Business News

New owners take over local vineyard

WINEMAKERS NICHOLE BAMBACIGNO and Kevin Bednar recently took over the reins at Lincoln Peak Vineyard in New Haven. The pair plans to bring back some of the well-loved wines and events previously offered at the vineyard, as well as put their own spin on the business. 
Photo courtesy of Nichole Bambacigno

NEW HAVEN — Spring is a season associated with new beginnings, and that’s certainly been the case this year at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, where new owners Nichole Bambacigno and Kevin Bednar are settling in and readying to welcome wine enthusiasts from far and wide. 

The pair purchased the New Haven vineyard, winery and tasting room from Shelburne Vineyard last month and bring to the business over a decade’s worth of experience at vineyards across the globe. 

The seasoned winemakers said they’re excited about this next chapter and seeing what opportunities lie in store for Lincoln Peak. 

“We’re winemakers and viticulturists first, so we’re really excited to get a season under our belts and see how this vineyard presents itself and to see the sorts of wines that this vineyard wants to make,” Bambacigno said. 

BACKGROUND 

Both Bambacigno and Bednar have spent several years learning the ins-and-outs of winemaking from producers in the United States and abroad. 

Bambacigno, a California native, first got into the wine industry working in a tasting room while studying biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University. She found herself encapsulated by the world of viticulture and in 2013 began working at E. & J. Gallo Winery in Modesto, Calif. — one of the largest wineries in the world. 

It was there that the couple first crossed paths, after Bednar moved to California to begin his own career in winemaking. He’d grown up in Essex, Vt., and had long thought about running a vineyard in the Green Mountain State, a passion that grew while studying abroad in Chile and Spain, two of the world’s largest wine-producing countries.  

The pair hit it off in Modesto and decided to take their relationship — and careers — to the next level.  Together they started their own wine label, Ghost House Wines. 

“For us, it was really a passion project. It allowed us to cultivate our passion and have some more freedom over some of the winemaking decisions,” Bednar recalled. “It was super small. We were doing it after work, everything by hand in little, six-gallon carboys.” 

The pair found that starting Ghost House Wines gave them an opportunity to learn, make mistakes, and gain winemaking experience that differed from their work at the large-scale producer Gallo. 

Though situated firmly in the country’s top wine-making region, Bambacigno and Bednar found themselves growing eager to bring their passion for viticulture to the East Coast. 

 “Ever since I first got into the idea of making wine, I had always wanted to have a winery in Vermont, understanding that I had to go out and learn how to do it well before coming back,” Bednar said. “It had always been in the back of my mind and always been my overarching career goal. Thankfully, that was contagious for Nichole.”

While they waited for an opportunity to move to the Green Mountain State, the couple continued learning from and working with winemakers from Australia, New Zealand and Austria. 

The couple eventually settled in New Jersey a few years ago, where they led winemaking teams at the Sharrott and William Heritage wineries.

“We really enjoyed our time (in New Jersey), but it was always a steppingstone to get to Vermont,” Bambacigno said. “We wanted to get familiar with the East Coast wine industry, the viticulture, and see how grapes are grown in this climate. That was the big reason why we moved to New Jersey, always with the idea of coming to Vermont when an opportunity presented itself.” 

That opportunity came about this past December when the team at Shelburne Vineyard approached Bambacigno and Bednar about buying Lincoln Peak. 

NEW BEGINNINGS 

The New Haven vineyard was founded over two decades ago by Chris and Michaela Granstrom, who sold the business to Shelburne Vineyard in 2021. 

“When we took over Lincoln Peak, we were fully invested in continuing what the Granstroms had established,” Eleanor Leger, CEO of Shelburne Vineyard, said last week in press release. “This commitment never wavered, but the challenges of managing a vineyard and second tasting room remotely from our main location in Shelburne became increasingly evident. Nichole and Kevin’s dedication to preserving the heritage of this beloved vineyard and their commitment to crafting exceptional wines make them the perfect fit for this role.” 

Bambacigno and Bednar officially took over ownership of the vineyard last month and opened the tasting room up to visitors this past Saturday.  

“We had a really nice turnout, and we had a lot of previous customers and new customers come out and had a lot of really nice conversations with people,” Bednar said of the opening weekend. 

The pair will keep the Lincoln Peak name and brand, though they’re excited to put their own spin on the label art and tasting room. 

Bambacigno and Bednar said they’re also looking forward to familiarizing themselves with the land as they season gets underway. 

The property hosts eight different varieties of grapes on seven acres. 

“We’re most excited to both watch the vines grow and help guide them through their season,” Bednar said. “Especially after such a damaging season last year, it’s going to be really exciting to get lots of fruit off the vines this year and watch them grow throughout the season.” 

FRIDAY NIGHT MUSIC 

Bambacigno and Bednar will have a variety of wines available this season, including ones that reflect the drier style Lincoln Peak has been known for in the past. Eventually, the couple hopes to bring back several wines from the original Lincoln Peak portfolio. 

The pair also plans to bring back the well-loved Friday night live music events beginning in June.  

“We’re really excited to see people come out and taste some wines and just enjoy this beautiful spot,” Bednar said. 

The tasting room is now open Wednesday-Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Visitors can stop by to try out a flight of wines, grab a bottle to go or enjoy a glass with a variety of local cheeses and charcuterie pairings. Bednar said the couple is hoping to host a grand opening at the vineyard later this month. 

It’s gearing up to be a busy season for Bambacigno and Bednar, who in are expecting their second child any day now. But the pair said running Lincoln Peak was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up and they’re ready to get started. 

“It’s been a big move, and a lot of changes for us, but we’re really excited,” Bambacigno said. 

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