Forge Cellars is made up of three like-minded and passionate friends with a common goal: to grow grapes and handcraft wines of interest and value that perfectly balance minerality, aromatics and fruit to reflect our exceptional Finger Lakes terroir. Each vintage is viewed as an opportunity to express our region — to reflect its soils, its cool climate and its hillside lake terroirs.
Winemaker, Visionary - Louis comes from a winemaking tradition of 14 generations. His family has been located at their historic property in the village of Gigondas in the Southern Rhone Valley of France since 1570. Louis grew up among the vines and took over the estate from his dad in 1992, proceeding to improve quality and grow a vigneron-negociant arm of the business. Chateau de St. Cosme is now regarded as the benchmark of wine quality in Gigondas.
Meanwhile, Louis is at the helm of Forge Cellars in both winemaking and management, bringing an immense amount of practical experience and knowledge into every aspect of the project. He loves playing rugby and classical music, and eating a great, juicy American hamburger.
A note from Louis: "As a person who is part of an old French wine family, I know what the weight of traditions means. It is great to improve an estate that has been built over the centuries by many different ancestors: it means being a little part of a very long adventure. Trying to develop a new estate in the Finger Lakes represents a completely different perspective, a different exercise in a different environment. But at deep, is it that different? Maybe not that different, as the feeling is the same, the wish of proper understanding is the same and the final goal is the same: express in a wine the soul of a place. All that to say that I deeply enjoy being part of Forge Cellars with my friends Rick Rainey and Justin Boyette. It is a nice “human adventure,” as well as an achievement at every step that we climb, simply because we began this project with almost nothing but clear and strong ideas."
Vineyards, General Manager - Originally a Florida boy, Rick came to the Finger Lakes by way of Philadelphia twenty years ago with the aim of owning a winery. During the past nearly two decades, he has been selling and buying wine (mostly French) for an international, fine wine distributor-importer. With Forge Cellars, it seems that Rick has finally come full circle and gotten to dig his hands into the dirt. He naturally gravitates to working with the growers and vines. His job is as varied as planning the winery construction, hauling grapes, creating racy harvest t-shirts and traveling the U.S. to sell wine. In his spare time, he likes to cook, eat, and drink like a pro while telling tall tales about hunting.
Winemaker, Steady Hand - Justin works diligently with Louis to make the Forge wines, handling all day-to-day winemaking and élevage with Assistant Winemaker, Alexandra. He is the co-owner of another winery on the east side of Seneca Lake called Hector Wine Company and before that, held winemaking positions at Red Newt Cellars, Atwater Estate Vineyards and Poplar Ridge Vineyards. Justin went to high school in Japan, studied Social Studies Education and Politics in college and is now an elected member of the Hector Town Board. Justin has an obsession with vintage sports cars and a knack for the domestic arts.
Having worked in wine bars and in fine dining since age 16, Alexandra decided to pursue her passion for wine by moving to the Finger Lakes in her early twenties. After hundreds of hours of manual labor and hands-on learning in the cellar, she took on the job of Winemaker at Hector Wine Company, Justin's Seneca Lake winery and at Forge Cellars. She splits her time between the two properties and can occasionally be found in the vineyards or on the road selling wine. Alexandra loves horse back riding, hiking with her husband and their trusty dog, Patches, and telling really bad jokes.
After following a path pointed in the direction of Art Historian, Kristina realized that her love for creativity and craft could also be found in the world of wine. She spent several years working in the vineyards and wineries of Sheldrake Point Winery, Heart & Hands Wine Company, and Damiani Wine Cellars, then ventured into selling international wine and spirits at a boutique shop in Ithaca. She works on Forge's visual design, organization, communications and accounting. In her free time, you'll find Kristina running, hiking, or refurbishing old furniture.
After receiving her Master’s degree in Food Culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in northern Italy, Julia spent several years working in the hospitality industry in New York and San Francisco. She left the restaurant scene to work the harvest in Austria and Australia and hasn’t looked back since. She loves to tackle any and all projects at Forge, from hoeing the vineyards to monitoring fermentations. As a recent newcomer to the Finger Lakes, she’s excited by the possibilities of cool climate winemaking. On her own time she enjoys brushing up on foreign languages and cooking with her husband.