Fumie's Sphere

Insights into the worlds of winemaking and nature

We’re Celebrating Our Triple Win and More! April 2, 2014

Filed under: At The Winery — fumiethorpe @ 9:02 pm

ImageThorpe Vineyard is excited to announce that we received 1 Silver and 3 Bronze Medals for our newest wines in the 2014 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition!!

We were awarded: SILVER for our Georgia Sampson Rosé “Murdered”, BRONZE for XXV, BRONZE for Oliver Curtis Perry White “Insane,” and BRONZE for Big Ed Kelly Red “Robbed!”

In the competition there were…
Wines entered: 3756
Countries entered: 20
States entered: All 50!
Canadian Provinces entered: 6

There was also 75 of the World’s top judges from 16 countries!


Coming Spring

Filed under: Nature — fumiethorpe @ 8:56 pm

I picked another old poem from my library to long for the spring. It was written in February 1983 during my last spring in Tokyo before heading for Oswego in September. “Daphne” in this poem is an evergreen shrub of Chinese origin, , that is praised for its small fragrant flowers. It’s probably too cold here to grow them outdoors, but does anyone know if they are available now in the U.S.??Image

Coming Spring
by Fumie Thorpe

Periodic precipitation is
a sure sign of spring.
Each raindrop must be encouraging
the greens to burst in the soil.


The north wind is howling; though,
the sun is shining through the city streets.
The florets of the Daphne have just started to show their white interiors
as if to fill my sight with their scent already.


It makes me feel dizzy somehow when
I think of the best of the spring;
that is promised to arrive here


from as far as where our dreams go
to embrace us all with the flowers and songbirds;
and nothing more than the blessing of that southerly breeze.


Remembering a Poem… February 26, 2014

Filed under: Nature — fumiethorpe @ 11:15 pm

This is my “Starry Starry Night,” originally written in Japanese in December 1993. I was startled by knowing that it was 20 years ago!

“Vincent” or “Starry Starry Night”
by Fumie Thorpe

Orion and Canis Major dominated the view outside the window.
When I skimmed along the horizon; I thought I saw,
I thought I caught the twinkle of Canopus [1]
on the eastbound toll highway many years ago.


The memory continues to embrace me, but
here I am on this northern land where
Big Dipper clears the Lake effortlessly.
Canopus has no chance to come into my sight.


When the twilight fades into the darkness of the night,
Northern Cross emerges to stand firmly in the western sky.
The vigorous flow of Milky Way surrounds it, then
gently streams through the Autumn constellations in the southern sky.


If I couldn’t find any hope in this Starry Starry Night,
perhaps I wouldn’t be able to carry on.
Just like the moment when
you lost yourself in that Starry Starry Night. [2]

[1] The alpha star of Carina, Canopus is the second brightest star in the heaven. It was called “the Star of the Old Man” in ancient China, and was believed to grant a long life to those who could glimpse it from the latitude around 35°N, where it rises only a few degrees above the horizon that makes it very difficult to be seen.

[2] If you’d like to see an insight of this poem, go to my blog to read my short essay “Starry Starry Night” from our February 2013 Newsletter.


XXV November 1, 2013

Filed under: At The Winery — fumiethorpe @ 5:11 am

This time 25 years ago the property transfer was completed and ImageThorpe Vineyard was formally incorporated on October 31, 1988. I remember writing the date “November 01, 1988” down on the applications for the Federal Permit to be a Bonded Winery and the Farm Winery License to the New York State Liquor Authority. It was the official beginning of this Little Winery on the Great Lake. The permit and license, however, didn’t get here until the summer of 1989 when it finally became legal for us to start selling our products.

I don’t remember what brought the idea of having a special wine when the tenth anniversary was approaching in 1997. It is very likely that we saw other wineries’ ads promoting their own milestone anniversaries. So our tenth anniversary wine was named “Once in a Blue Moon,” released in 1998. It came from my liking of stars with the implication that this wouldn’t happen very often. Certainly a milestone anniversary doesn’t happen every year. It was a blend of Chardonnay and Riesling both grown in our own vineyard but never blended together in the bottle before.

The plan for the fifteenth anniversary wine came much sooner than 2003. The friend grape growers on Keyuka Lake often told us about one red variety that they had many fans of. We were listening to them but never really thought about making wine out of it. So this time when the next milestone anniversary approached, we decided to give it a try. It was the first time I made wine from the variety called Carmine. It was developed by the viticulturist in California; American made but a true vinifera variety cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignane. As it has a hefty Bordeaux parentage, it cannot be bottled in the following year from the harvest. It has to be aged at least extra year or two before bottling. We got the grapes in 2001 to get ready for the fifteenth anniversary in 2003. This was the second “Once in a Blue Moon” we had.

How many of these have you tried?

How many of these have you tried?

The twentieth anniversary wine in 2008 was Traminette. This variety was developed by the Cornell breeding program down in Geneva and was just officially named and released in those days. It was again highly recommended by another friend grower on Canandaigua Lake this time. It is a white variety so looked appropriate to set the pattern alternating between white and red. I put a label that had a picture of my dog, Tooley, and called it “Tooley’s Traminette.”

Somewhere around my 20th anniversary, some changes were taking place. Thorpe Vineyard was the only winery in Wayne County for a long time, but other wineries started to emerge. And other commercial grape growers, too. What a change! I worked with one of them closely for a number of years, and interestingly they planted some Carmine on their farm. I made trial wines from their grapes including Carmine — and, yes, what a naughty kid it was!! I started to wonder if it was my fault to mention Carmine to them. Perhaps the soil; perhaps the weather; or maybe something else…..

In the fall of 2011 I purchased some of these Wayne County grown Carmine again. I crushed and fermented, then pressed them out into a tank. The must was still fizzing, but it appeared to be totally different from the previous years. I recalled the words of the viticulturist in the Finger Lakes that the vines reach their maturity in 5 years when they finish exploring the soil they are planted in. Surely it was getting about 5 years since they planted their vineyards. So the vines must have found where they should have reached along this big Lake — best wishes to their future!

It would be a silver anniversary, but it would be a turn for a red. So maybe I could do a red. I started to plan to bottle this 2011 Carmine for my 25th anniversary by the end of summer 2012. Now I needed a label for this. My tasting room attendant, Judy, first got to know Abby and Bob Mills from Florida a few years ago when they started to come to our tasting room. Last summer I had a few occasions to chat with them and got an interesting idea for the anniversary label.


I can work with that!

One afternoon I walked in to the tasting room as it looked from outside too crowded for one attendant to take care of the business. I was inside the bar for a while then when it started slowing down, I could see Abby quietly sitting at the table next to the picture window in the room. Bob was talking with other customers so I walked up to say hello to her and we started chatting. She knew of my search for a design of the anniversary label and with a pencil and a piece of paper in hand drew “XXV” based on Bob’s gift to her for their wedding anniversary one year. “I like Roman letters,” she said.

I kept tossing the idea around during the winter.  I talked with Judy, and my web designer, Vicki, who inserted 1988 and 2013 between the Roman letters, and other helpers around.  By the time I got a rough proof from the label printer, Abby and Bob were back from Florida for their summer in upstate New York.  They helped me bottling lots of wine this summer including XXV.  Now all we needed was the label approval from the Federal Government.  And that turned out to be a total surprise to me as there was a LONG waiting line even to get a specialist assigned to examine my application.  They had a website just to post the period to be on the waiting list.  What happened!?  This is just like 25 years ago when all the procedure was taken care of by the snail mail!!

The Mills with XXV_1

Abby and Bob Mills

When I finally got an email that the label design was approved in mid-September, there were barely 2 weeks left until the Mills’ departure to Florida.  I emailed to the printer right away and miraculously the finished roll of the labels arrived the Friday before their leaving.  I’m sure the Fed-Ex driver, Dave, wondered why I popped out from the house when he pulled in to receive the little box that had the labels in.  Carolyn and I labeled up a few cases of this XXV and I emailed to the Mills.  They said they would stop by the next day.

It was a beautiful Saturday when the Mills came over with their BMW motorcycle for the last time, before setting it on their trailer to bring back home to Florida.  We walked out in the sun with the bottle of XXV in Abby’s hand to take a picture next to their machine.  They left for home in Florida that Sunday.  Another summer was gone, and the harvest 2013 was just waiting for me to give it a go sign.

By the way I found a handful of my second Once in a Blue Moon in my secret library.  Would anyone be interested in joining the “distant” vertical tasting of 2 different Carmines sometime?  Let me know!


Triplets July 10, 2013

Filed under: Nature — fumiethorpe @ 7:59 pm
from the spring 2005 edition of the Trillium Ridge Times

The last one was in 2002 when Jupiter resided in the constellation Gemini the Twins and was acting as their third brother to form the “Triplets.” Jupiter has an orbit of 12 years around the sun that means he travels each sign of the zodiac per year and completes a round in 12 years.

It was during the summer vacation of 1978 when Fumie first saw this “Triplets.” She was then a high school girl starting to face the answer-less question of the real world. She had books, friends, music and stars for her companions to deal with the situation; she was perhaps looking for a place to rest.

jupiter_ganyShe often read day and night and when looking outside, Jupiter was rising following Castor and Pollux, the Twins, all three forming a straight line just above the north-eastern horizon in the brightening morning sky. To her weary eyes the golden luster of the Mighty God Jupiter looked as if he had been forgiving everything.

The next conjunction was in 1990. She was working toward her meteorology degree at Oswego State as well as taking care of this haphazardly-started wine business. She was busy all summer long thus had no chance to see the sight.

By the way, why summer for the winter constellation Gemini?

The lineup of the three occurs when Jupiter is passing the Twins toward Cancer the Crab, the next sign of the zodiac. Because of the planet’s orbital properties, it can only happen when they ascend in late summer. The heavenly schedule is much more precise than we imagine.

Then came 2002… she raised her hopes for the event as she remembered the bad luck of 1990. But it turned out to be another disappointment and she was depressed for a while.

Sometime in the middle of August last year she suddenly woke up early in the morning. It was still dark so she walked up to a window to look outside: that is just the second nature of a long-time stargazer. She peeked out with probably only one eye open then got startled. There was the “Triplets” right there. “It shouldn’t be this year!” After being startled, in the next moment she realized it was Saturn, not Jupiter. But it brought her some cheer; how nice it would have been if she could have seen this 2 years ago! There was brilliant Venus not far from Saturn adding grace to the scene.

So now Saturn is in Gemini passing by the Twins to be the “Triplets” for a while again this summer. Fumie opened her astronomy book and found that Saturn’s orbital period is 29 years. She thought for a moment and pulled out the oldest “book” of her poetry to surprise herself by finding a mention of the same event 29 years ago. She had officially started her composition, largely a form of poetry, a year before then and wonders if she will see this again 29 years from now.

It was well into fall by the time she saw Jupiter for the first time in the later viewing season of 2002. Being out longer in the evening through the night for the busy harvest time brought her the opportunity. It was a scintillating yellow light while climbing through the treetops. But once it cleared the obstacles along the horizon, there was no doubt that the golden sparkle was Jupiter himself. He was already in Cancer the Crab, approaching to another celestial spectacle, the Beehive open cluster.

The life wasn’t easy then. But it doesn’t mean that it is better now. Unanswered questions are still here. And Jupiter, of course, remains silent.

“Though you have already advanced your step; the mighty God, you are there still smiling.”

She went back inside and noted in her book.


May Flowers May 23, 2013

Filed under: Nature — fumiethorpe @ 6:59 pm

The following article first appeared in the spring 2001 edition of the Trillium Ridge Times. As Memorial Day weekend nears, the irises are extending their flower stalks every day. Their flower buds have just started to show the hint of purple — it’s merely a part of the annual ritual to them, but it sometimes brings so much to us who see and appreciate their beings. I’d expect to see their blossoms on Memorial Day weekend this year again; hopefully many of you could join…..

Fumie Thorpe

May Flowers
from the spring 2001 edition of the Trillium Ridge Times

When we moved out from our old house two years ago, we dug up the yard here and there to bring over some flowers bulbs to the winery with us. We made a small flower bed along the front wall of the winery barn and put them there hoping that the transplanting procedure was successful. We had snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinths, white violets, lillies of the valley, irises and daylilies. Fortunately they all seemed to have survived the move. However, perhaps because the transplant took place in May, a little later in the season than it should have been, the irises didn’t develop any flowers that year. Even the daylilies had only a few flower stalks. We were disappointed but had to be satisfied with the fact that we didn’t lose any of them.

Last year, the second year in the same flower bed for them, were anxious to see if they would all come back again in the spring. It started with snowdrops, then shortly after daffodils and hyacinths came around quickly. About that time, irises and daylilies were showing their new growth. By the time iris blades were about a foot tall, we started to see a flower stalk extending from the center of each of the four plants. We were delighted.

irisesThese irises had been, in fact, neglected for a long, long time. They were planted right next to the cellar way of our old house where it remained shady most of the time. We don’t even know who planted them or when. While we had a project to build a few rabbit hutches for our pet bunnies years ago, we wound up leaving some of the materials on and around them for quite a while. Still they put out flowers every now and then; to tell the truth, some years we didn’t even look at them during the bloom at all. By the time they flower in May, we were always so busy at the winery that we wouldn’t bother going to the backyard to see them after we got home in the evening. So it was, in a sense, almost miraculous that we dug them up and brought over here.

After having a few warm days, a stiff northerly breeze brought cool weather for the Memorial Day weekend. It was Friday morning. We walked out to the barn to start doing things when we saw all four flower stalks had their first flowers opening. The flowers were fully open by mid-afternoon and the lavender-colored, delicate petals were fluttering in the breeze. How beautiful they were in the bright sun! They continued to bloom for about a week pleasing us during the entire holiday weekend. They are still under deep snow at this moment in mid-March. But the sun is getting higher in the sky telling us of the things to come. When all the snow disappears; when the vineyards turn green; when all the summer birds are back around and chattering; we’ll long to see the May flowers that had been forgotten for a long time.


Crystals in the Bottle April 16, 2013

Filed under: At The Winery — fumiethorpe @ 5:33 pm

The following article first appeared in the April 1998 issue of our print newsletter, the Trillium Ridge Times.  As this phenomenon occurs once in a while, we thought this would be very appropriate and informative to post here again.


They may look like snowflakes or little lumps at the bottom of the bottle.  These crystals are mostly potassium bitartrate, also known as “cream of tartar” in a cookbook.  They form from potassium ions and tartaric acid that are both naturally present in grapes, hence in wine.

A very small portion could be calcium tartrate, similar to potassium bitartrate but the only difference is that this is a calcium compound rather than potassium.  Calcium is also a natural constituent of grapes and wine.They may be large or small in size.  They may form a thin disc at the bottom or just a few crystals you barely see.  They are usually transparent white crystals but in wine they may be ivory, brown, red or purple by picking up the pigments in wine.

When wine gets chilled, the solubility of these tartrate salts decreases so the crystals form and precipitate to the bottom.  In the wine making process we intentionally try to do it in the bulk containers.  It is called “cold stabilization” or we say that “we cold stabilize” the wine.  Since the procedure removes a portion of tartaric acid, the main acid existing in wine, the wine becomes less acidic and milder in taste afterwards.


Many small-scale wineries like us rely on the cold temperature during winter to chill down the wine, where larger wineries would use refrigeration systems.  Thus we can get into a little trouble when we have a mild winter like these past two years.  Our cellar does not get cold enough for the wine to stabilize naturally.  What could possibly happen later is that the bottle of wine decides to undergo the cold stabilization all by itself — when the bottle is put in your refrigerator to be chilled and you get surprised at  the crystals in the bottle.

For the most part the crystallization process is temperature dependent; that is, it takes place when the wine is chilled as just mentioned.  However, it also has a small factor that it depends on time.  For example, you may eventually find a small amount of crystals in the bottle that you have been keeping in your cool wine cellar for an extended period of time, usually an order of a year or more.

Both potassium bitartrate and calcium tartrate are quite harmless to your health.  When you find the crystals in your wine, all you need to do is to decant the wine away from them and enjoy!  If our wine has produced excessive amount of crystals and you can’t feel very comfortable, please tell us about it.  We will be glad to exchange or refund, whichever you would prefer.



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