Meet the Winemaker - Mark Wiltberger Bio
Early Days in the Family Vineyard
When Mark was young his parents planted a vineyard in the early days of farm wineries in the relatively unknown Finger Lakes wine region in New York State. He and his brothers and sister helped the family clear the land, plant the vines, put in the vineyard posts, and prune and care for the vines. On college breaks he helped with wine bottling and tasting room sales.
Career and Travel
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Science in Geography at Penn State, he undertook a career in science and technology. After working for a number of years in information technology in the Washington, DC, area, he pursued a dream to travel for a year in India and Southeast Asia. In India he absorbed the diversity of vast India and reconciled with the pace of solo budget travel.
Returning Home to the Family Winery
Back in the U.S., the family winery was expanding. Mark returned home to the business to make wine. He helped the winery scale up from small production to larger volumes of wine production, implementing the necessary equipment and tanks.
Among the many accolades won during his time as head winemaker at Keuka Spring Vineyards, the family winery, was the Sweepstakes Award in the San Francisco Chronicle Competition of 2009 for the 2008 Gewürztraminer, naming it the best bottle of white wine among over 2000 entries of American wine.
Exploring Winemaking Abroad
His appetite whetted, he sought to learn about winemaking in other wine regions around the world. He worked the harvest at Weingut Keller, a premier winery in Germany. There he saw the influence of vineyard care and vineyard location on wine. Then he worked at the Awatere River Wine Company in Marlborough, New Zealand. When he returned home once again he worked a season at Sawmill Creek Vineyards, a commercial winegrowing vineyard in the Finger Lakes producing over twenty different varietals of premium wine grapes.
Returning Home to the Finger Lakes Again
After this second return home, he decided to start his own winery and found a beautiful vineyard farm property overlooking Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes a short distance from his parents’ winery. For years the former owner grew table grapes on the property, and the vineyard was planted in excellent soils. The existing pole barn would make an excellent winery for the small scale of production he intended to do.
Founding of Mark T. Wiltberger Cellars
Mark focuses on careful production of small batches of wines, drawing on his variety of experiences and using both modern and traditional techniques. His aim is to make elegant wines from grape varietals that grow well in the cool climate of the Finger Lakes. In addition to the varietal name, each wine is also given a unique name to reflect ideas of discovery, travel, bonds of family and friendship, and connection to home and the land.
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