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Red Tail Ridge winery is owned and operated by Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, a husband and wife team, who are dedicated to producing fine wine in the Finger Lakes.
Mike and Nancy moved to Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of up-state New York around 2004 when they first purchased the 35 acre property. Mike moved east before Nancy and began the long process of clearing and preparing the land for vineyard development. The property was primarily woods and scrub trees, so he had his hands full clearing trees, picking rocks, pulling stumps, leveling soil and placing drain tile. Very, very glamorous stuff! Before embarking on this project, he was working for a national company that rents heavy equipment to consumers. Mike used to manage the financial service center that supported most of the individual locations west of the Mississippi. He’s a numbers-guy, with a lot of hands-on and practical experience in heavy equipment and construction. Winegrowing is a second career for Mike. He picked up the basics quickly and has proven to be a great partner in trying new approaches and thinking “outside the box”. Mike is also one of the most meticulous and exacting viticulturists that Nancy has ever worked with.
Nancy arrived in the Finger Lakes a few years later, leaving her position as Vice President of Viticulture and Enology R&D at a large corporate California winery to start a new life with her husband. Her focus is on winemaking, sales and marketing for Red Tail Ridge. Once Red Tail Ridge reaches veraison (the onset of ripening), she usually walks the vineyard constantly to taste the fruit and assess ripeness. Then once harvest has started, she moves her focus away from the vineyard and concentrates on the wine production process and eventually sales. Together the two have combined their skills to produce a variety of premier wines from the beautiful vineyard that is now Red Tail Ridge Winery.