By Steve Yablonski
Winery business in Constantia recently recognized for entrepreneurial effort, award-winning wines
In 2012, Rick and Elizabeth Hamilton embarked on their dream of opening a winery— Grace Tyler Estate Winery—when they purchased 15 acres of land in Constantia.
“Our name is from our middle names, Grace and Tyler,” Rick said.
He is the owner and winemaker and is in charge of vineyard operations. Elizabeth is co-owner and the vineyard manager. He works full time at the business; Elizabeth, his wife, also owns and operates her own insurance business in the area.
The winery was built between 2015 through 2018. The building features upcycled wood from aspen poplar trees grown on the property. The bar is made from a neighbor’s maple tree that had to be cut down, as it was a hazard to the house.
Total annual production at winery varies from 1,800 to 2,000 cases of wine.
“Central New York has challenges in weather. But we grow cold-hardy grapes and we have done well with the cold weather,” Rick said.
Marquette, Diamond and Brianna are grape varieties that the Hamiltons grow.
“We just recently won a double gold for our Marquette Rosé and that was in the international rosé competition American Fine Wine,” Rick added.
Rick has been making wine for more than 12 years now and is self-taught. He went to Syracuse University for chemical engineering and Elizabeth graduated with a biology and chemistry degree from Le Moyne College.
Both backgrounds offer a lot of insight into the technical details of growing grapes and wine making.
He was a member of the former Northern New York Grape Growers Association.
“We were involved in a grape growing organization in Northern New York and took interest in grape growing—we wanted to grow grapevines. And so we planted our first acre sometime around 2011-ish,” Elizabeth said.
Within the first year of ownership, they planted their first acre of grapevines, which were Marquette and Diamond, both hybrid grapes. In 2013, they planted more Marquette as well as another cold weather hybrid, Brianna.
Having grown their vines for five growing seasons, the Hamiltons had their first harvest in 2017.
“We decided to sell the wine and open a winery in 2017, since we had our first harvest in 2017,” she said.
Their largest harvest was their Marquette grapes, which contributed to the production of the couple’s Marquette Rosé. Having produced 30 cases of Marquette Rosé, this award-winning wine “sold out in three months and continues to please.”
In 2018, the Hamiltons harvested Marquette, Brianna and Diamond grapes. It was an exceptional growing year and “one of the best vintages thus far,” they said.
The Marquette grapes were once again used to produce a rosé that the couple currently enters in competitions.
“We have won the most awards for our Estate Grown Marquette Rosé,” she said. “However, I would say that all of our wines are high quality and produced in small batches in order to ensure the highest quality.”
The winery has been the recipient of 15 awards at 10 wine competitions between 2017-21. The awards included four bronze, seven silver and four gold medals.
They were also cited by Operation Oswego County, Oswego County’s designate economic development agency, in June. They received the 2022 Dee Heckethorn Entrepreneur Award for establishing the winery (making award-winning wines) and enhancing the growing tourism industry on the north shore of Oneida Lake in Oswego County.
The number of employees at the business varies; but currently they have around 10.
One unique feature of the winery is that it is accessible by the Vanderbilt Snowmobile Trail.
“The trail runs through the back of our property,” Rick said. The Vanderbilt Snowmobile Club maintains 20 miles of the main corridor trails in Oswego County. The trails connect east/west from Cleveland to West Monroe and north up to Panther Lake providing easy access to the Tug Hill region from Oneida Lake.
The winery not only sells its own wine, but also offers locally produced hard cider and craft beer as well as cheese, popcorn and dipping sauces.
“We take a lot of pride in our wines and operations,” Rick said.
On Friday evenings through the summer they offer live music performed by Central New York’s most talented musicians.
Dogs are welcomed at Grace Tyler Estate Winery.
In fact, the Hamiltons raise money for a senior dog rescue every fall.
“We take pictures of the dogs that enter the premises over the year and showcase them in our dog calendar,” Elizabeth said. “All proceeds are donated and it raises money for a great local cause.”
The Hamiltons employ passionate wine experts from various backgrounds. “From picking the grapes to bottling the wine, our team of professionals is committed to bringing out the greatest flavors available in nature and turning them into fine wine for our guests to enjoy,” according to their website. ϖ