History – The Story Behind the Wine

Cindy in 1986

This year Swedish Hill is celebrating their 30th Anniversary of producing quality wines in the Finger Lakes. The winery’s story actually began 47 years ago in 1969 when the Peterson family planted their first vines in order to sell grapes to other local wineries. Then in 1985 the first grapes were crushed for Swedish Hill, producing 1,200 cases.

Today the winery is owned and operated by Dave and Jean Peterson. But the Swedish Hill story actually began with Dave’s parents, Dick and Cindy Peterson who began the company in 1969 as a part-time small operation. Dick, a former school Transportation and Buildings and Grounds Supervisor, and Cindy, a former bank Vice President, started the winery while they still held their full-time jobs. Working nights and weekends the first few years with one other part-time employee, their efforts led to continuous success throughout the years leading to today’s operations of Swedish Hill producing over 60,000 cases annually.

In 1996, the team expanded when their son, Dave, joined Swedish Hill after spending seven years as a Viticulture Extension Specialist for Cornell University. Dave has a Ph.D in Viticulture from Penn State University and is currently the Chief Executive Officer.

Old Tasting Room

The family team at Swedish Hill continues to grow with Dave’s wife, Jean, who joined the team as Director of Operations in 2010 overseeing all of the tasting rooms, marketing, and human resources; their daughter, Amanda Fitzgerald has joined as Finance Manager in 2010; and their son, Kyle, worked in the winery in high school stocking the tasting room, and worked in the tasting room and in the wine cellar throughout college during breaks and in the summer.  He currently works for an investment bank in the Washington DC area. Amanda, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from St. John Fisher College and previously worked as an Auditor for Birds Eye Foods in Rochester, NY, has become a vital asset to the winery. With a broad range of experience in agricultural accounting and auditing she assists with cost analysis and all aspects of the business at Swedish Hill.

Expanding with Goose Watch and Penguin Bay Wineries

The Peterson’s success has not been limited to the Swedish Hill Winery. In 1997 they opened a second winery, Goose Watch, in a beautifully restored century-old barn right on Cayuga Lake. Then in 2005 the Peterson’s transformed the former Finger Lakes Champagne House and established its third winery, Penguin Bay located on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. The Peterson’s have also opened a Swedish Hill tasting room in Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid with an additional tasting room for Goose Watch in Lake Placid.

Producing International Acclaimed Wines

Now in business for three generations, Swedish Hill is proud to produce some of the most award-winning wines in the region. Amongst their accolades they are most honored to have received 3 “Governor’s Cups” (the highest award given to a New York State wine) in 1994, 2008, and 2010. The winery continues to rack in top honors year after year at international wine competitions across the country.  In 2015 the winery won 65 gold medals for 22 different wines, including  eight “Best of” category awards and “Winery of the Year” for the Eastern United States at two acclaimed California competitions, the Winemaker Challenge and the Critics Challenge. These honors have given Swedish Hill a total of five “Winery of the Year” awards in the past four years including the 2013 & 2014 New York State Fair competitions and the 2012 Riverside International. These awards are attestation of Swedish Hill’s dedication to consistently produce award-winning Finger Lakes wines.
Click here for more information about our awards.