Production Underway at Hazlitt's New Red Cat Cellars
Red Cat! Red Cat!
It's a chant, many New Yorkers know well.
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The Finger Lakes wine has become so popular, it's the number one selling domestic wine in the state, and people will soon have a new place to enjoy it.
"I still literally pull in here and just go 'wow, what have I done?'” Doug Hazlitt, co-owner of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards & Winery, said while giving YNN a tour of the company’s new property in Naples, Ontario County. “It's a little overwhelming, but it gets smaller every day."
Hazlitt and his sister, co-owner Leigh Hazlitt Triner, bought the former Widmer wine making facility from local wine giant Constellation Brands for $2.7 million last spring. Harvesting, crushing and pressing in new state of the art machines is underway on the 500-acre site.
Red Cat Cellars is a little more than an hour's drive from Hazlitt's flagship winery in Hector, Schuyler County.
"We learn as we go. To me it's exciting. It's a lot of fun, I think my sister would've rather kept it smaller and I'm the one who wants to grow, grow, grow, but between the two of us we're a pretty good balance," Doug Hazlitt said.
"We have full control. It increases our efficiency and quality, which is really important to us. We've also added 22-plus jobs to the community by running our own facility here and not having it close down," Hazlitt Triner said.
Hazlitt's producing more than a half million gallons of its Red Cat wine and other popular core brands at the new Naples facility, but it has the capacity to produce more than 3 million gallons of wine a year.
That's part of the reason East Coast Crush and Co-Pack or EC3 was created.
"We can provide any service in the entire (wine making) process, or in which we have this year actually, bin to bottle. We've got clients from in-state and out-of-state that we're doing their entire project all the way from grapes all the way to bottle and warehousing," Dave Fitch, EC3 sales manager said.
"That's how we actually grew our business,” said Hazlitt, “As our sales were growing way faster than we could build our winery up to match it, we outsourced and used Pleasant Valley, and it just got to the point where we were big enough that we thought we would need our own facility and Widmer winery became available, so the timing was just kind of perfect."
Hazlitt's just waiting for proper tasting facility permits from the state to open its refurbished doors to public for a toast.
"That's kind of the part that's missing now, is the retail. As the sign says, coming soon," Hazlitt said.
Hazlitt's is planning an event at it's Red Cat Cellars for the annual Naples Grape Festival which runs September 24th and 25th.