How does a sky-gazing native of Tokyo end up growing grapes and making wine in a remote corner of rural Wayne County?
Fumie Thorpe’s story begins with a simple love of the sky and weather. She came to New York in 1983 to study meteorology and astronomy at State University of New York at Oswego. “It’s been over a quarter-century since I left my hometown city of 11 million to take up residence on the quiet shores of Lake Ontario.”
During her studies, Fumie Thorpe’s father came for a visit with intentions of investing in American real estate. After viewing countless properties, the Tokyo businessman was intrigued by a tiny commercial winery with an acre of vines, owned by longtime amateur winemaker Bob Straubing. The barn housed a Japanese-made Kubota tractor. “My dad fell in love with that tractor. I still strongly believe that if it had been a John Deere or New Holland, he wouldn’t have been interested in purchasing this winery,” recalls Thorpe.
The purchase was made and Fumie was thrust into a venture she’d never foreseen. But her keen scientific proclivities and deep-rooted sense of duty immediately kicked in. With help from Straubing and fellow amateur winemaker Kemp Bloomer, Thorpe learned how to make wine and grow grapes. Her steady determination and hard work has paid off, as Thorpe’s wines have earned gold medals at the National Women’s Wine Competition. She has also medaled in other competitions.
Thorpe jokes about her minority status, both as a woman in the male-dominated field of winemaking, and as an Asian in Wayne County. “I’m easy to spot in a crowd around here,” she says.
When asked if she is happy about the accident that befell her, Thorpe’s indirect yet practical response offers a quiet sense of contentment. “I like to live in the country,” says Thorpe, whose home offers plenty of sun and clouds and rain and birds and stars to observe. “When you think about it, this isn’t a bad way to make a living.”
bio courtesy of Karen Miltner