While we first opened the doors to Liberty Vineyards & Winery in 2008, its history goes back much longer – to 1839 when the Reuben Butler family (ancestors of the Burmaster family who currently own and operate the vineyards and winery) headed west from Herkimer County, New York and settled in the small town of Sheridan, New York near Lake Erie. They built their home on Main Road in Sheridan, just in front of the site where Liberty Vineyards & Winery now stands. The Butlers began farming the land.
In the 1860s, Sheldon "Rufus Butler and his family planted about 7 acres of Concord grapes. While most of the grapes grown in this original vineyard were transported on trains to cities where they were sold on the fresh market, Rufus was also a winemaker and was listed in the the 1891 Directory of the Grape Growers, Winemakers and Distillers of California, and of the Principal Grape Growers and Wine Makers Of the Eastern United States Published by the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners of California. Today, the Concord vineyard Rufus planted remains one of the most productive vineyards on the property and is lovingly referred to as the "Old Vineyard".
Sheldon "Rufus" Butler
Sheldon "Rufus" Butler, great-grandfather of Gary Burmaster (who founded Liberty Vineyards with his wife Pam) was born in 1827 in Litchfield, NY and moved to Sheridan, New York in 1839. He and his family began farming in the area and planted a vineyard in the 1860s. Today, we continue to harvest grapes from that original Concord vineyard.
A couple years ago, we discovered that Rufus was not only a grape grower, but a winemaker as well. He is listed in the 1891 Directory of the Grape Growers, Winemakers and Distillers of California, and of the Principal Grape Growers and Wine Makers Of the Eastern United States Published by the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners of California. The first wine produced at Liberty Vineyards, Rufus Red, is a tribute to Sheldon "Rufus" Butler and those who laid the groundwork for Liberty Vineyards. Rufus Red is a fruit-forward, semi-dry red wine with a long finish. There is no other wine quite like Rufus Red. Stop in for a taste – it's perfect to enjoy with pizza, pasta or beef. Cheers!
Around the time the Butler family was farming in Sheridan, the Richter family was emigrating from Germany. They eventually settled on a farm on Newell Road in Sheridan. Herbert Richter was born in 1898 and grew up on the Newell Road farm. Later, he and his wife, Beulah, lived on the farm and raised fruits (including grapes!), vegetables and three children there. Some of the grapes in our Richter Red blend came from the Fredonia grape vineyard Herb and Beulah planted decades ago. The semi-sweet, fruity wine harkens back to the simple, country-style wine Herb used to make. It was created to be shared with loved ones.
Herbert and Beulah's daughter, Ruth, married Sheldon Burmaster, grandson of Sheldon "Rufus" Butler, tying the two families – and the two farms – together. Sheldon and Ruth, and eventually their son, Gary, carried on the family tradition of grape growing, with each generation expanding vineyard acreage and planting new grape varieties. Today, 14 varieties of grapes are grown on the 93-acre farm. In 2008, Gary and Pam Burmaster, along with their daughter, Beth, expanded the operation to include a winery. Rufus' great-great-great-grandson, Isaac, was born in 2013, and loves spending time around the vineyards and winery.
For nearly 150 years, our family has been growing grapes in Sheridan, New York. Six generations later, we remain devoted to producing high-quality grapes and turning the fruit of our vines into fine wines. We believe that great wine starts in the vineyard and are committed to the quality that comes from careful attention to every step of the winemaking process–from the vine to the bottle.
Visit us for a fun and informative tasting with our family and great staff. Taste our wide variety of award-winning wines made from grapes grown in our own vineyards or sourced from friends’ and neighbors' local farms. When you taste our wine, you'll know why we say "great vines make great wines!".