February 29, 2024
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In this interview Sid Patel, CEO of Beverage Trade Network and USA Wine Ratings chats with Joseph Patrick, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Jones Family Farms on what are the top skills you a winemaker must have’ and here is what he had to say.
Time management is the most important skill a winemaker must have, of course besides their own personal winemaking style. Logistics is the biggest factor in almost every decision you make in this industry. effectively managing your time can lead to better fulfillment of winemaking procedures and practices. When you complete your duties in an effective and efficient manner you will have a consistent, high-quality product.
Joseph Patrick graduated with a degree in viticulture and enology and joined the Jones winemaking team as a winemaker in 2020. He has previously worked at the renowned Red Newt Cellars and the Glacier Ridge Vineyards on Seneca Lake. Since his return to Jones, Joe's varied experience and expertise have elevated the wines to a new level. From planting to bottling, winemaker Joseph Patrick is in charge of all parts of the process.
My introduction to the Wine industry is a bit unorthodox. As a high school freshman, I began working part-time at a local Farm/ Winery. As my role there grew, so did my interest in Agriculture and Wine. Overflowing with curiosity and ambition, I began drafting ideas. I knew I had to try my hand at making a batch of wine. Keep in mind that I was just turning 15 years old at the time, so this proved quite the challenge. Between my studies and a part-time job, I devoted all of my time to researching what it would take to make wine. A few weeks later, I had my ducks in a row and was ready to proceed. I discussed this winemaking proposal with my parents, who found it quite hilarious at the time. With their blessing, I could order all the required equipment to produce my first batch of wine.
Skipping ahead a few months, I'm bottling my very first wine. It was a fortified blueberry wine. I had decided on blueberry as it was wintertime and fresh Winemaking Grapes were unavailable. To my entire family's surprise, it actually wasn't too bad. Being the ambitious teenager I was, I entered Winemaker Magazine's Amateur competition. Little did I realize this would be a pivotal moment in my career. To almost everyone's surprise, my wine took home a bronze medal. Now 16, you can imagine the rush I felt winning even the smallest metal available. At this moment, I felt such a desire for more.
Over the next few months, I continued making batch after batch of wine before showing some of these rudimentary wines to my boss, who ran the local Winery. The result of this conversation allowed me to pursue more hours in the vineyard and winery. By the time I was 17 years old, I was nearly a full-time employee. I couldn't get enough; it had gone from passion to a crazy obsession.
Based on my academic success, I was able to graduate high school a few months early. I later went full-time at the winery for nearly a year until moving to the Finger Lakes Wine region to diversify my education and work experience. I enrolled in Finger Lakes Community College's Viticulture and Enology program. While a full-time student, I worked for Red Newt cellars and Glacier Ridge Vineyard.
I feel my time at FLCC and my Experience at Red Newt excelled me to a new classification of a winemaker. I was no longer self-taught, reading second-hand how-to books. I could now work with the newest and most cutting-edge equipment and technology. Additionally, while working alongside renowned Winemakers.
Before graduation, I was approached by my original Winery. While I had other opportunities on the table, there was something sentimental about where it all began. I accepted the position and worked alongside the other winemaker at the time. Within a year, I was promoted to Head Winemaker and Vineyard manager. I fell in love with this industry extremely young and never looked back. In my younger years, there was always a 'magnetic' pull toward Winemaking.
I recently won "Best Overall Grape Wine" and "Best Connecticut Wine" at the 2022 Big E Wine competition at just 22 years old. It's mindboggling to think a Wine produced when I was just 21 years old, surpassed Wineries from Seven states.
I am currently the Head Winemaker and Vineyard Manager for a 6500 case Winery and 15 Acre Vineyard. I am solely responsible for producing all the wine and overseeing the cultivation of the Grapes. It's a one-man show here, meaning I do everything from ordering the corks/labels to filtering, fermenting, and bottling the wine. As crazy as it sounds, I am the only Winemaker here. My day-to-day drastically changes from week to week. Some weeks are devoted to stabilizing and filtering wines, and others are devoted to paperwork and harvest logistics. I only utilize external labor during bottling and crush days. I physically need employees around to operate some machinery.
Since coming on board full-time again, I've changed nearly every wine in the portfolio and added six new wines overall. Our retail and wholesale sales have skyrocketed. At the start of 2022, I also started a wine club for devoted community members.