The Hazlitt Story
It Began More Than 160 Years Ago…
…and has been shaped by the family, farmers, and friends who’ve worked the land and enjoyed the fruits of our labors. It’s one of passion and perseverance, and is driven by our desire to bring people together to laugh, enjoy, and create their own stories with unique, high-quality products like Red Cat.
Read how it happened below or learn more about what drives us.
April 1, 1852
Many, many bottles of wine ago…
David Hazlitt and Clarissa Roberts Hazlitt purchased 153 acres of land covered in fruit trees and vineyards in Hector, NY.
They shipped the fruit that was produced on this land to regional markets via wagon, boat, and the ever-expanding railroad. This included grapes to the early wine industry pioneers such as Great Western and Widmer Wine Cellars.
Passing the land from generation to generation.
James Roberts Hazlitt (son of David and Clarissa) and wife Mary Miller purchased a neighboring farm and relocated their family to the home on property. The farm was then passed on to William Herbert Hazlitt and his wife Inez LaMoreaux and then James (Jim) R. Hazlitt and his bride Elizabeth (Betty) Voorhees.
Two brothers in the same business.
Jim and Betty’s two sons, James (Jim) R. and Jerome (Jerry) V. Hazlitt divided the land and both operated vineyards on the property.
Jim and his son, Eric Hazlitt, still own and operate Sawmill Creek Vineyards and Eric’s son Jason Hazlitt, owns his own winery, Hector Wine Company, on land adjacent to the original farm.
A tough decision.
Beginning in 1980, the region saw a drastic drop in crop prices and the family was faced with a tough decision: sell the land and get out of the business or figure out a different solution. So, in 1985, Jerry Hazlitt, an avid home winemaker himself, and his wife Elaine decided to start Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.
Red Cat wine was released at the winery.
With Red Cat leading the way, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards introduced several wines in their flagship year including Pink Cat, White Stag, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Baco Noir.
Of course, Red Cat comes with a story you won’t believe (or maybe you will).
The 6th generation joins the winery crew.
Doug Hazlitt and Leigh Hazlitt Triner, son and daughter of Jerry and Elaine, began working at the winery.
Hazlitt acquires second location in Naples, NY.
The Hazlitt family purchased the historic facility, Widmer Wine Cellars complex in Naples, NY to expand production of its bestselling wine, Red Cat. The winery location is now known as Hazlitt Red Cat Cellars. The complex features a tasting room, 3 million gallon production facility, warehouse, and houses a secondary production business, East Coast Crush and Co-Pack. Soon after the purchase, Doug and Leigh became co-CEOs of the Hazlitt family wine holdings.
The Oasis was built.
The Oasis, a timber frame built outdoor party pavilion, was built at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards in Hector, NY. Doug Hazlitt always likes to share that the winery needed more bathrooms, which turned into building The Oasis which has become a top spot to catch live music in Hector.
The legacy continues.
Now, the 7th generation has begun to join the Hazlitt crew, bringing with them the same passion and perseverance that drove generations before them. Helping during the busy summer season, the next generation looks forward to continuing the legacy of family, friendship, and fantastic wines Hazlitt is known for.
Today, after 35+ years of business, the Hazlitt family continues to share their great wines & great times!
The Red Cat Story
Ah, the famous Hazlitt Red Cat wine.
Or maybe it’s better to call it the infamous Red Cat wine. Why? Because it’s a great wine with a great story that intrigues every patron, even the unsuspecting ones.
Legend tells that in the early 1980s (before the actual winery existed) founder Jerry Hazlitt, a 5th generation grape grower, made wine in his home for family and local friends. The first batch was hand-pressed (actually foot stomped) in a big wooden tub in Jerry and wife Elaine’s driveway. The wine they called Red Catawba, for the native New York grapes used to make it, would soon be nicknamed Red Cat.
Some of this early Red Cat(awba) wine made its way down to a first of May party at Hazlitt beach on Seneca Lake. Jerry’s sons, renowned for their gracious hospitality with the fairer gender, “borrowed some of Dad’s grape juice” and hosted a waterfront bash with a big bonfire and a homemade hot tub. It was quickly noted that as Red Cat was consumed, friends in hot tubs became better friends in hot tubs. The Original Hot Tub wine was born.
These days, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards makes hundreds of thousands of gallons of Red Cat a year and it has become a number one selling, state-made wine in New York. Tens of thousands of visitors each year stand at the horse shoe bar and enthusiastically toast the Red Cat with friends and staff. The rumors still circulate, new stories are told, and Red Cat still brings smiles and fun to every party it starts.