Natural UnionsOct 01, 2021 09:15AM ● By Karey Solomon
The seventh in a line of Fulkersons farming fruit on the same land on the west side of Seneca Lake, Steven Fulkerson wants to share his long-lasting family tradition of happy, fruitful marriages. Like many winery owners, he’s been asked about renting part of his property for weddings. Having known the property intimately for more than three decades, he’s picked out the best spots for celebrating nuptials. Next year, this new tradition begins.
The family farm at 5576 State Route 14, Dundee, was chosen by Caleb Fulkerson, who fought under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War as a very young man. In 1805, after journeying here from Elmira, he planted a black willow walking stick in a spring as a landmark before continuing to Bath, to register his claim. When he returned with his family, the willow stick had taken root and, years later, lumber from that tree made coffins for himself and his wife Deborah. Following generations built the family farmhouse in 1856, which the family rents as an Airbnb to accommodate up to twelve people, and planted raspberries as a cash crop. Sayre Fulkerson, a Cornell-trained pomologist, brought in a Jensen Juice plant and began selling grape juice to home winemakers, before expanding the farm to open Fulkerson Winery with his wife Nancy in 1989. Their son Steven is the farm’s general manager. A Cornell alum with a degree in viticulture and winemaking, he and wife Regina are the parents of very young Sarah, who represents the eighth generation of Fulkersons living here.
Conscious of the beauty around him, Steven created walking trails around the farm, mowing wide paths skirting the working vineyard areas where hikers can enjoy the wilder areas near the farm pond, places where ancient wild grape vines twist through old stands of trees, where a walker climbing a gentle slope can turn and see the farm spread out below. Winery visitors who want to extend their visit with a rural walk away from traffic can ask for a map and be pointed to trails for short ramble or a longer hike. Next year, part of the trail will also be a disk golf course, a sport combining golf with frisbees airborne over a variety of terrain.
One trail leads to a small clearing between trees the family has dubbed the Picnic Grove, where overarching branches create a sort of natural cathedral in the woods. It requires a lovely short walk on a mowed path, past a scenic pond, though for this, as with the other natural settings, limited parking could allow guests who need access with less walking a closer place to park, and farm vehicles could transport them the rest of the way. In the margin of an adjacent field currently planted to corn is a level space where a tent could be pitched for a sit-down meal under cover.
A little closer to parking, a flat field bordered with grapevines on one long side and a cherry orchard on the other is dressed with a profusion of cherry blossoms in May, a naturally festive location to put up a tent and hold a wedding.
Most spectacular, though a little further away, is a corner of the farm where Steven has steadfastly resisted his father’s pleas to plant more grapes. A delta left behind after the retreat of a post-ice-age inland sea, it has a magnificent 180-degree view of Seneca Lake and an other-worldly sense of total isolation from whatever day-to-day experience is going in the rest of the world.
Each of these spots become wedding venues with the addition of tents, tables, chairs, porta-potties, a generator for lights, music, and catering equipment. Steven is in the process of hiring an events coordinator who can help, and he too is willing to liase with service providers bringing amenities to the sites. At $500 for a rental site, with the wedding couple arranging for the services they want, he says the cost is comparable to a site at a state park, with the bonus of a more exclusive, private, and unique site. For fans of Fulkerson wines, there’s the additional advantage of siting an event close to the source.
The Farmhouse, which has already served as home base for bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, and other festivities is still another possibility as a wedding venue, with space for the bride to prepare, a kitchen for the caterers to use, and a tent site close by to accommodate dinner and dancing.
While the pandemic-reconfigured winery tasting room is not immediately suitable for a wedding or large party, with some preparation by the winery staff, a small wedding after winery business hours or with compensation for sales lost if the space is required during ordinarily open times might be possible for those who prefer nature in smaller doses.
Steven says he would also like to offer a gift to those getting married here in advance of their wedding. Before Steven and Regina married, they spent time with a book by H. Norman Wright called 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, an exercise he heartily recommends to others well before the ceremony. Steven and Regina used it as a workbook to ask each other important questions about money, child-raising, life philosophy, expectations, and more, finding their expanded mutual understanding of each others’ viewpoints a good basis for their life together. And with his family’s tradition of long-lasting marriages, he says he could only wish the same for those married on his farm.
For more information, contact the winery through their website: fulkersonwinery.com.