Award-winning wine made in New York garage

Justin Head

An Upstate New York man has an award-winning winery — right in his garage.

Larry Doty of Hornell won four gold metals at the Cuba Garlic Festival’s amateur wine-making contest in September. 

“You don’t have to be all sophisticated to make a good wine, you just have to know what you are doing,” Doty said.

Doty entered three wines at the event, and his wife, Kathy, entered one. All four of the wines won gold metals, and one was dubbed the best wine in the competition. The wines they entered were a Cayuga, Cayuga-Reisling mix, Chamborcin, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Larry Doty’s Cabernet Sauvignon won the grand champion award.

“I’m really honored and surprised to have won it,” said Larry Doty, adding, “I thought the Cayuga came out the best.”

He first made wine 20 years ago with his father-in-law and never lost his fascination with the process.

“Back then, it was old school. It was just a bunch of Italian guys fermenting grapes in a barrel,” Doty said.

Although the process has changed, Doty said the biggest factor to making good wine is luck.

Some of the equipment he uses today is the same equipment his father-in-law used back then. Doty purchased about $300 worth of new supplies three years ago and set up a mini-winery in his garage.

“To make one gallon of wine you need about 15 to 20 pounds of grapes,” Doty said. He gets his grapes from local wineries.

He uses six-gallon glass containers and different types of yeast to make about 300 bottles a year. He bottles, corks and labels the wine with his wife. Doty keeps the wine for personal use and gives it to friends and family as gifts. Doty also enjoys popping bottles during an Easter wine-tasting celebration he has at his house.

“Every year I ferment with different types of yeast and this gives the wine different flavors,” said Doty. If he wants his wine to have an oak flavor he adds oak chips to his containers. The yeast is not the only part that fluctuates, the grapes are different every year too.

“The acid content of the grapes may be too high or too low, so you have to use a little chemistry in the process,” said Doty, adding, “You have to balance the acidity and the PH.”

Doty has only made dry wines in the past, but plans on working with Valvin muscat grapes to make sweet wine next year.

Barbara Buono, who coordinated the amateur wine-making contest with her husband, said the wine competition is becoming increasingly popular. She has received inquires about next year’s event from areas as far as Rochester and Pennsylvania. Buono said she sold more than 400 tastings this year.

The amateur wine competition had 34 wines entered into the contest from 14 people, Buono said. There were eight wine categories and three judges rate the wines assigning point values to the wine’s appearance, aroma and taste. The points are then added up to determine winners. The judges write individual comments for each of the wines entered.

“The whole process is pretty exciting,” Buono said. She noted the competition has repeat contestants and hopes to see Doty in next year’s event.

“This is Larry’s first year, so he really did a great job.” 

Doty said he plans on entering the festival’s competition next year and may even take a shot at the state fair. 

The Evening Tribune