By Lenn Thompson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Ian Barry, winemaker at Swedish Hill Winery (as well as sister wineries Penguin Bay and Goose Watch) was studying English literature at SUNY New Paltz in 1997, when he answered a job posting placed by Adair Vineyards in the Hudson Valley.
What started as a summer job soon took him to Oregon to make pinot noir, Washington to make full-bodied reds, back to New York as assistant winemaker Heron Hill Winery, and finally to Swedish Hill in 2006, wherehe joined as assistant winemaker. After successfully running the 2006 harvest, Ian was promoted to head winemaker in the spring of 2007 and he's still there today.
Ian met his wife Tricia in the spring of 2006, just a week after she had relocated to the Finger Lakes from San Francisco. They were married in July 2007 and their first boy, Declan Gunther Barry was born in June of 2009.
The happy family lives in Burdett NY with a Chihuahua named Abe and three insane cats.
And now, on to our standard Q&A questions:
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?
Growing up I had the occasional sip of my parents' Gallo Hearty Burgundy or Liebfraumilch, followed by drinking my fair share of local Hudson Valley wine when I was in college at SUNY New Paltz.
But the first real wine I remember taking things to the next level was a 1996 Chateau Latour. I was lucky enough to get a job as a wine buyer right after college and was at a trade tasting at Castle on the Hudson in Tarrytown, NY. The day was coming to an end and the sales rep who was pouring the Latour filled my glass half full.
I remember sitting on the patio watching the sunset on the Hudson and just swirling and sniffing that wine for at least an hour as it opened up and revealed its layers.
Definitely an "Ah-ha" moment.
What event/bottle/etc. made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
For me it was a summer job that turned into a career. Marc Stopkie had just purchased Adair Vineyards in New Paltz and he was looking for a summer helper. I remember being nervous about the interview, knowing nothing about wine and thinking of wine as kind of and elite product I would never fully understand.
Marc turned out to be one of the most approachable, down to earth people I've ever met and really allowed me to see all aspects of the business. From there I was hooked and spent more time learning and reading about wine than I did my major. I continued working there after I graduated college and eventually realized I could make a career out of wine.
Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?
Making over 70 wines for three unique wineries gives me a lot to choose from.
Right now I'd have to say it's the Goose Watch Pinot Noir Brut Rose. It's the perfect summer wine -- light and bubbly with great forward fruit and just a hint of sweetness. It's been perfect on these humid summer days we've been having lately.
What has surprised you most about being a member of the Finger Lakes wine community?
For me the most surprising thing is the depth of experience of the winemakers here. I moved here after working at wineries in Oregon and Washington and thought this experience would be unique here, but that couldn't have been farther from the truth.
There are winemakers here
who have trained and worked in France, Germany, Italy, Hungary,
Australia, Chile and New Zealand. And those are just the ones I'm
aware of. Winemakers here are a cultured group and the depth of knowledge 'm surrounded by is truly humbling.
Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
I'd have to say it's Heron Hill wines. My brother Brian is the assistant winemaker there and we're always sampling each others newest creations and offering each other feedback.
Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?
I'll probably get a lot of crap for this, but I have to say that the red wine-and-chocolate thing just doesn't work with me. I can't wrap my palate around it. I love red wine and I love fine chocolate, but combining them just doesn't work for me.
Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
As a winemaker my knee-jerk reaction when tasting wine is to be critical of it. I often find myself looking for the "bad" in a wine before I can enjoy the "good."
I think the best wine-drinking experiences I've had are the ones when I forget to be a critic and just let myself enjoy the wine for enjoyment's sake, regardless of what the wine is. These usually involve last-minute informal gatherings of close friends coupled with simple cuisine. Less stress equals more enjoyment!