After 15 seasons, New Marlborough’s Les Trois Emme Winery ready for new ownersMore Info
New Marlborough — On the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 16, Wayne and Mary Jane Eline rolled up the “open” flag that has been flying outside Les Trois Emme Winery for the past eight months; it was a simple gesture that signaled the close of the couple’s 15th season at the helm of the only winery in South County. The 5-acre property is now on the market, being touted as a full turnkey business, for $1.8 million. “We’re running this like we are going to be here in the spring,” joked Wayne, dwarfed by a stack of cardboard cartons holding 21,000 synthetic corks, a sure sign that the wine will not stop flowing anytime soon. “We’ll stay on for anyone who buys the place and help them along,” added Mary Jane, noting “my husband is the winemaker.”
The Elines have been fixtures in New Marlborough for 50 years, having raised five children on the 7-acre parcel where the winery now stands. Wayne spent 25 years in the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, beginning his tenure as a chemistry teacher and ending as principal. Mary Jane is the owner of Marjon Hair Design in Great Barrington. “The chemistry background allowed me to understand what I am doing here right now,” said Wayne, offering a sweeping hand motion around the tasting room. “I was never taught how to make wine [in chemistry class], but we took a course through the University of California, Davis,” he explained. “Plus, we just happen to love wine,” he added, in a nod to the genesis of the business.
The couple opened Les Trois Emme, which literally translates to “the three Ms,” after having retired for the first time. It is named in honor of the couple’s first three granddaughters: Megan, Madison and Mary Katherine. After a six-year hiatus from the Berkshires incurred while Wayne finished his educational career in Virginia, the couple began putting in the vineyard, which, over time, got bigger and bigger. “In the beginning I hired a wine maker with 25 years’ experience,” Wayne divulged. “And I use him now when I make a mistake,” he added, citing 15 years of hands-on experience that catapulted him to where Les Trois Emme is today.
Grapes thrive in Mediterranean climates, and California is responsible for 90 percent of all grapes produced in America. Suffice it to say, the tender crop has trouble thriving in climates where the temperature routinely dips below freezing, as is the norm in Berkshire County. The Elines grow two types of grape, both inter-specific hybrid red wine grape varieties. The first, Marechal Foch, originated in the Loire Valley and has been further developed in Ontario; the vine is winter-hard and its fruit is early ripening, making it a logical choice for western Massachusetts. The second varietal, Marquette, was developed at the University of Minnesota, which has been at the forefront of cold-hardy grape research for several decades. “We have to grow grapes here that need 140 days’ gestation,” said Mary Jane, whose husband clarified: “You always gauge growing days from frost to frost.” To put this in perspective, Vitis vinifera—widely grown in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal—require at least 180-190 growing days. “You can’t grow those here,” said Wayne. “Forget about them!”
The Elines supplement their own harvest with grapes from California and New York, essentially doing all the work to turn them from great grapes into good old wine. They purchase Cayuga white grapes from a grower in the Finger Lakes region of New York to make both their Cayuga White and their Stingy Jack’s Pumpkin Wine, the latter of which is infused with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. One year they went through 70 tons of Cayuga grapes simply to make the popular pumpkin wine.
“Needless to say, it’s very difficult growing grapes in this area,” said Wayne. This year, for instance, there was simply too much rain. “What it does is it ruins the crop all together,” he explained. “[The vine] soaks up so much water that it comes through the skins, [and splits them open which] attracts the birds and bees, and [they] take all the sweetness out,” Wayne added. “I know the value of the bee … but with the good comes the bad,” he added, citing how destructive such insects can be. This year’s yield, measured both in the number of cases produced and in comparison to previous years, was low. A good, average yield for any given year is between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of wine. “This year will be short of that due to the bad [weather] year,” said Wayne.
“We’re here all year round,” Wayne explained, which is why he and his wife are ready to sell. Despite the tasting room being closed for the season, a quick peek into the production area revealed wine in myriad stages of development. Depending on the type of wine, the aging process is different. The Elines have red wine, not quite mature enough for consumption, aging in white oak barrels from France and Hungary; then there is roughly 1,400 gallons of white wine in stainless steel tanks that needs to come out and be put into bottles, all of which happens on site in New Marlborough, as evidenced by a bottle labeler at the ready. “I buy [my barrels] on the basis of what is being said about how good they are in helping the aging process,” Wayne explained. “Once you get around to putting wine in barrels, you are out of the science of it and into the artistic process,” said the former chemistry teacher. “There are lots of choices but, with years of experience, I’ve come to expect different things [based on those choices].”
The Elines, who will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in February, are ready for a change. “I’m 84 years old, soon to be 85, and I’ve spent 34 years in education,” Wayne explained. “It’s time for us to move away from this,” he added, noting that both he and his wife would like to become more involved in the community and find time to volunteer. “We both have a desire to do other things rather than meeting the schedules that come daily [when owning a winery].”
That said, the couple is not in a terrific hurry to sell. In fact, they are carrying on like they will be in business for the next couple of years. Despite being in their 80s, the Elines have a presence on Facebook in addition to their website, through which one can order any of their 12 wines in the off season. “This is a wonderful business, because we meet such wonderful people,” Wayne explained. “There are very few that we meet that we don’t want to meet again,” he added of the thousands of visitors who have come through their doors over the past decade and a half. Maureen and Bob Avery of Great Barrington are two such loyal patrons, and they were on hand Sunday afternoon to close out another successful season with their friends. “This is what happens on the last day of the season,” said Mary Jane with a warm smile: “All your friends stop by!”
Les Trois Emme, located at 8 Knight Road in New Marlborough, will reopen for the season Saturday, May 4, 2019. For more information about the winery, visit ltewinery.com; for real estate inquiries, contact Maureen White-Kirkby at Barnbrook Realty, (413) 446-5634.