A Vintage Success Story

BUFFALO, NY - Life is sweet for Kris '04 and Nicole Kane '04, the husband and wife team behind 21 Brix Winery in Portland, NY. When the couple met during their senior year at Canisius, Kris was a pre-med student with plans to be a chiropractor. Nicole pursued international studies and marketing. Today, they produce award-winning wines from 17 varieties of grapes grown on 225 acres of vines, on the family farm where the Kanes operate their 10,000 square-foot winery.

Kris grew up on the family farm, and helped grow and cultivate grapes, cherries and other fruits that were sold primarily to juice makers. He had no intention of returning, once he left to attend Canisius and pursue a pre-medicine degree. But a spring break visit back home helped Kris see the possibility that he could use his education in the sciences in a new way.

"My friend Dan Saltino '04 came to work with us and said I was ‘so lucky to be able to work on a farm,’" Kris recalls. "That really hit home and I began to see the farm in a different light. I realized I was fortunate and I could build a future here."

Kris re-focused his studies on plant biology. He worked alongside Biology Professor Robert J. Grebenok, PhD, to gain insight into plant physiology.

After graduation, Kris learned to become a winemaker at a winery in northeastern Pennsylvania. He honed his winemaking skills during a one-year stay at a state-of-the-art winery in Australia. Meanwhile, Nicole began a teaching career in Jamestown.

The couple married in 2010 and partnered with Kris' parents to open 21 Brix Winery on the farm property in 2011. Less than three short years later, a group of national wine professionals named Kris among the top 100 most influential winemakers in the U.S.

Both Kris and Nicole agree that their Canisius educations help them in the business, as he takes care of production and she manages the marketing.

"Canisius taught me the reflective, critical thinking necessary to make the many decisions that go into operating a business like this," Kris says. "My biology studies and lab skills also tie in to the winemaking aspect."

"My Canisius education comes into play more than I ever thought, since we are constantly marketing the winery and thinking about new ideas to grow our business," adds Nicole.

Kris and Nicole Kane will host a wine tasting at Homecoming Weekend 2014. 

Wine Recommendations

Kris Kane was recently named to the list of the top 100 most influential winemakers in the United States by IntoWine.com, a group of national wine professionals. Kris offered the following recommendations as a few of his favorites:

Gewurztraminer -- One of the hardest wines to pronounce but one of the easiest to drink. Delicious and fruity, it goes well with holiday dinners and their many different flavors such as ham and turkey.

Cherry Wine -- The flavor of cherry pie in a delicious wine with a light aroma. Perfect for holiday parties and entertaining.

Ice Wine -- The ideal dessert wine, sweet and fruity with a flavorful finish. Perfect for sipping by the fire on a cold evening.