Debra BErmingham and Kim Engle

The Evolution of Bloomer Creek

Like a glass of fine wine, a vineyard tells a story.  Bloomer Creek Vineyard tells the story of two young people, Kim and Debra, who built something together – who planted a vineyard in fields where raspberries once grew.  

Thirty years ago Kim and Debra bought a farmhouse once owned by a man named Ed Auten. The farmhouse had many rooms. Tall ornate windows looked out across corn fields and doors opened to a small orchard surrounded by fat sugar maples.  Out back, a small creek - Bloomer Creek - warbled over a shallow shale bed in early spring.  Kim came to this farmhouse by way of a love affair – a love affair with vines.

In 1978, as a young student on leave from Cornell University, Kim found himself pruning grapes on a vineyard overlooking Cayuga Lake.  The hard work, outside all day in frosty temperatures, suited him.  In the evening, standing by an outdoor grill with venison roasting and a glass of homemade wine in his hand, Kim realized he had found his life’s passion.  This passion would only intensify a year later, following an extended stay in the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. Eat, drink, and be merry - Kim decided to become a vigneron.

After returning to Cornell to complete his studies (including a stint at CSUF in Fresno, CA for viticulture and enology not yet available at Cornell) Kim began to pursue his dream – buying land, planting grapes, and practicing the nuanced poetics needed to tend them. Bloomer Creek Vineyard was established in 1999 from 10 acres with two different vineyard designations – Auten Vineyard and Morehouse Road - planted on the west side of Cayuga Lake.  In 2012 a new vineyard was added to Bloomer Creek when Kim and Debra purchased an abandoned vineyard site on the east side of Seneca Lake, one mile from their production cellar in Hector.  The vineyard had been abandoned for over 30 years and needed to be cleared of brush, trees, posts and rusted trellis wire.  In spring of 2013, four acres of Riesling was planted. “Barrow Vineyard” - Old Norse for high, rocky hill and burial mound – links the past to the future.  One lone cedar tree was left in the field amongst the vines as a testament to all who have gone before and to all who will follow.

Debra came to her passion for vines and wine through Kim.  As a little girl, in answer to the question – “What do you want to be when you grow up?” – Debra had always answered, “ artist” – which is what she became.  Now, however, (because of Kim) she realizes that she might have added – “and vigneronne” if she had only known what that meant.

While studying art at Cornell University (BFA) and the University of Washington in Seattle (MFA) Debra narrowly missed following a different path – mountaineering.  At the summit of every major peak in the Pacific Northwest, Debra exulted in the intense physicality needed to reach a mountaintop and the rewarding beauty of the ethereal landscape found there. However, pursuing beauty in the quiet north light of her studio prevailed. Now, Debra's former passion for mountaineering has a new form of expression with every grape harvest at Bloomer Creek where, instead of a fading memory of the intense journey, there is a moment of beauty in a glass of wine to savor at the end of the day.

Debra’s career as a professional artist includes over 25 years of representation by DC Moore Gallery in NY.  Her exhibition record is extensive with her work included in many private and public collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Smith College Museum of Art.  Her most recent exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in VT (8/15-10/15) entitled “Threaded Dances” travels to the Delaware Art Museum in fall 2016.

Katy Koken came to Bloomer Creek as a teenager to work part-time. Her childhood home - a beautiful house in the woods - was infused with the fiddle music of her father and the fine food of her mother. It was here that she came to love watching things grow as she helped tend her mother’s large kitchen garden - a garden that brought delicious food to their table at home as well as to her mother’s cafe in Ithaca.  

Now, 10 years later, Katy has become a crucial part of Bloomer Creek Vineyard as assistant vigneron. She received her degree in viticulture and enology from Cornell in 2011 and helps in every aspect of field and cellar work.  Like Kim and Debra, Katy sees wine as the direct expression of everything that happens in a vineyard – like the year a Bluebird built a nest in the end post of the Riesling vineyard by the pond –  a special vintage!