Michael Von Heckler 1997
An Electrical Engineer of 28 years with Lockheed Martin, Michael von Heckler began his journey of winemaking in 1977 at a Les Amis du Vin in Greenvale, NY. There, Serena Sutcliffe MW spoke on Champagne and instilled a life-long desire to achieve a Master Winemaker certificate and Diploma, which Michael did in 1995, starting with Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW at the International Wine Center in NYC and completing the WSET Diploma through the Independent Wine Education Guild (IWEG) in Toronto.
He first began making wine on an amateur basis. Having been exposed to great wines of Bordeaux, et. al. He made wine only from vitis vinifera and purchased grapes from well known areas, such as Long Island and California. All of the grapes were purchased directly from the growers. He was awarded numerous medals for his wine from Intervin, American Wine Society and others.
In 1996 Michael discovered that just across the Canadian border in Ontario there is a large wine industry located adjacent to an age-old limestone plat/outcropping, known as the Niagara Escarpment. He noticed that the escarpment continued on the United States side of the Niagara River and asked himself, “Why not here?”. His interest and research continued.
In 1998 the first acreage was purchased and prepared for planting. 1999 the first 2300 Dijon Clone Pinot Noir plants ere ordered, drainage tile was put in place to insure dry soils year round. The spring of 2000 the first plans were put to the test on 2 acres on the land. The young plants did very well in what was to be one of the wettest spring and summer seasons.
Our Lockheed Martin Engineer/Master Winemaker was now faced with another dilemma. A slowdown of work at its office in Niagara, retirement loomed for Michael. The 2 acre vineyard experiment was now to become a full time business. Close friends made it financially possible for the fledgling vineyard to become Warm Lake Estate, LLC in the summer of 2000. Additional investors would soon follow. Who would have ever thought that now in the year 2009, that Michael would be a managing partner of a winery, which is the largest grower of Pinot Noir (55 acres) east of the Rocky Mountains and which produces “World Class Pinot Noir” on the Niagara Escarpment in New York State. Michael and his investors certainly did!