Nathan Kendall, of Dundee, has been named one of the “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers Of 2018” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Owner and winemaker under his own label, Nathan K., and  partner/winemaker at Hickory Hollow with his parents, Bruce and Suzanne Kendall, Nathan is also partner in a new niche wine label, Chëpìka. 

Describing the 40 Under 40 group, Wine Enthusiast writes, “Meet the trailblazers who are shaping the future of wine, spirits, beer and cider in America. These winemakers, sommeliers, brewers, distillers, educators, and more, are redefining the industry as we know it.

“With an eye on innovation and an impulse to constantly reach for the horizon, each of these honorees is doing their part to lead the conversation and leave a lasting influence on the world of food and drink for generations to come.”

In speaking of Kendall, the article states, “Kendall has been a leading figure in New York’s Finger Lakes wine region since he launched his namesake brand in 2011. Its lineup of small-lot, spontaneously fermented Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir gained attention quickly from top New York City sommeliers. In 2016, the Kendall family took over Hickory Hollow (full ownership), which offers an array of quality, well-priced wines alongside Kendall’s other brand bottlings. As if that isn’t enough, Kendall has recently joined up with Pascaline Lepeltier, MS, a Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 alum, to create Chëpìka. The brand explores New York’s native grape winemaking history through pét-nat bottlings of organic Catawba and Delaware grapes.”

After growing up in the winery business with his parents at Hickory Hollow, Kendall founded Nathan K. Wines in 2011 as his own venture to prove himself as a winemaker with his own name, making whatever reputation he earned inescapable. That reputation is now being recognized. Anna Lee C. Iijima, Contributing Editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, ranked two of Kendall’s 2012 wines (just one year into his business) as two of the best in the Finger Lakes. In 2016, Kendall was named one of the “Rock Stars of Wine America” by renowned wine writer Stuart Pigott, who calls Kendall’s Rieslings “very striking.”

In the course of his education and on-the-job-training, quite literally around the world, Kendall has worked in every department in the business, and has a firm grasp of how each fits in the work of a successful winery; from the beginnings of a vineyard through the process of winemaking, all the way to sales and bookkeeping. 

In addition to working at Hickory Hollow from 2003 to 2007, he has worked as a vintage cellar hand or vineyard worker in California, New Zealand, Oregon, Australia, Germany, and  the Finger Lakes. He was assistant wine maker at Ravines Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake and head winemaker at Bellangelo on Seneca Lake before returning to Hickory Hollow. 

While the 3,000 cases of wines made every year at Hickory Hollow are made with all the science and modern technology used in contemporary winemaking, with just 1,500 total cases for Nathan K. Wines and only 200 total cases for Chëpìka, Kendall stresses his truly hands-on approach for his own labels.

“My passion is to create wines in an old-world style using quality grapes and minimal intervention to evolve and achieve the best possible expression of the Finger Lakes.”

Chëpìka is perhaps the most innovative effort to bring back the region’s past. While vinifera wines are what is making the reputation of the region soar, Kendall believes there are qualities still to be found in native grapes, like Delaware and Catawba, that made the Finger Lakes a renowned wine region in the 1800s.

Chëpìka is the word for “roots” in the Lenape language spoken by the Delaware tribe of Native Americans, and has multiple references for what Kendall and Lepeltier are trying to accomplish.

“The goal of the project is to work diligently and respectfully with the land, using the native varieties to recreate the traditional wines of the Finger Lakes, and to produce a delicious, affordable, local wine made from the natural and historical resources of the region,” they state. The Delaware and Catawba grapes are grown organically by Ken and Eileen Farnan in their certified vineyard at Barrington Cellars on Keuka Lake.

The two sparkling wines of Chëpìka are created in the old-world, ancestral method (méthode ancestrale), called Pet-Nat (short for pétillant-naturel) using only the natural occurring yeasts. The result of single fermentation and not adding the dosage of sugar, is a dry, earthy, and complex wine lower in alcohol and without the aggressive carbonation of the second fermentation in méthode Champenoise. All of the process is done by hand, and much of it by Kendall himself, from harvest to bottling.