Running a Winery, an Interview with Susan Maring

A Pioneering Vineyard Venture

Tug Hill Vineyards is a part of the first generation of pioneering farm wineries growing French-American cold-hardy grapes in the Northeast. It is the northernmost Estate Winery and Distillery in New York; a unique terroir, dramatic change of seasons, manicured gardens, and placement overlooking the Black River Valley makes it one of the most picturesque vineyard locations.

Sue establishing ground cover in between newly planted rows of Frontenac.
Mike and Sue enjoying the view from newly raised Banquet Hall timbers, 2007.

Mike and Sue Maring began with a vision in 2007 to build an authentic estate winery. The result is a true vineyard farm, making wine from the grapes grown on the estate, rather than purchased juice from mechanized vineyards. Starting as a family effort, it was all hands on deck those first few years. Sue’s sister Dale Crossman-Cole served as the first winemaker for several years after a career teaching sciences and physics at Lowville Academy, and her husband Dick Cole developed the original marketing strategy. Crystal (Maring) Ross, daughter of Mike and Sue developed the landscape design of the banquet hall patio and gardens and is behind label design for all Tug Hill Vineyards products. Other family and friends have pitched in throughout the years, lending a hand where it’s needed, a great idea, and great wine is hard to resist!

A Love of Horticulture Visible in Every Corner of the Estate.

Prior to purchasing the 40-acre farm, that is now Tug Hill Vineyards, the Marings owned and operated North Country Landscape & Nursery in Lowville for over 30 years. Within a couple of years of breaking ground, over 10 acres of French-American hybrid grapes were planted on the property, alongside 3 acres of raspberries and 5 acres of blueberries. In these first few years, a timber-framed hall with retail space and a processing and production building were constructed as well. The increasing demand for Tug Hill Vineyards wine led to an expansion in vineyard fields and tank space in 2014.

Dale Crossman-Cole, first winemaker.
Mike Maring with Steve Zubrzycki who operated a dairy farm on the property for 46 years before selling the farm in 2007. Steve and Ruth celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2010 at Tug Hill Vineyards.

With Over 20-Acres of Vineyards Thriving on Two Sites, Tug Hill Vineyards Produces Around 2,500 Cases Yearly.

Many visitors ask “how can you grow grapes here?” The majority of the grape varieties that we grow were developed at the University of Minnesota to not only survive our winters that get down to around -30°F or colder but also to be disease resistant and produce high-quality wine. These developed grape varieties are a cross between classic French viniferas (think Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Riesling) and cold hardy and disease resistant native American grapes.

Tug Hill Vineyards is dedicated to the continued development of cold-hardy grapes, farm-to-table practices, partnerships with local farmers, and the use of all-natural regional ingredients.

In 2018 Tug Hill Vineyards Expanded Beyond Wine

Tug Hill Spirits, under the direction of Derek Card, Head Winemaker and Distiller, represents an exciting new opportunity for Tug Hill Vineyards. The well received, Toasted Maple, Apple Pie, and Blueberry Liqueur were launched as our first products in July of 2018. This past summer we launched Raspberry Lemonade and Ruby Red Liqueur, more premium brandy based products are scheduled to be released in the coming years as we increase production.

Tug Hill Vineyards, now in its 12th year of growing cold-hardy hybrids believes in authentic winemaking, limiting wine production to the varieties that grow in the northern climate where the estate is located. The pioneering vision continues each year with further development of the vineyard field practice, with the valued support of family, friends, customers, and guests of the vineyard.


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