February 11, 2013

Elf's Winery tough as hardy grapevines

PLATTSBURGH — Fire and then a tropical storm packed a one-two punch than might have rung the death knell for Elf’s Farm Winery and Cider Mill not long ago.

But not only were the vintners the driving force behind the inaugural Adirondack Coast Wine, Cider and Food Festival last fall in Plattsburgh, Tom Frey and his children, Sean, Kevin and Erin rebuilt the business on Route 9 north of the City of Plattsburgh and recently reopened.

”They make things happen,” said Michelle Powers, vice president of marketing for the North Country Chamber of Commerce.


The fire in July 2011 ravaged the winery and cider mill, destroying a two-story wooden structure used as a tasting room and most of their equipment.

A month later, Tropical Storm Irene struck with wind and rain, bending stalks and knocking berries off the vine, resulting in a yield of only 1,300 pounds of grapes — 1,700 less than the 2010 harvest.

”It was like a double whammy between the fire and the hurricane,” Sean said.

For a time, they weren’t sure they could rebuild, but rebuild they did.

Like “the phoenix out of the smoke and the ashes,” Tom said.


Chief among the improvements is a new 2,400 square-foot concrete production facility made of insulating concrete forms made from interlocking units filled with concrete to create superior energy efficiency and strength. 

To further improve the efficiency of the facility, long-lasting light-emitting diode (LED) lights are used to illuminate the premises, which use about half the power of comparable compact fluorescent lighting.

”Everything we do here is green,” Tom said.

A new cider mill will allow Elf’s to process 10 to 20 bins of apples a day, a significant increase compared to the three daily from the old mill destroyed in the fire. 

Further upping production is a new bottling line that can fill, cork and label 180 cases an hour. Before, it took six workers to bottle eight cases in that amount of time.

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