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When I think about wineries, I picture rolling hills off the coast of California, buff colored landscapes dotted with rich green trees and tufts of wind swept grass, and row upon row of vines as far as the eye can see, against a backdrop of vibrant peach colored sunsets. Growing up in New England surrounded by thick pines and rocky coastlines, it never occurred to me that a similar landscape could be found in just a day’s drive.

Mary Jane and her mother, Susie Challen, of Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, had taken the trip to Maine a few months ago, hoping to try out our Le Panyol oven first hand. Mary Jane was starting her own business baking rustic pizzas at her parent’s winery in Ovid, New York, in the center of the Cayuga Wine Trail.

Like chardonnay and chevre, Mary Jane and Le Panyol were a perfect match.

Two months later, Cheryl and I loaded up our truck with her custom designed copper oven in tow. The journey would take us about 12 hours.

When we reached New York, we decided at the last minute to steer off Route 90 and take the more scenic route to Ovid. Route 20, once the major highway spanning across upstate New York and one of the oldest roads in the state, led us through charming towns that we could tell at one time had thrived along the major highway. We were awed by the unique architecture, the sky scraping windmills along the horizon, the novelty of the little towns, and the incredible, picturesque farmland in between.

By the time we reached Ovid, we thought we’d seen it all until we turned onto the Cayuga Wine Trail. The view of the valley that lay ahead of us, and the wineries scattered along the hillside opened our sleepy eyes.

We had arrived.

We followed the road down to Cayuga Ridge Estate. The vineyards surrounded us, and at the end of the driveway stood Mary Jane. She watched with excitement as we unwrapped the oven, unveiling her very own custom designed mobile oven, the copper gleaming as bright as her smile in the late afternoon sun.

After the oven received a warm welcoming and was tucked in for the night, we had the opportunity to try some incredible Cayuga Ridge Estate wine, and spend time with Mary Jane and her husband Seth, her parent’s Tom & Susie, and the rest of the Challen family. We learned about their long history making wine, their family business and close ties to their town and community. The copper oven symbolized a new generation for the winery, focusing on local ingredients and sustainability, and creating a place of gathering and comfort. It provides the opportunity to pair wholesome, rustic food alongside their world-class wine with family, friends and visitors from all over the world. Mary Jane is growing most of her own vegetables this season, relying on nearby family farms to fill in the gaps, and working with local cheese & meat producers wherever possible.

We are thrilled to work with such wonderful people, and wish Mary Jane and her family continued success at their winery and the best of luck with their wood fired baking endeavors throughout the years ahead. If you’ve never been to the Finger Lakes Region, plan a trip to visit Mary Jane and her Copper Oven. Take our word for it¦It’s worth the trip.

In the meantime, check out Mary Jane’s Web site, follow her blog, or find her on Facebook and Twitter. Her pizzas and her stories are too good to miss.
(PH) 607.220.8794


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Maine Wood Heat