Over a Barrel

The Rise and Fall of New York's Taylor Wine Company

By Thomas Pellechia

Subjects: Food, Business History, New York/regional, American History, American Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438455501, 272 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438455495, 272 pages, April 2015

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Table of contents

1. Arrivals
2. War and Prohibition
3. Rebirth
4. The Rise
5. The Competition
6. Successful Choices
photo gallery follows page 98
7. Expansion
8. Offspring
9. Trouble Ahead
10. The Big Leagues
11. Fraying
12. Unraveling
13. The Fall

How a small family company in the Finger Lakes became one of the most important wine producers in the United States, only to be taken down by corporate greed and mismanagement.


Finalist for the 2015 ForeWord INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award in the Regional Category

In 1880, Walter Stephen Taylor, a cooper's son, started a commercial grape juice company in New York's Finger Lakes region. Two years later, wine production was added, and by the 1920s, the Taylor Wine Company was firmly established. Walter Taylor's three sons carefully guided the company through Prohibition and beyond, making it the most important winery in the Northeast and profoundly affecting the people and community of Hammondsport, where the company was headquartered.

In the 1960s, the Taylor family took the company public. Ranked sixth in domestic wine production and ripe for corporate takeover, the company was sold to Coca-Cola in 1977. Three more changes of corporate ownership followed until, in 1995, this once-dynamic and important wine producer was obliterated, tearing apart the local economy and changing a way of life that had lasted for nearly a century.

Drawing on archival research as well as interviews with many of the principal players, Thomas Pellechia skillfully traces the economic dynamism of the Finger Lakes wine region, the passion and ingenuity of the Taylor family, and the shortsighted corporate takeover scenario that took down a once-proud American family company. In addition to providing important lessons for business innovators, Over a Barrel is a cautionary tale for a wine region that is repeating its formative history.

Thomas Pellechia is an independent journalist and writer who previously produced wine in the Finger Lakes and operated a wine shop in Manhattan. He is the author of Wine: The 8,000-Year-Old Story of the Wine Trade, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting and Running a Winery, and Timeless Bounty: Food and Wine in New York's Finger Lakes. He lives in Hammondsport, New York.


"Pellechia, an independent journalist and writer, creates a narrative worthy of a prime time drama … An appealing book for anyone interested in the wine industry." — CHOICE

"The book is well documented … but also very personal … the many in-depth interviews that form the core of the book give us a glimpse into the personal stories [that] parallel the corporate history." — Wine Economist

"Thomas Pellechia undertook obvious meticulous research to write Over a Barrel." — San Francisco Book Review

"This is a well researched, well written and revealing book … Highly recommended." — Winesworld Magazine

"This is a fascinating book for those of us who grew up with a jug of Lake Country Red sitting in the pantry and were accustomed to using the same wine to season the marinara sauce and to pour into glasses to go with a meat entrée." — Ithaca Times

"Over a Barrel offers various cautionary lessons that can be applied to all too many businesses. The Taylor paterfamilias began making wine from grapes in the Finger Lakes region, and his three sons improved it. But when the world of wine consumption changed, the Taylors didn't, and they eventually sold out. Subsequent corporate owners gradually destroyed the wine and the farmers who grew the grapes. Only the black sheep grandson stayed true to the family code, ranting from his perch on Bully Hill." — Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It, Third Edition, Revised and Expanded