When Mike and Terri Christiana started dating in 2009, they never imaged that they would open Cristiano Winery just over a decade later.
The couple’s love of wine, like their business, was built together. They have fond memories of traveling to Maryland, Northern Virginia and the Finger Lakes in Central New York in the beginning stages of their relationship. Watkins Glen, located on the southern tip of Seneca Lake, quickly became a go-to for the couple. The pair usually traveled there in the off-season, enjoying a more low-key experience and interacting with the winemakers, who would often conduct tastings themselves during this time of year, even offering private tours to the eager-to-learn couple.
After their marriage in 2012, owning a winery became a goal for retirement. Mike and Terri, both healthcare professionals, dreamed of purchasing a turnkey winery in the Finger Lakes, but there was just one problem: neither was a winemaker. So they began to dabble with the craft in 2014, just to see if they could.
His first foray into winemaking incorporated grapes given to him from a friend with a 100-year-old Concord vine. Shortly after, Mike and Terri received a variety of grapes from Armstrong Valley Winery in Halifax, Pennsylvania, who experienced a bumper crop. That year, the Christianas made an additional four wines including a Chambourcin, a Niagara, and a port wine.
With those wines, the Christianas entered Winemaker Magazine’s international amateur wine making competition, which included over 2,800 entries from 49 states, 6 Canadian providences and 10 countries in 2015. Mike’s Chambourcin received a bronze medal. The year after that, the winery received silver medals for their Vidal Blanc and Niagara, which were among almost 3,000 submissions from all 50 states, 6 Canadian providences and 13 countries. In 2017, the competition received similar entries to the previous year, and the winery earned two silver medals for Cotton Candy and Red Raspberry and a gold medal for his labor-of-love Dandelion wine.
The family’s inclination for winemaking may come from their ancestors – the Cristiano family – who immigrated to United States from Italy in the 1800s. Today, the process has brought together a family and three generations of winemakers: Anthony, Mike, and his father, Richard.