Starkey’s Lookout is Yates County’s latest addition to an impressive list of some of the state’s most exceptional wineries, and they are doing their level best to fit in with the other members of that list.
Occupying the former site of a modest motel and a small stand of planted pines at Glenora Corners, Starkey’s Lookout is remarkable first for its exceptional view, one of the best vistas in all the Finger Lakes, overlooking Seneca’s silvered surface with the forested and vineyard-planted hills beyond. That view was what convinced retired businessman Dave Bunnell and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Olaf Lieberg to bring their combined dream to reality here in the town of Starkey.
Aware the growing esteem the world is placing on the wines of the Finger Lakes, Dr. Lieberg envisioned his own winery. Bunnel also saw an opportunity as the popularity of local, craft brewed beers is carving their own place away from the ubiquitous factory brews. Three labels operate under the Starkey’s Lookout roof; “Seneca Hayes” makes the more complex vinifera wines of winemaker Michael Reidy, “Twisted Screw” is for the sweeter native grape wines, and “G.C.Starkey” beers are the creations of brewmaster Dean Jones. Add in two hand-brewed sodas on tap for youngsters and teetotalers, and there are beverages for almost any taste at Starkey’s Lookout.
That combination of a small winery and a micro-brewery in a setting of such beauty is highlighted by the casually elegant and restrained architecture of the tasting facility. Designed by architect David Hanlon of Fairport, the plans progressed from the look of a converted barn like so many other area wineries, to that of a large comfortable beach cottage that would not be out of place on Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, or the Hamptons, with a constant emphasis placed on the view. “We place a high premium on that view,” says Bunnell, “and we want people to see what a great place this is to visit.”
The level of investment the partners have dedicated to their venture is an obvious testament to their significant confidence and commitment to the economy of Yates County and the Finger Lakes. A resident of Geneva, Bunnell commits more than his capital to the success of the Finger Lakes. He also serves on the boards of the Ontario County Economic Development Center, The Smith Opera House, The Finger Lakes Boating Museum, and Geneva General Hospital.
With such commitments on his schedule, he and Dr. Lieberg have entrusted day-to-day operations to General Manger Robert Henry, a Geneva native, a business graduate of Penn State, who has returned to the Finger Lakes after growing up in California. Despite his youth, Henry has shown both his business acumen and dedication to positive customer satisfaction. Bunnell credits him saying, “Robert has put his imprint on how people feel about this place when they walk away from here.” Henry modestly adds, “It’s going very well. We’ve had a lot of happy customers who have given us some good reviews and feedback that they enjoyed the experience. I look forward to making it better still.”
The philosophical decision to focus on that tasting room experience would not be enough without some great beverages to back them up. Some that Henry recommends are the Reisling-Gewürtztraminer (see Wine of the Week) and the semi-dry Vertigo Red among the wines, and the Scotch Ale and Tangerine Witt among the beers. For more information on these and many others, visit www.starkeyslookout.com