How to make a grand entrance

John Christensen
Ruth and Scott Osborn of Fox Run Vineyards with metal artist Sam Castner at the new gate to the Seneca Lake winery.

Rome has the Arch of Constantine, Berlin has the Brandenburg Gate, Paris has the Arc de Triomphe – and now the Finger Lakes has the Fox Run Gate.

With his latest completed commission at Fox Run Vineyards, metal artist Sam Castner has entered the national stage of installation art with what may be the largest metal sculpture in the Finger Lakes Region if not all of Upstate New York.

Even winery owners Scott and Ruth Osborn were astonished by the scale of Castner’s colossal work, despite being directly involved in the design phase of the project since their offer of the commission in 2014.

“When I saw the first gatepost going up, I thought, ‘Oh... What have I gotten us into?’ says Scott. “More importantly, I thought, ‘What’s Ruth going to say?’ I was overwhelmed!”

Before the five tons of steel began to be raised, 38 tons of concrete was poured to form the footers of the 45-foot wide gate and the 30-foot tall pergola arch that spans it. Yet all of this colossal construction is the work of just two men – Sam and his assistant, Julian Trezise.

When the Osborns approached Castner with the commission after seeing his work at other wineries, Scott’s idea was more modest. “A couple of stone posts with a nice gate,” he recalls, but they were soon captivated by Sam’s more ambitious vision.

“Scott and Ruth wanted something to transform the front of the estate, to make it one, the winery, the house, the vineyards beyond,” says Castner. "All the elements of the gate are here on the property; the arch from the winery entrance, the pillars from the front of the tasting room. There are generations of builders who had a hand in each of those. I wanted to mimic all those elements, but with a more modern feel, and added the fir and maple trees that surround the site, and of course, the foxes.”

The scale that overwhelmed Scott was partly functional to accommodate the tour coaches and big trucks that have to share the main entrance with everyone else, but also an opportunity to bring a truly major work of art to the public eye.

“To me, a gate has a mental transformation,” says Scott. “You come into a new place, and you leave the old world behind.” Castner adds, “and you are a different person when you leave it.”

“The number of people who slow and stop to see the gate has already been amazing,” says Ruth. “We wanted to bring a major piece of art to the area that would have this kind of impact.”

Castner’s impact is becoming profound on the west side of Seneca Lake. From his recently completed commission at Lakewood Vineyards, to his newest at the Geneva Visitors’ Center, Route 14 has become a 37-mile long gallery showcasing his art. His works are also featured at Anthony Road Wine Co. where they first gained public notice, at Glenora Wine Cellars, and at Red Tail Ridge Winery’s tree and hawk sculpture that first hinted at the colossal phase of Castner’s work.

Though declining to mention the level of investment beyond “substantial,” the Osborns have committed themselves both as patrons of the arts and as firmly committed investors in the wine and tourism industries here in the Finger Lakes.

There are still signage, lighting, and landscaping to be done, but the standing of the Fox Run Gate is already established as a work of art on a national scale, set here in the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes landscape that inspired its creation.