SHERIDAN - A recent survey conducted by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation found that Liberty Vineyards & Winery, of Sheridan, is one of just two vineyard and winery businesses in New York state to be operated by six generations of the same family.
"We knew our family had a long history of grape growing on this land, but it was really interesting to refresh our memories about names and dates as we did research for the survey," said Gary Burmaster, who owns the winery with his wife, Pam.
"It was great to learn that we are one of just two six-generation vineyard and winery operations in the state and the only one in the Lake Erie region," he continued.
After Reuben Butler purchased the farm in 1839, his son, Sheldon “Rufus” Butler, planted a vineyard in the 1860s. Liberty Vineyards has a wine, “Rufus Red,” that honors that first vineyard.
The survey was conducted by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation in order to find how many New York wineries had two or more generations which are or were involved in the grape and wine industry. As of April 1, of the 353 New York state wineries there were a total of 76 multi-generational wineries in the state, including 49 wineries with two generations involved in the grape and wine business, 15 with three, three with four, seven with five and two with six generations involved in the industry.
Reuben Butler, Gary Burmaster's great-great grandfather, purchased the farm in 1839. Reuben and his family began farming the land and, along with adult son, Sheldon "Rufus" Butler, planted a vineyard in the 1860s. Liberty Vineyards has a wine, "Rufus Red," that honors that first vineyard. Several acres of the original Concord vineyard established by Rufus and his father are still in production. The vineyard then passed to Sheldon "Rufus" and Lucinda Butler's daughter and son-in-law, Bessie (Butler) and Evan Burmaster. Bessie and Evan's son, Sheldon, and his wife, Ruth (Richter), carried on and expanded the vineyards, planting new varieties. Ruth had also grown up on a multi-generational family grape farm. Ruth and Sheldon's son, Gary continued to operate the grape farm and he and his wife, Pam founded Liberty Vineyards & Winery in 2008 to expand upon the family grape farm operation. Their daughter, Beth Margolis, Marketing Manager, is the 6th generation involved in the vineyard and winery.
"It's a lot of work, but it is also rewarding and fun - I guess that's why so many generations have chosen to stick around," said Margolis. "My six-month old son spends quite a bit of time around the winery too - maybe he'll decide to be the seventh generation involved in the business someday."