was over early, so I minimized the screen and worked on other things, while listening to the proceedings. That’s when I noticed my squirrel. My office has a window looking out on a parking area and fenced-off space for equipment. Last year I saw a little gray squirrel hanging out on the fence and the half wall. Thin, ragged, with a tail that bore evidence of some sort of attack, he wasn’t the least bit cute. But my heart always went out to him. About once a week, I dumped a few handfuls of peanuts on the half wall, and he rewarded me by sitting within my


view while he munched. A medical leave kept me from being faithful with the peanuts and the squirrel wanted me to know I’d dropped the ball. When I looked out, he stood up on his hind legs, tiny gray paws clasped together, staring at me pleadingly. I thought of the brand-new bag of peanuts in my car on the other side of the campus and fought the age-old battle of logic versus emotion. “I can’t,” I said through the window. “I’m on a call.” He continued to stare. After ten minutes, my heart couldn’t take it. I was calculating the time left in the meeting and the distance to my car when my eyes fell on the large jar of cashews I keep in my office for afternoon snack attacks. That’s it! “Hang on, buddy, I’ve got a treat for you.”

I grabbed the jar and headed outside. I arrived to find him sitting on the fence, regarding me silently. As I dumped a hefty portion of cashews on the half wall, I chatted away at him. “I know, I’ve been gone for a while, but this will make up for it. Something special!” I trotted around the building, clutching the jar of cashews and feeling proud of myself. Like most corporate settings, we have only one entrance open these days where you are screened for COVID every time you enter. The screener raised her brows at the cashews but waved me through. Back to my desk. Back to the meeting. I watched the squirrel push the cashews around with his paws, seemingly unsure whether he should take one. Odd. I mean he’s a squirrel, it’s a nut, what’s the issue here? He finally selected one and headed back to

PINE CREEK VALLEY the fence. The meeting continued on. Idly, I Googled “Do squirrels like cashews?” The website that came up blasted me with a bolded message— You should never feed squirrels cashews of any kind! I snapped to attention at my monitor and read the whole entry. Apparently, a high level of phosphorous in cashews depletes the squirrels of calcium. One or two is okay, but more are toxic. Holy crap. A second later I watched the little fella pop the cashew in his mouth. I leapt from my seat and waved my arms frantically. Keeping my voice down to avoid alerting my co-workers, I hissed at the window. “Spit that out! You can’t have that!” I looked at my heaping gift of poison pills, then at the squirrel and began to panic. Great. I was about to single-handedly wipe out the gray squirrel population in East Elmira. As I watched in horror, he snagged another. Two down. One more and his bones would fall out of his body. I envisioned his suddenly frameless body draped over the fence like an unmanned hand puppet. Wonder how many chest compressions you do on a squirrel? I had to get those nuts back. Ten minutes left in the meeting. Out the door again, I ran the length of the campus to the employee parking lot. Well, what passes for my running. I looked like a person trying to smuggle two stolen brooms down my pant legs. Drove my car around the block and parked closer to my office. Grabbed the bag of peanuts and trotted around the building. My friend was back on the fence, second cashew at the ready. “No! Put that down, you can’t have it!” Into his mouth it went. Frantic now, I dumped half the bag of peanuts on the wall. “No more! Are you feeling okay? Are your bones brittle or anything?” Making a pocket with the tail of my shirt, I scraped up the cashews and folded them against me. I figured I was about three minutes ahead of the security detail I was sure had been dispatched. “Look, I screwed this up. I didn’t know. Whoever would think you, of all creatures, have a nut allergy?” Juggling my car keys, the open bag of peanuts and the shirt filled with cashews, I headed back for the a garbage can, then staggered the length of the building again to go in for my third screening of the day. The nurse looked at the bag of peanuts, the remnants of the cashews on my shirt, and my sweating face. “Do you walk all your nuts on Thursdays?” I looked straight ahead. “I don’t want to talk about it.” She took my temperature and tilted the scanner. “Slightly elevated.” Above her mask, her blue eyes twinkled. “Shut up, Lucy.” And I kept walking. The next morning the peanuts were gone and the squirrel was still there. I’ll start him on calcium supplements next week. Maggie Barnes has won several IRMAs and Keystone Press Awards. She lives in Waverly, New York.

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The Last Word

Our Dear Friend, Mountain Home Columnist and Chef Neal O’Donnell, Has Passed Away This Obituary Was Penned by His Inimitable Self By Cornelius O’Donnell


ornelius O’Donnell Jr. died September 6, 2021. [Date added by editor, as the actual timing of his demise took Neal by surprise, as it does for most.] He was an avowed “home cook” whose great joy in his middle years was passing along workable recipes, cooking tips and techniques. He learned these things through an extensive cookbook collection, many signed by the authors who were his friends, and by following his favorites on their TV cooking programs. “No competition or reality shows for me. I want to learn techniques, short cuts, and how to cook unusual ingredients,” he said. Neal (old high school friends called him Cornie) was born in May 1935 in Manhattan, the firstborn son of Cornelius


Sr. and Genevieve (McCloskey). His brother, the late Robert O’Donnell, was born fifteen months later. The family moved to Queens Village on Long Island and in the middle of the Second World War years the family moved to Syracuse where where, eight years later, his brother Arthur (now living in Waxhaw, North Carolina with spouse Tricia) was born, and two years later his sister, Nancy (now deceased) joined the family. In 1949 the O’Donnells moved to Delmar, an Albany suburb. Neal graduated from Vincentian Institute (1953) and then Siena College (1957), where he was vice president of the student senate in his senior year and a columnist for the college newspaper. He was an ROTC cadet and, after

receiving his commission and going on active duty, ultimately achieved the rank of first lieutenant while serving in peacetime Korea, 1958-1959. He was adjutant and personnel officer for a battle group. He also managed the officer’s club. He and six fellow artillery officers maintained their friendship and boasted several reunions, including one Neal hosted in Corning. Neal worked in advertising for the leading Albany advertising agency for a time and then graduated with an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, where he was elected to the business school honor society Sigma Beta Sigma. A viewing in Philadelphia of the television program Opening Night at

Lincoln Center, sponsored by Corning, Inc. led him to an interview with the company and he began in the advertising department of technical products in 1963, subsequently transferring to consumer products where he remained for the rest of his career. While there, he became advertising manager for Corning appliances and enjoyed a long-standing friendship with the famed James Beard, who endorsed the appliances in TV and magazine ads. As the eldest child, Neal learned to cook helping his mother. His radish roses and celery brushes were legendary! He continued cooking for friends in Corning, and having folks for dinner created a word of mouth. He soon found himself as spokesperson for Corning’s cookware. As such he was sent all over the U.S. and to many parts of the world: Australia, the Philippines, Canada, England, and, most frequently, Japan. In all these places he appeared on television and in person in department stores demonstrating the wares. As manager of creative services, he became the writer of a column promoting Corning products that appeared in national magazines, among them House and Garden, Bon Appetit, and Woman’s Day. Corning formed an alliance with the March of Dimes, whose goal is the eradication of birth defects. One source of income for the organization were Gourmet Galas held in major cities featuring a cooking competition between local and national celebrities. Neal judged about 140 of these black-tie competitions and, as he stated, wore out two tuxedos. Thus he met and judged with the likes of Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey, Craig Claiborne, and Martha Stewart, among others. With the help of several of the area’s best cooks he wrote the cookbook Cornelius for Corning, which won a Tastemakers Award as one of the best cookbooks of 1983. Subsequently he edited the Designed for Living cookbook and continued to write weekly newspaper columns in the Elmira Star Gazette and then the Corning Leader. After “retirement” his food-oriented essays appeared in the area’s Mountain Home magazine. Neal and Pat Dugan started culinary classes at 171 Cedar Arts Center that continued for almost twenty years that featured both Neal and Pat’s classes and then area chefs. Neal continued to plan and emcee the classes for several years. Neal was an avid collector of early nineteenth century caricatures and Staffordshire figures from the same period. There will be no calling hours and he will be buried next to his sister in Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont, New York. Contributions in Neal’s name may be made to the Foodbank or Corning’s Meals on Wheels.

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• Neal O’Donnell came into the lives of Mountain Home readers in August 2009 with the presciently-titled column “Cook in a Book.” We published Neal’s ninety-second column last month—“Cottage: a Place, a Dish, a Lifestyle”—his last for us. Neal penned the facts of his life himself, and there are not enough words to describe the larger-than-life character we all knew, and that shone through every sentence he wrote. We will miss him always. Godspeed, good friend. ~Teresa Banik Capuzzo


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Brianne Hultzman Photography


Brianne Hultzman Photography captured Amy and Tim Lorow’s wedding kiss overlooking Keuka Lake at Heron Hill Winery. 19

Tracy Parker Films and Photo, courtesy Torie Mead

Family affair: Ethan (nephew of On the Hill owners Rick and Veronica) and Torie Mead share a kiss on the fresh dance floor during their June 2021 wedding reception.

Life Is Good On the Hill And Weddings There Are Even Better By Lilace Mellin Guignard


here’s a new venue in the town of Sylvester in Brookfield Township, just outside Westfield. Okay, not really new. For generations, the Mead family has owned and operated a dairy business, a construction business, a logging business, and currently a USDA custom meat processing facility on several hundred acres. With that history, adding another wasn’t unusual. Not that Rick Mead and his wife Veronica planned to do this. Their hilltop was cleared in the 1970s when Rick’s dad, Dick Mead, was a youth baseball coach and there weren’t enough fields to practice and play on. “Dad bulldozed a spot and held practices. Problem solved,” says Veronica. That space, always called simply “On the


Hill,” became a favorite family gathering area. Wood from an old farmhouse on site was used to build the first pavilion, then years of camping, picnicking, and archery shooting followed. “The kids learned how to ride bikes up on that bank,” she points. When it came time for their middle daughter, Traci, to get married, she asked if she could have her wedding under the huge oak tree that had held a tire swing in her youth. “Okay,” Rick thought, “we’ll update the pavilion and have a wedding.” But it soon became apparent that wouldn’t be big enough. Rick, who has designed and built buildings, started looking around at the wood and other items he could reclaim. A plan for a new pavilion and large building soon fell into place. The pavilion was started

in May 2020, the large building was started in June 2020, and Traci’s wedding was celebrated at the end of August 2020. It was a frenzy of work with the building not yet completely finished, but the wedding was beautiful. Several more weddings have since been held there. “The word got out and calls are coming in, so I guess we’re in business!” The site has just the right mix of trees and openness. The large oak that Traci loves has center stage, watching over the outdoor area, having become a leafy chapel of sorts—as well as their logo. There’s room for attendants on either side of the bride and groom, as well as a place for the officiant. Solid hemlock benches, beautifully weathered, are angled in fan See Life Is Good on page 22


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Garrett Hamilton Photography, courtesy Traci McCarthy

Life Is Good continued from page 20

Tracy Parker Films and Photo, courtesy Torie Mead

Lilace Mellin Guignard

formation on either side, as well as extra room for those who prefer to stand. A concrete path winds between the benches from the large building that houses the bridal suite upstairs over the kitchen. There are three bedrooms, a well thought-out bathroom that allows a bevy of women to get ready at once, and a back door with balcony and stairs. Veronica chuckles, “I tell all the brides that if they get cold feet they can sneak out the back.” Below is 6,600 square feet of well-lit space that includes an ash wood dance floor and a heated concrete floor under the tables. It’s big enough that—should the couple prefer or the weather insist— the ceremony can be held inside. Near the kitchen stretches a long serving table made from reclaimed wood under a light fixture made from an old farm ladder. Above the dance floor, there’s a loft for musicians or a DJ. And of course there’s a live-edge wooden bar with a warm luster just waiting for a reason to celebrate. Those renting the space are responsible for hiring a caterer and bringing the booze, but the venue includes a kegerator, ice machine, and full-service kitchen. In nice weather, there are options for outdoor eating. A new pavilion has replaced the old family one, and now A diamond in the rough: (from top) includes rooms and bathrooms where groomsmen can a shot of the main get ready. The outside is wired for electric so music and event building at lights are no trouble. In front of the pavilion is a swing set, night; Rick and volleyball sand court, horseshoes, and plenty of space for Veronica Mead other games. Off to the side is room for many campers and stand inside the bar RVs. Joe and Kali Dennison were married there in May area of the center; 2021 and appreciated having the ability for folks to camp a view of the dance there all Memorial Day weekend. “We enjoyed being out floor and main in the middle of nowhere with no ‘quiet hour’ and no reception area. need for folks to travel to and from the site,” says Joe. “It was great. The indoors and outdoors flow together and having so many options makes it less stressful to plan for contingencies.” Being able to have the space for the entire weekend means not having to separately book a rehearsal space. Oddly enough, the pandemic brought the Meads some good luck. The builders Rick wanted to work with weren’t sure how to fit it in to their schedules, but when businesses starting shutting down they asked if he was ready to go. “People suddenly had the time and some were worried about being stuck with a lot of inventory. I got some great deals on trusses and spray foam,” Rick explains. The dryness of that summer also worked in their favor. The concrete floors went in quickly. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” is something he says more than once. They have more plans for On the Hill, like adding a bandstand and more hookups for RVs. It’s changed up there, for certain. But growing from a purely family spot to a place for others to also gather for special events seems like a natural evolution. The website is still under construction. For more information on what packages are available and to arrange a site visit, contact Traci McCarthy at On the Hill Events at (814) 367-5803 or


Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro where she plays outdoors, gets wild with community theatre, and shakes things up at Sunday school. She’s the author of When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America.

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Courtesy Fulkerson Winery

Natural Unions

Sharing a Tradition of Long-lasting Marriages at Fulkerson Winery By Karey Solomon


he seventh in a line of Fulkersons farming fruit on the same land on the west side of Seneca Lake, Steven Fulkerson wants to share his longlasting family tradition of happy, fruitful marriages. Like many winery owners, he’s been asked about renting part of his property for weddings. Having known the property intimately for more than three decades, he’s picked out the best spots for celebrating nuptials. Next year, this new tradition begins. The family farm at 5576 State Route 14, Dundee, was chosen by Caleb Fulkerson, who fought under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War as a very young man. In 1805, after journeying here from Elmira, he planted


a black willow walking stick in a spring as a landmark before continuing to Bath, to register his claim. When he returned with his family, the willow stick had taken root and, years later, lumber from that tree made coffins for himself and his wife Deborah. Following generations built the family farmhouse in 1856, which the family rents as an Airbnb to accommodate up to twelve people, and planted raspberries as a cash crop. Sayre Fulkerson, a Cornelltrained pomologist, brought in a Jensen Juice plant and began selling grape juice to home winemakers, before expanding the farm to open Fulkerson Winery with his wife Nancy in 1989. Their son Steven is the farm’s general manager. A Cornell alum with a degree in viticulture and winemaking,

he and wife Regina are the parents of very young Sarah, who represents the eighth generation of Fulkersons living here. Conscious of the beauty around him, Steven created walking trails around the farm, mowing wide paths skirting the working vineyard areas where hikers can enjoy the wilder areas near the farm pond, places where ancient wild grape vines twist through old stands of trees, where a walker climbing a gentle slope can turn and see the farm spread out below. Winery visitors who want to extend their visit with a rural walk away from traffic can ask for a map and be pointed to trails for short ramble or a longer hike. Next year, part of the trail will also be a disk golf course, a sport combining golf with frisbees airborne over a variety of terrain.

(2) Karey Solomon Courtesy Fulkerson Winery

One trail leads to a small clearing between trees the family has dubbed the Picnic Grove, where overarching branches create a sort of natural cathedral in the woods. It requires a lovely short walk on a mowed path, past a scenic pond, though for this, as with the other natural settings, limited parking could allow guests who need access with less walking a closer place to park, and farm vehicles could transport them the rest of the way. In the margin of an adjacent field currently planted to corn is a level space where a tent could be pitched for a sit-down meal under cover. A little closer to parking, a flat field bordered with grapevines on one long side and a cherry orchard on the other is dressed with a profusion of cherry blossoms in May, a naturally festive location to put up a tent and hold a wedding. Most spectacular, though a little further away, is a corner of the farm where Steven has steadfastly resisted his father’s pleas to plant more grapes. A delta left behind after the retreat of a post-ice-age inland sea, it has a magnificent 180-degree view of Seneca Lake and an other-worldly sense of total isolation from whatever day-to-day experience is going in the rest Happy trails: (from top) Steven of the world. Each of these spots become wedding venues with the Fulkerson stands on one of the addition of tents, tables, chairs, porta-potties, a generator many walking for lights, music, and catering equipment. Steven is in the trails; a delta process of hiring an events coordinator who can help, and of beauty with he too is willing to liase with service providers bringing 180-degree amenities to the sites. At $500 for a rental site, with the views of the wedding couple arranging for the services they want, he lake; Fulkerson’s says the cost is comparable to a site at a state park, with the tasting room. bonus of a more exclusive, private, and unique site. For fans of Fulkerson wines, there’s the additional advantage of siting an event close to the source. The Farmhouse, which has already served as home base for bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, and other festivities is still another possibility as a wedding venue, with space for the bride to prepare, a kitchen for the caterers to use, and a tent site close by to accommodate dinner and dancing. While the pandemic-reconfigured winery tasting room is not immediately suitable for a wedding or large party, with some preparation by the winery staff, a small wedding after winery business hours or with compensation for sales lost if the space is required during ordinarily open times might be possible for those who prefer nature in smaller doses. Steven says he would also like to offer a gift to those getting married here in advance of their wedding. Before Steven and Regina married, they spent time with a book by H. Norman Wright called 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, an exercise he heartily recommends to others well before the ceremony. Steven and Regina used it as a workbook to ask each other important questions about money, child-raising, life philosophy, expectations, and more, finding their expanded mutual understanding of each others’ viewpoints a good basis for their life together. And with his family’s tradition of long-lasting marriages, he says he could only wish the same for those married on his farm. For more information, contact the winery through their website: Karey Solomon is a writer, editor, and needlework designer.


Courtesy Orlando Rodriguez

New growth at Graft: chef Orlando Rodriguez, the new owner of Graft Wine + Cider Bar, is putting his stamp on the restaurant with local products at the front and center of his edible artistry.

Orlando Rodriguez Crafts Graft

The Award-Winning Chef Celebrates Local Foods in a Place of His Own By Karey Solomon


rlando Rodriguez always knew he’d want to open a restaurant— someday. An award-winning chef at Glenora Winery’s Veraisons restaurant, where he was cited as one of the best winerybased chefs in a 2018 article in Food and Wine magazine, he planned on staying at a job he liked several more years before looking for a place solely his own. He knew he wanted it to be in Watkins Glen, close to where he lives with his family. But in 2019 he was surprised to find a restaurant looking for him. Begun by the Marks family, Graft, at 204 N. Franklin Street in Watkins Glen, already had an attractive industrial-chic style and a following. One wall in the deep narrow dining area is filled with mirrors; the pedestal tables are walnut and polished concrete, the seating is on benches and stools seemingly carved from venerable old


trees. The concrete and walnut bar echoes the look of the tables, with an inset channel filled with small lake stones. Rodriguez liked its décor and found the building needed only minimal renovation. He re-opened in November 2019, only a month after buying the business, putting his own stamp on the menus he offers each day. Having listened to his customers, he learned they wanted an option for heartier food, more entrees and tapas, so he added those while still keeping his menu varied and brief. “Having a short menu is great,” he says. “I can rotate in whatever I want. You could come in today and eat and then come in tomorrow and the menu might be different.” For instance, at this writing the menu features locally grown “Toybox” cherry tomatoes in one salad, oven-roasted shishito

peppers with cilantro-lime aioli in another. A popular takeout item continued from the depths of the pandemic, the roasted halfchicken, is currently served with cauliflower and roasted potatoes, sides likely to change as the season progresses. Seafood offerings vary with availability. Garlic scapes and other unique seasonal specialties appear for a star turn and disappear when no longer freshly available. “Last year people loved sides of squash,” he notes. “But we had a short season due to the drought. I love root vegetables. I think they showcase the area and bring out a lot. And I love duck. I run duck dishes and people love them.” From the beginning, having a deep appreciation of the area’s growers, Rodriguez decided to put local products front and center. The food has to pass additional See Graft on page 28


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Graft continued from page 26




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scrutiny—“I can tell the difference between a good product and a bad product,” he says. The food he plates needs to be flavorful as well as beautiful before it’s brought to the table. The bar features local beers with a constantly-changing roster on-tap, plus wines and ciders. The menu board tells diners where many of their ingredients originated. Cheese plates feature local artisanal cheeses served with some of the best bread in the region. He searches out specialty ingredients, like a particular fingerling potato grown on one farm, and celeriac, better known in Europe than here. In the kitchen—so small there’s only truly room for Rodriguez, who is not a large person—all meals are prepared to order. In buying Graft, he moved from working as an executive chef in charge of an active crew of sous-chefs and other kitchen assistants to being his own sous-chef with limited equipment. And he loves it. “I don’t have a freezer here,” he says, so everything is cooked fresh, made the day it’s served—for the most part, minutes earlier. “What comes in goes out.” Only the locally-raised chicken, which has to be marinated for twenty-four hours before it’s cooked, is prepared ahead. For everything else, he begins food prep in the late morning— “I try,” he admits. “A lot of times I’m here earlier!” to be ready for the early dinner crowd. It works for his customers, some of whom were checking out the day’s menu and gazing longingly inside as we talked. At this time, Graft opens at 4 p.m. for tapas, drinks, and dinner, so they were going to need to wait. His customers are split between locals and tourists, with many repeats, including tourists who head for Graft each time they come to the Finger Lakes. Server Jerakah Heady has known Rodriguez for a decade, having first worked with him at Veraisons. She became a server at Graft as soon as he reopened. She says she likes the seasonally changing menu because “there’s always something fresh and unique.” And, “Not only is his food amazing but he’s an excellent boss and very conscious of the community. He’s built a great rapport in the Finger Lakes.” Heady works with a local women’s charity organizing a special event for the group each year. Rodriguez helps by being one of the sponsors. When meatballs were on the event’s menu, he donated the ingredients, covered the bar with foil, and used that space after hours for a meatball-rolling work party. “He’s a great guy, a great person to work for. He’ll greet customers and seat them if we’re busy; he’ll even carry plates of food to tables and talk to customers. He’s very hands-on. We’re blessed to have someone in the community so great at their craft and also invested in the community,” Heady sums up. It doesn’t hurt, either, that he makes crème brûlée each year for her birthday. Or that those who work for Rodriguez, as well as those who eat at Graft, are often treated to the sound of his booming, contagious laugh. “People say my food has a lot of flavor,” he says, pausing before another contagious, booming laugh rings out. “I call it love.” Find a menu online at and find updates on their Facebook page and on Instagram. Seating is based on availability and arrival as Graft does not take reservations. Karey Solomon is a writer, editor, and needlework designer.

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Maggie Barnes Ah, crap: Grovedale Winery owner Jeff Homer worked with his winemaker to create a line of wines to drink in times of frustration.


Wyalusing’s Grovedale Winery Bottles Good Wines for Hard Times By Maggie Barnes


he isolation and stress of the pandemic spawned a huge variety of coping mechanisms. Everything from yoga to bread making to puppies had its day. But amidst the new air fryers and language lessons, one winery in northern Pennsylvania reached a new height in tackling the headaches COVID caused. Grovedale Winery in Wyalusing has more than two dozen entries on their wine tasting menu from robust reds to soft whites. After opening in 2007, they soon grew a healthy following of folks who enjoy what they do with their grapes as well as the expansive outdoor space at the winery. Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, an American flag made of wine bottles, and a swinging daybed give off a comfortable, low-key vibe that emphasizes the wine and those you drink it with. There’s even a curly-haired


dog who smiles at you while strolling the grounds. But in early 2020, back in the days of thinking we could “flatten the curve” and get our lives back within a month or so, Dom Mantei, the winemaker at Grovedale, had a crazy idea. “He was being serious about trying to find something humorous in what was happening, and developing a line of wines that spoke to the times,” says Grovedale owner Jeff Homer. “Not really just for the pandemic, but something to drink in times of frustration. Coming up with a way to laugh, when you really want to cry.” That’s how they decided to bring the world what it really needed; a wine for every taste, named “Sh!tshow.” You read that right. The name on the bottles is Sh!tshow, with the tagline of “A Fine Wine for the Times.” They were

introduced in 2020, early enough that no one truly realized just how long that particular phrase would be applicable. But here we are, late 2021, and it still sings with relevance. “Between breakthrough infections, shipping problems, and kids trying to go back to school, it turns out that the label applies to 2021, too,” Jeff says. While wine is often associated with celebration and toasting happy occurrences, the staff at Grovedale took the entire concept of raising a glass somewhere it hasn’t been before. What do you drink when served with court papers, or after that big project at work fails? Transmission dropped out of the car on the Interstate? This calls for a glass of…what? Grovedale Winery to the rescue with a trio of red, white, and rosé wines, all dry, perfect

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consolation for the next time something in your life falls apart. “These are very good wines,” Jeff explains. “The red is an oak-barreled Cabernet Sauvignon, the white a Chenin Blanc, and the rosé is from Washington State grapes. They are premium varietals.” Grovedale’s customer base responded with great enthusiasm to the vintage. “The labels always bring a smile,” Jeff says. The bottles were the subject of countless social media posts. At the recent Wyalusing Wine Festival, a woman with an ear-toear grin loaded four bottles into a tote bag. “The label is a hoot, makes a great gift. But the bonus is that the wine is great.” There may have been a mention about a friend dreading a milestone birthday and how fitting this was for the party. Wines that so perfectly capture the spirit of the last eighteen months were bound to attract attention, and the Sh!tshow trio did so brilliantly. The venerable publication Food and Wine wrote about them, calling them “especially well-suited to this still-terrifying, eternally frustrating landfill of a year.” Popular foodie site Delish offered, “You deserve a glass. Or maybe a whole bottle!” Dana Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent, is a fan. And what’s the bottle without a little swag to go with it? Wine glasses, canvas bags, t-shirts, and tank tops, all bearing the Sh!tshow logo, are displayed at the winery. Jeff confirms that the online store has done quite a business. “We’ve shipped nationally, to forty-four states. There are a few that don’t allow wine to be shipped in.” Right now, the wine is only available from the winery, a few regional grocery stores like Weis and Giant, or via online ordering. But Sh!tshow did more than just boost the bottom line. This concept of bottling an entire nation’s frustration with a situation out of control also helped Grovedale find its groove. “It really gave us the chance to build out our brand, to articulate what we want to be as a winery. We want to be responsive to the mood of our customers and what they are going through at various times. Our wine needs to reflect that,” Jeff says. Such an irreverent approach flies in the face of the traditionally stuffy topic of wine tasting and selection. But that bend in the road works for Grovedale. The idea of riding the wave of their customer’s sentiments has taken root at Grovedale. Jeff hinted at many more such theme vintages in the works. Grovedale, it seems, has found its seat at the crowded table of regional wineries, by appealing to all emotions, not just the ones to be cheered with a raised glass. Sometimes a busted ego or a broken heart needs a vintage all its own. Better days must be coming however, as the folks at Grovedale have dived back into the specialty wine process and already put a label to their next themed wine. Its name? “Grat!tude.” Grovedale Winery is located at 71 Grovedale Lane in Wyalusing. They are open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can find their website at and follow them on Facebook.





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How Great Thou Art


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