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 I moved to Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of up-state New York around 2004 when we first purchased the 34 acre property. Mike moved east before me 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 I’ve ever worked with.
I arrived in the Finger Lakes a few years later, leaving my position as Vice President of Viticulture and Enology R&D at a large corporate California winery to start a new life with my husband. My focus is on winemaking, sales and marketing for Red Tail Ridge. Once we reach veraison (the onset of ripening), I usually walk the vineyard constantly to taste the fruit and assess ripeness. Once we harvest, I move my focus away from the vineyard and concentrate on the wine production process and eventually sales.
I also spend a lot of time on the road doing my other jobs. I own a vineyard and winery technical consulting company called “The Answer Grape” which provides troubleshooting, consulting and contract research support to the wine and grape industry.