By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Finger Lakes wine industry pioneer Bill Wagner has passed away at the age of 83. His family, which owns the business, has not released a cause of death.
Wagner was part of a small group of industry leaders that insisted on planting and growing vinifera wine grapes in the 1970s. Wagner Vineyards has grown to have a strong portfolio of production, which includes several dozen bottlings of 20 varieties.
"I had nothing but the highest regard for him," said Jim Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. "He was a true pioneer, always on the leading edge of trial and change, from opening his winery to the restaurant, satellite stores, and the brewery. He was a wonderfully independent spirit who also understood the value of cooperation, which is so important to this industry’s success. He will be missed, but I’m glad that his family carries on the farm, winery and tradition."
Bill Wagner was a proud veteran of the United States Navy, having served in World War II. He grew grapes for years before launching his first commercial line in the late 1970s. Wagner Vineyards now offers beer and offers dining at the Ginny Lee Restaurant on site. The vineyards total 250 acres.