A Look Inside Three Brothers Winery and Estate
Three Brothers Winery & Estate is a fun experience; with the key word here being experience. It isn’t just about tasting wine at a bar, it’s about having very different tastings at different locations across the estate, including three wineries, a brewery and a café. This includes everything from a classic tasting room at Stony Lonesome, featuring vinifera-based wine and jazz music, to the rockin’ shack in the woods at Bagg Dare that is pouring sweet wines with naughty names. There’s a feeling of fun and effortlessness to the place; like the owners are inviting you to different themed parties.
But behind the visage of effortless fun is a lot of hard work. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with owners Luanne Mansfield and Erin Paolcelli, marketing manager Katharine Warner, and winemakers Kim White and Paige Vinson. During our conversation, what impressed me was their attention to detail, their willingness to experiment, and their dedication to working together to realize their vision.
About Three Brothers Winery & Estate
In 2006, Dave and Luanne Mansfield purchased what used to the Newland Winery, a 50-acre property with a tasting room. The challenge with this location, found at the northern end of Seneca Lake, was that at the time it was fairly isolated from other wineries, meaning potential visitors would have to drive a ways off the wine trail to reach them. Their solution? Create an experience that would appeal to not only the wine drinkers, but casual tourists who weren’t necessarily up for the wine trail, and would provide guests with enough entertainment that it would be worth the drive.
It started with three wineries, themed around the personalities of Dave and his two brothers
- Stony Lonesome is the old school, classic tasting room experience. Guests can sample European varietal based wines like Chardonnay and Merlot, along with some interesting varietals like Zweiglet and Barbera.
- Passion Feet Vineyard is the laid back winery with a feminine twist, that features semi-dry and semi-sweet wines with names like Wanderlush, Eccentricity and Scandelicious.
- Bagg Dare Wine, located in the woods behind the other locations, is the redneck winery whose sweet wines are a little on the raunchy side with 69 Ways to Have Fun and Skirt Lifter
Since opening, they’ve also established War Horse Brewing Co, a full scale brewery making a range of beers from sours to stouts as well as soda, and Iron Heart Cafe, which has their own cold brew coffee and a delicious menu.
Now, when guests arrive on site, they can literally spend the day. It’s a wine and beer trail in itself. Visitors have the option to purchase a $20 tasting pass, which gets them samples of wine at each of the three wineries, a beer flight at the brewery, and some discounts on merchandise.
Attention to Detail
What impressed me about the different locations on the estate was the attention to detail, and while talking with the co-owners, it became abundantly clear that each of these decisions was made with clear intention.
As you wander through each of the wineries, you notice that it isn’t just that the decorations and wines change with the theme- it’s all the little details as well, creating a completely different experience. At Stony Lonesome, when you’re clearing your palate, you have the option of classic oyster crackers, whereas this offering is crunchy crackers at Passion Feet and pretzels at Bagg Dare. It’s a small decision. The staff is even dressed differently, with the Stony Lonesome tasting person wearing a collared shirt and khakis, and the bartender at Bagg Dare in a black sweater and jeans. The menus even fit the locations, with descriptions of the wines varying to fit the level of engagement they are anticipating: longer notes about flavor and awards at Stony Lonesome, where there are quirky names and fun descriptions at Passion Feet.
Guests may not even notice some these differences, but it adds to the overall feeling of cohesion—the differences aren’t just a veneer, they are embedded within each location.
Tasting in the cellar with Three Brothers’ new winemakers, Kim and Paige, revealed that they’re not just making the standard wines that this place is known for—they are experimenting and playing around with their wine to share totally new creations. While chatting, we learned that the winery in general promotes experimentation, whether it’s testing out a new type of grape or finding interesting collaborations between the winemakers and brewers. This approach has been present from the beginning—when Dave and Luanne bought the property in 2006, they planted a number of obscure varietals for the region, like Barbera and Zweigelt, just to see what would happen!
Kim and Paige’s first experimental wine was released as part of the Pilot Series, a line of wines where they are free to play with what the vintage provides. This fun and playful wine, called Instant Gratification, is a Nouveau-ish style Zweigelt and Riesling blend that was released just after harvest. Now, they are experimenting with a Vidal Blanc aged on the lees for a year, producing a fascinating and nostalgia inducing Trix cereal type nose (milk included), and are planning to do more with yeast from testing new strains to wild ferments.
But it isn’t just the staff who’s experimenting, they want guests to have that experience as well, which is one of the reasons they are making different styles of wine at their different wineries. It gives visitors the opportunity to explore everything from a classic Merlot to a bourbon barrel aged Barbera to a sweet Cayuga perfect for picnics.
What was clear in every conversation we had, whether it was with the owners, winemakers or tasting room staff, was that people truly love being a part of the Three Brothers team and are dedicated to making it a better experience for their guests. Their enthusiasm for their work is contagious, it’s an authentic kind of excitement that makes you want to be a part of it.
You may not be a fan of sweet wine, or you may not love beer, but that’s the beauty of this place—there’s something for everyone. You can enjoy a classic dry oaked Chardonnay while your friend sips sweet Moscato and your child enjoys an orange soda (also made in house) over lunch in their café.
2018 Pilot Series Instant Gratification
- Why this wine? It’s Kim and Paige’s first wine they’ve produced at Three Brothers, and also, it’s totally fascinating—Nouveau-style Zweigelt? You’ve got to try it!
- Varietal: 97% Zweiglet and 3% Riesling
- Appellation: Finger Lakes/Seneca Lake
- Tasting Note: The nose begins with bright aromas of cranberry and fresh green herbs, with hints of orange peel. Ripe cherries, raspberry, and orange zest fill the palate, and its’ acidity is balanced out by a touch of sweetness.
2016 Stony Lonesome Zweigelt/Cabernet Sauvignon
- Why this wine? Nearly every staff member told us we had to try this wine, and we are so glad we did. This is a great alternative to Meritage and Bordeaux blends.
- Varietal: 70% Zweiglet and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Appellation: Finger Lakes/Seneca Lake
- Tasting Note: Jammy raspberry and cherry, with touches of fennel and licorice, make for an enchanting nose that is complemented by a blueberry and strawberry palate, with just enough tannin to leave you wanting more and a pop of acid to balance the full body.
- Why this wine? Part of their Women of Distinction series whose labels are just divine, this is a super fun sparkling wine that is going to be great for summer entertaining.
- Varietal: 100% Barbera
- Appellation: Finger Lakes/Seneca Lake
- Tasting Note: Bright strawberry, citrus and peach pop on the nose and continue on the palate with clementine and lime. It’s effervescence offsets the sweetness, and there’s a lovely leafy green acidity.