John and Ann Martini moved to Anthony Road in 1973 at the urging of a friend that touted the joys of grape growing in the Finger Lakes. They loaded up 2 young children and left their home in Baltimore, where John worked for WR Grace to set up their farming life on the west side of Seneca Lake. Surprisingly neither Ann nor John had an agricultural background, unless you count John’s youthful summers at his grandparent’s farm in Melvin, Illinois. But together and with the help of family and friends they planted their first 5-acres, Foch, in the summer of 1973. The vineyard grew, to 30-acres, as did the Martini family, to 4 children, but it was quickly realized that an outside job was needed to support their endeavors. John joined the staff at the Cornell’s Experiment Station in Geneva and Ann took over the day to day operations and maintenance of both the household and the vineyard.
Wineries that purchased the fruit changed hands, demand for the grapes shifted, so by the late 80’s the Martini’s were faced with varieties that weren’t in high demand and the uncertainty of grape sales at time of harvest. John worked with the Wine Grape Foundation on the oh-so delicious and vibrant pink “VineFresh” a blended grape juice – that never really gained the traction it needed despite our tastings at the NY State Fair, in grocery store in New York City and across New York State. So it was back to the drawing board – which leads us to where we are today at Anthony Road Wine Company.
The memories of growing up on a farm are different for every family and different based on what is being farmed. We were spoiled in the fact that we didn’t have to milk cows several times a day and didn’t have to worry about the annual planting of row crops, but we all had to pitch in throughout the year and in the end it was still farming and ultimately run by Mother Nature. Our spring breaks were spent tying, summer brought suckering and cluster thinning, fall afternoons involved collecting pickers’ tickets and spreading boxes, weekends were spent washing boxes and helping with pressing juice for home wine makers. Of course there is the favorite vineyard activity of pulling brush in the winter!
We remember the smells of each season, the way a cane-tied row looks so orderly, that ear-wigs aren’t as scary as they look, how wet you can get from dew, from early morning leaves, and from grape juice. We remember that all the grapes taste good – seeds and all, the way our hands got cracked and stained from the grapes and juice, the hum of the old cider press we used and how good that juice tasted right from the press. There were late night dinners, early mornings for picking, cheesecloth being washed in the washing machine, and the development of a family much larger than our own.
All the children ventured away – Peter, the oldest and now Vineyard Manager, moved to Wyoming after earning a bachelor’s degree from Clarkson. He was a mechanic in Jackson Hole for 10 years before moving back to the Finger Lakes. Sarah, now Business Manager, studied International Relations at Syracuse, moved to California for a while, went back to school in Boston for her master’s degree, and worked as a dietitian before working at the winery full-time. Maeve knew she wanted to be a nurse in Middle School and so she did! She received a R.N. Degree from St John Fisher, and has been a nurse in doctor’s offices and in the hospital setting in the Rochester area, and official nurse to us all. She and her family live in Rochester – but come to help for events and festivals. Elizabeth, the youngest, received a bachelor’s from Nazareth College, and a Masters’ degree from UC Davis – no not in viticulture, but in Agronomy. She is currently the Tasting Room Manager.
In 2013 the family met over dinner at Ann and John’s to discuss the future of the vineyard and winery. It was decided to keep all in the family and continue on with the foundation that Ann and John laid. Not only does it include the four children, but also their spouses and children. Sarah’s husband Mike is the V.P. of Sales. Pete’s wife Margot works in the tasting room when she is not in the classroom teaching kindergartners. Maeve’s husband, Peter, does a lot of the screen printing for the winery in between his hockey refereeing. Sam Castner, Liz’s husband assists in events and landscaping. His art work and custom metal work can be seen throughout the Finger Lakes. Currently there are 12 grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 21 years old – many can be see rolling down the hill, running through the gardens and “helping” around the vineyard and winery.
This is not just a job for us – but a labor of love and our home – so welcome!