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Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards & Winery, has entered its twentieth year of wine sales. However, 20 years of retail doesn't do justice to the history and experience of the Hazlitt clan. Viticulture has been the life blood of the family for 151 years. On April 1, 1852 David Hazlitt and his wife Clarissa Roberts Hazlitt purchased 153 acres in the hamlet of Hector including most of present day Peach Orchard Point. The property's fruit trees and vineyards provided regionally sold produce that the Hazlitts shipped via wagon, boat, and the ever-expanding railroad.
Around the turn of the century David and Clarissa's son James Robert and Mary Miller Hazlitt purchased the current family home at 5631 Rt. 414. The house was later occupied by William Herbert Hazlitt and his wife Inez LaMoreaux and is now the home of Elisabeth Voorhees Hazlitt, widow of James R. Hazlitt. Her sons, James R. and Jerome V. Hazlitt divided the land in the early 1980's and both continued to operate vineyards. At present Jim and his son Eric produce vinifera grapes at Sawmill Creek Vineyards.
The late Jerry Hazlitt and his wife Elaine founded the winery in 1984. Jerry was an ardent home winemaker and wanted to share the fruits of his labors with friends and visitors. His love of the Finger Lakes, antiquities, and native lore made for many Saturday afternoon gatherings around the original tasting room bar sipping wine and being mesmerized by Jerry's animated storytelling. The Hazlitt tasting bars are still a laid back visit for those who enjoy their wine with stories, jokes, and smiles.
Of course, behind all the smiles and friendly faces are hard-working dedicated people who take the winemaking process very seriously. Elaine Hazlitt and sixth generation Hazlitts Doug and Leigh operate a growing and evolving winery which garners national and international attention with some outstanding vintages.
Elaine, as company president, continues to work to assure that as the business expands the heritage and traditions are not lost. More matriarch than corporate officer, Elaine preserves the century and a half old family feel. Hazlitt winery was built and opened as an extension of a family's passion. After well over a century of grape growing as a source of revenue the Hazlitt family found themselves faced with a drastic drop in crop prices in the early 1980's. Faced with the choice of selling the land and getting out of the business or finding another solution, Elaine and Jerry created their own alternative. Adept winemaking skills and a genuine nature of hospitality had always made the Hazlitt household conducive to great social gatherings. "Why not," thought the Hazlitts "invite the rest of the world to enjoy the great wines and great times?"
A very competent winemaker himself, Doug Hazlitt has assumed responsibility for daily operations of production. Having been involved in the winery from the start, Doug spent some time away from Seneca Lake to get his degree from SUNY Cobleskill. He also worked for a time as a river guide in Alaska, and then took time to hone his skills as a sailor. A natural with wind-driven vessels, Doug navigated many boats from U.S. coastal waters to the Carribean for owners who wanted the trip done right. At present, in addition to his labors at the winery, Doug owns and charters the Malabar X. Originally launched in 1930 the wooden schooner was the racing design of its time and the ship to beat. Seventy-three years later and fully restored the Malabar X under the command of Captain Doug Hazlitt took the winning trophy in class at the 2003 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner race in October. Visitors to the winery are much more likely to find Doug on a tractor or helm of the boat than in his office. He wouldn't have it any other way.
Daughter Leigh Hazlitt Triner shoulders the job of chief financial officer. "If you'd asked me while I was in college, it's unlikely that I would have told you I'd be working here after graduation." With a degree from Cornell in hotel management, Leigh envisioned a position in the corporate world. Fortunately for Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, she missed the lake and the beauty of the region. After a stint in Ohio with a major hotel chain and a move to California, Leigh returned to join the business as generation six. "I watched the winery grow and change. And each time I came home for a visit a new expansion was in the works. For years as a small business Mom [Elaine] had kept track of everything via pad and paper ledger. The mid and late nineties saw enormous growth in production and the popularity of Hazlitt's. We also had more employees, more outside distribution, and a larger retail area. I saw the need to computerize the books and operating systems. Mom needed help and I missed the lake I'd grown up with and loved. It's worked out great. And now," Leigh smiles as she stirrups her left foot and swings up onto Gharro, a gentle thoroughbred the family adopted, "I wouldn't be anywhere else."