History

rufus

Sheldon “Rufus” Butler

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“The Old Vineyard”

Great Vines and Great Wines — It’s in Our Roots!

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 place where Liberty Vineyards & Winery now stands. The Butlers began farming the land.

In the 1860s, Sheldon “Rufus” Butler (great-grandfather of Gary Burmaster, who founded Liberty Vineyards with his wife, Pam) 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  (read more about Sheldon “Rufus” Butler here). 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”.

Around the time the Butler family was farming in Sheridan, the Richter family was emigrating from Germany and eventually settling 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. They inspired the family with love and their belief in “give and take”, which they considered the secret to a long marriage and a happy life. 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 Richter on our Richter Red label.

Herbert and Beulah Richter on our Richter Red label.

Herbert and Beulah’s daughter, Ruth, married Sheldon Burmaster, grandson of Sheldon “Rufus” Butler, tying the two families–and the two farms–together.

Herbert Richter and son, John, loading grapes

Herbert Richter and son, John, loading grapes

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The place where the winery now stands in 1964.

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, 13 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’ first great-great-great-grandbaby was born on December 23, 2013, and will surely spend some time around the vineyards and winery.

Wedding of Sheldon and Ruth (Richter) Burmaster

Wedding of Sheldon and Ruth (Richter) Burmaster