New wine at an old farm

Freetown’s Cherry Knoll Farm expands operation to add four  varieties of blueberry wines


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
ABOVE:Terry Perfetti looks over a few of his 5 1/2 acres of blueberries at his Cherry Knoll Farm on Hoxie Gorge Freetown Road Wednesday afternoon. Perfetti grows 10 varieties of blueberries and makes four varieties of blueberry wine. Perfetti is the sixth generation of his family to operate the blueberry farm. BELOW: The varieties of wines are on display at the farm. wine

Staff Reporter

FREETOWN — The winery at Cherry Knoll Farm isn’t just a rarity for Cortland, but for the wine world as a whole.
As the only professional wine maker in Cortland County, Terry Perfetti is the sixth generation owner of the farm, a blueberry orchard on Hoxie Gorge Freetown Road in Freetown, but the first to use the blueberry crop to make wine.
“You pick the berries, crush them and ferment them for about three months and then bottle it,” said Perfetti, who started selling the wine in January. “It was a lot of trial and error. Blueberries are very difficult to make wine from because they’re not sweet, but I have a pretty unique process that’s a secret.”
Perfetti would not share any hints about his secret recipe; he would only say that nobody else uses it.
Aside from the fact that it is made from blueberries, what really makes Perfetti’s wine stand apart is that most of the blueberry wines on the market today are from grapes.
“They either put the essence or a certain concentrate of blueberries in it and then they are able to call it blueberry,” he said. “I’m not saying all of it, but a lot of it is based on grapes.”
The 5 1/2-acre field at the farm produces 10 different kinds of berries, and it is from those berries that Perfetti makes four different kinds of wine. Perfetti said he harvests close to 30,000 pounds per year, all of which will go for sale at stores, for picking by customers and to make wine.
He sells a dry wine, a dry-sweet wine, an oak barrel dry wine and a sweet wine.
All the wine that Perfetti sells is made entirely from blueberries, with no grapes added.
“It is made from 100 percent blueberries picked from this field,” he said. “I make it, everything is made from frozen blueberries.”
Having just opened the season on Monday, Perfetti said the normal picking business is just beginning.
Bill Conklin of Maple Avenue in Cortland said he comes to the farm every year to pick berries and that although he has not tried the wine, he has already heard good things.
“I haven’t tried any yet but I’ve heard a lot about it,” he said “My girlfriend’s mother got some and she said it’s real good.”
Conklin said that he came to the farm Wednesday to pick berries for a blueberry cobbler, but thinks that he will probably leave with a bottle of wine as well.
In addition to the four types of wine that it offers, Cherry Knoll Farms also sells a unique blueberry wine vinegar.
“It was trial and error, also,” Perfetti said. “My mother made a blueberry wine from her father’s elderberry wine recipe and it came out really sweet. Then she brought it back a year later and it was vinegar, delicious vinegar. So I tried to duplicate it. It takes good wine to make good vinegar.”
With the wine and vinegar side of his business just beginning, Perfetti said that he is happy with the response.
“I’m pleased being just started out,” he said. “I’m in the Cortland area in the liquor stores. I’m also in Homer, Dryden, Syracuse, Owego, Binghamton and Ithaca.”
Blueberries love water so unlike most farmers, this year’s rain has helped the crop at Cherry Knoll Farm.
“The rain has done me justice,” Perfetti said. “It’s a tremendous crop out there.”
Blueberries take in a lot of water, Perfetti said, and the hot weather has brought the crop out early, allowing him to start picking two weeks sooner than normal. He added that he expects to pick until the first week of September.
Perfetti will take his wine later this month to the State Fair in Indiana and then to Canandaigua for the New York Wine and Food Classic in August. He said he has already entered it in tastings where he has received praise for the wine, particularly the dry wine.
Cherry Knoll Farms is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.



Despite decision, work continues on senior project

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Construction on a senior housing project continued Wednesday despite a court decision that voided village approval of it.
State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dowd signed a decision in favor of the plaintiffs on June 30, saying the Planning Board did not go through proper State Environment Quality Review requirements in January.
The decision that was filed on July 13 with the Cortland County Clerk’s office revokes the village’s approval to build the project on a 2.5-acre lot at Cortland Street and Orson Drive.
Laborers, however, are still working at the site.
“They aren’t suppose to be,” said Scott F. Chatfield, attorney for the plaintiffs. “But once again the village is the only one that can stop it.”
Terry Price, Jaffery Harris, Maribeth McEwan and Victor Siegle, all of whom have property bordering the lot, filed an Article 78 lawsuit on Jan. 26 to stop the construction of the 24-unit, three-story senior housing facility. The four filed the suit challenging the Planning Board’s approval of the project.
Dowd said the board treated the project as an “Unlisted Action” when it should have been filed as a “Type 1 Action.”
Type 1 Actions “are more likely to have a significant adverse affect on the environment than Unlisted Actions,” according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Web site.
By using the Unlisted Action classification, Chatfield said, the board was able to bypass more complex environmental review procedures — procedures the applicant, Syracuse-based Two Plus Four Construction, should have gone through to gain approval to build.
In his six-page decision, Dowd wrote, “The Planning Board did not commit some harmless error. Basic, lawful procedure was not followed and such action, even if accomplished inadvertently, cannot be condoned by the court.”
“Based upon the foregoing, the final plan approved and site plan approval issued by the village of Homer Planning Board on Jan. 3, 2006, are hereby vacated and set aside,” he continued.