Fumie's Sphere

Insights into the worlds of winemaking and nature

Fialka Story April 29, 2015

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 8:34 pm
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“Trillium” was created by the request for the sweeter styled wines, and was first released in July, 1994 when the construction of our Wine Shop was completed. Its abundant flavor of fresh grapes and mild sweeter taste gained the popularity very quickly, and it was sold out by the end of 1994.

In July 1995 a mail arrived from a winery in Midwest claiming that the name “Trillium” was theirs as they had registered that name as a trade mark of one of their wines. After a short debate we decided to change the name of this beloved wine. We asked for a suggestion of a new name for this wine through our newsletters as a form of “contest” — if we chose the name you gave to us, you’d get a free case of the wine with the new label!

FialkaDuring the holiday season of 1995 Fumie’s old college professor visited us with his family and one of her classmates. When he walked in, he immediately saw the bottle of Trillium on display on our tasting counter. He took it in his hands and said, “So, is this the troubled wine?” He already knew about the debate from the newsletter we’d mailed out. As soon as he said so, his cousin from Slovakia exclaimed, “Oh, that’s Fialka!” We all turned our heads toward him as the name he yelled sounded very nice for a name of the wine. We told him to officially write the name down onto a piece of paper that we had ready for the visitors to write in their suggested new names for the wine. He told us that the illustration of the trilliums on the label reminded him of the flowers they call “fialka” in Slovakia. Following spring when we had the new labels ready, he took a case of the brand new Fialka wine back home to Slovakia.

Over the years we’ve learned that “fialka” means “violet” in English, and fairly common in the Slavic languages such as Slovak, Russian, Ukrainian, etc. If you have the relatives or friends who came from that direction, ask them if they know the word and its meaning. Most likely they do!

The composition of Fialka has remained basically the same over these years. Diamond contributes the abundant fresh grape taste and flavor while Catawba gives it the spiciness and good acid to counterpart the sweetness. Cayuga White then somehow mediates the entire package to the subtle mildness — that’s the way we feel. The name “Trillium” was originally chosen as the wine was a blend of these three varieties about the same portion of each.

Now you’ve got the story, so get a bottle or two to bring back home to enjoy!


Voice of Spring April 8, 2015

Two years in a row we experienced a frigid winter. This year it came with the honor of February 2015 being the coldest month in history in much of the eastern U.S. It was cold indeed, but while being busy with lots of paperwork and shoveling the snow, it went away like a dream.

In March I did three watercolor paintings that will become the new labels this year. I introduced my old customer-friend who gave me his painting in the last newsletter. Perhaps he motivated me to pick up my brushes again this winter. It was fun that came with new learning. I’m now so thrilled to put the new labels on the bottles in the next month or so. As usual they had to go through the approval process by the Federal agency, and I just got it a few days ago. Now it’s time to bring them to the printer.

Snow has mostly receded from the vineyards. It’s time to get out there and start moving. Red-tailed hawks and crows are arguing who will get the spot on the telephone pole. I would rather listen to the finches and cardinals chat — I’m now waiting to hear the loud killdeers overhead and in the twilight the nasal whispers of wood thrushes and nighthawks in the wood.


Our Story March 20, 2015

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 9:20 pm
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The Barn of Straubing Vineyard under construction in 1978

The Barn of Straubing Vineyard under construction in 1978

Bob Straubing of Newark, New York, was a great wine aficionado as well as an amateur winemaker all his life that motivated him to create his own winery. He prepared one acre out of 50 acres of his newly purchased property in East Bay area in Wayne County, New York, for planting grape vines. His first planting consisted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon on half of the cultivated soil in 1978. The following year he planted Cayuga White on the other half. Soon he realized that Cabernet Sauvignon would not grow well in his vineyard so he replaced them with Riesling. He named his new venture Straubing Vineyard.

As the vines matured, he started making wine using his own grapes. His production soon exceeded the Federal limit of 200 gallons per year for a family so he went to get a license. The birth of the first farm winery in Wayne County took place in 1984. He put his winery for sale in 1988 when he decided to retire to Florida for the winter months.

Fumie Thorpe was born and grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and came to the United States in 1983 to study meteorology at SUNY Oswego. She married to Jock Thorpe, an electrician, in the fall of 1986 while staying in college. When her father came to visit in the summer of 1988, they happened to see Straubing Vineyard for sale. He thought it was interesting, and made an offer to Bob. The deal went through despite the strong opposition of Fumie. It turned out to be the beginning of Thorpe Vineyard.

She became the business owner and the primary workforce while still working for her college degree as Jock had a full time job that prohibited his constant involvement in the operation. She learned everything from scratch; grape growing, winemaking and business practices. The fortunate facts were that she had a strong scientific background as well as having Bob and his long time winemaking friend, Kemp Bloomer, to walk the way through for the first few years of her career. They both had the opportunities to learn some winemaking techniques from Dr. Konstantin Frank. She also frequented the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva and the Finger Lakes wineries and vineyards to enhance her learning. Their warm hospitality is still deeply appreciated by her.Fialka(2)

In 1991 she completed her meteorology degree with a minor in astronomy. Within a few years another 2 acres of vineyards were planted; expanding the same vinifera varieties, plus red French hybrids, Maréchal Foch and Chancellor. Moore’s Diamond was added in 2007 totaling 3 and half acers of vineyards to date. A good part of the wine currently crafted comes from these homegrown grapes: ever popular varietal Maréchal Foch, Riesling with mineral components enriched by the soil of the vineyards, the most award-winning Fialka whose predominant flavor is derived from Moore’s Diamond. She produces up to 1000 cases of wine per year at the present time.

The business operation has become solely on her own since her divorce in 2008. In the recent years she has brought her long time wish of Sunset Tasting and Starry Starry Night events to reality. Operating a winery was not in the original plan for her life, but it has given her the opportunity to live in a country that was once a dream of this city-born kid. It is truly delightful for her to see the splendid sunset over Lake Ontario and the countless stars shine whenever a clear night arrives. She watches the weather during the day to practice what she mastered in college to manage the grapes. On stormy winter days she might be in her lab to keep track on how the wine is maturing or preparing for the summer events in the coming season. “When no hope was left inside on that starry starry night,” the moment must become a new beginning.


You are cordially invited to come to experience a good blend
of the wine that reflects this location on our planet Earth and
the Universe that lies beyond us all.


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

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 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!


XXV November 1, 2013

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 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!


Crystals in the Bottle April 16, 2013

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 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.


Against All Odds: A Message at the Beginning of My 25th Year April 2, 2013

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 12:07 pm

Early Days

girl-scientist1When I was graduating from Elementary School, all the kids in the class were instructed to write down what they wanted to be in the future for the year book.  Many girls wrote down “Bride,” which meant that they wanted to be a good housewife and mother.  About 40 years ago in Japan it was a very appropriate wish.  Boys usually liked to be a policeman or firefighter.  It was also a respectable thought that they wanted to help keep the community safe and sound.

I wrote down “Scientist.”  I was fascinated by the accomplishment Marie Curie had made in the field of science during the last two years in elementary school.  She was my idol then, and still is.  However, I don’t really know what the rest of the class thought about my answer.  I was an odd bird hanging around the little school library reading about the scientists and explorers who made great discoveries in the world.


During the years in Junior High and High Schools my scientific curiosity switched from chemistry to earth science.  I acquired a small secondhand telescope and mastered how to swing it around under the light-polluted night sky of Tokyo.  Eventually my main interests shifted from astronomy to meteorology as I had to know about the weather to observe the stars.  It was probably as simple as that.

It was also the time period when another part of me developed the sincere appreciation of poetry and classical music.  I started to get associated with many school mates who I otherwise wouldn’t have even gotten to know.  Perhaps the funniest thing was that I could never belong to either one of the two groups alone.  I was again an odd bird that flew around the sciences and the arts, never really settling with one.

meteorology-icons-thumb24467101So when we, the High School kids, had to decide what to major in college, I couldn’t figure out what would be the best for me.  It was one of the, if not “the,” most important decisions we all faced in our lives about 30 years ago in Japan.  There was no “undeclared” major if we wanted to go to a college.  We MUST have an intended field of study to actually decide which college to attend.  Then we spent most of our school years studying to take the entrance examinations to colleges and universities hoping that we would be successful to be admitted to one of them at least.  There was hardly a second chance, and perhaps it was also true to our lives in general.

As this can be easily imagined, I couldn’t choose which way to go for a long time.  But eventually I picked meteorology merely to find that there was just one outrageously competitive college that exclusively taught it in Japan in those days.  Moreover, the college was only open to boys.  I was disappointed.  I turned my attention to go to the US.  While I stayed in Japan for another two years or so primarily studying English, this Meteorology College finally opened its door to girls.  But by then I was past their age limit so I was ineligible to take their test.

Oswego, New York

I came to the State University of New York at Oswego in September 1983.  Many people asked me why SUNY_Oswego_logoOswego despite the fact that there are so many colleges in the US which teach meteorology.  I always answered, “I expected to see a lot of interesting atmospheric phenomena up on the shore of Lake Ontario.”  And this Lake has kept up to my expectations for all these years.  Additionally I wanted to live in the country since I grew up and lived in one of the biggest cities in the world for over twenty years.  Cities are fun, but I always dreamed about the starry night right outside the window.  One quiet night I went grocery shopping.  I walked across the Oswego River and saw the stars reflecting on the calm water from the bridge.

When I started my freshman year, I was just about the age of regular seniors.  There was a friendly jargon at Oswego called “non-trads,” a shortened form of “non-traditional students.”  A traditional student starts his/her college right after high school and graduates in 4 years.  If anyone who didn’t quite fit into this scheme, they were called “non-trads.”  Incidentally, I got married during the third year which made me even more “non-trad” as well.  Then I wound up getting into the wine business another two years later — now I was older, married and had a business besides being a college kid.  I must have been an extraordinary “non-trad” in those days’ standards.

There were four girls besides me out of perhaps 40 or so students in the Meteorology Program when I started.  And there were no other foreign students, either.  I took the two-semester music course for my humanity distribution one year that later on was found out to be a fairly sophisticated musicology lecture.  The very first day the professor asked the class if any of us was a “hard science” major.  I didn’t understand what “hard science” meant so didn’t raise my hand.  No one else did.  Later on she told me that meteorology was a “hard science.”  Well, I learned a new term to describe me.  But I enjoyed the demanding course that was a mixture of the intensive readings of the Western history and appreciating the good classical music.   Overall it took me nine years to get the degree as I was part-time most of those years.


Thorpe Vineyard, the Little Winery on the Great Lake

It was the summer of 1988.  The small winery called Straubing Vineyard in the Town of Huron in Wayne County was purchased by my family purely by chance.  I was the only one who opposed, but my vote was totally disregarded by the rest.  So Straubing Vineyard became Thorpe Vineyard.  Wayne County has always been known for its apple and other tree fruits production, but there weren’t any other commercial wineries or vineyards to my knowledge then.  When I felt the necessity to discuss the vineyard and grape management as well as wine and winemaking, I learned to ride down to the Finger Lakes.  One time I was asked which Lake I was from.  I answered “Lake Ontario.”  That’s correct; it’s not a Finger Lake.  I still remember the surprised look I got.


Thorpe Vineyard

A few years ago my friend and I were supposed to meet at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva to attend a winemakers’ seminar.  As he was not familiar with the location, I tried to give him the instructions where to find me.  He chuckled and said, “You know, you are easy to spot around here!”  I know I’m a female Asian among mostly Caucasian male in the wine and grape industry in upstate New York. The situation is still pretty much the same as my college days when I was often the only girl among 10 to 20 students in the classroom.

Invitation: Now and Beyond

When I look back, I’ve lived most of my life against so-called stereotyped ideas regardless where I am.Fumie Thorpe in the Lake Store The environments were not always accommodating.  I have, however, noticed the slow but sure changes taking place in the last decade or so, and they have given me some optimism.

I used to feel awkward when I heard the term “diversity.”  I couldn’t figure out the focal point of the word.  However, I’m now starting to see that it could deliver the unity to the whole picture.  It is like the entire world coming together by accepting all the diversity inside.

So here I am, the odd bird putting a few different components under the same roof again this year.  It was the Sunset Tasting last year; as I wanted to share the gift of the glorious sunset over the Lake while the visitors enjoyed the wine that came from my vineyards.  Fortunately many people joined the evenings, and we saw the green flash once.  The success encouraged me to plan the Starry Starry Night four times this summer.  I will talk about the Mythology of both West and East while showing how to find the constellations.  We’ll get out beneath the shining stars to realize what our Planet has to offer, and to learn how to embrace our Universe that holds us within.


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