Downtown shop opens the door to a world of wines

This story was originally published by IthaCulture.

By Taylor Rescignano & Ian Stone

Bottles of all shapes, sizes and prices adorn the walls of a narrow shop in Downtown Ithaca. Exposed brick walls, repurposed wood doors and an experimental jazz album playing conveys a shabby-chic, Brooklyn-like vibe. The Cellar d’Or isn’t your stereotypical wine store: each bottle of wine and cider has a story.

Mark Grimaldi and his wife, Olivia, founded The Cellar d’Or in 2013. After Mark worked the New York City wine scene for nearly a decade, the Grimaldis found their way to Olivia’s native city of Ithaca.

“We were up here visiting,” said Mark Grimaldi. “We saw this place for rent and decided to inquire about it. Then we just got the ball rolling…it just came together, sort of like a miraculous happening.”

The shop specializes in fine—but not necessarily expensive—wines, hailing from unique regions and equally unique grapes.

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The Cellar d’Or carries all the classic staples that have withstood the test of time, from regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy. The owners source locally from the Finger Lakes, which is home to over 100 wineries and cideries, and they also follow trends.

“We try to stay up with small producers, new producers, and classic wines,” said Grimaldi, who tastes nearly every single wine before it enters the store. The only wines he doesn’t taste are the ones that come from his most trusted vineyards that consistently make high-quality products.

In addition to the Grimaldis, the shop is operated primarily by a select few handpicked staff members including shop manager Eden Mayora, who fell into his job almost accidentally.

“I would try to put new things in his hands,” said Grimaldi. “I just saw this fire and passion that reminded me of me when I was first getting into wine.”

Mayora was a student at Tompkins-Cortland Community College with a background in the restaurant business. After taking some wine classes and stopping into The Cellar d’Or multiple times a week, he caught what he describes as, “the wine bug.”

Now somewhat an expert, Mayora believes that he functions as a “caretaker for people’s journey into and through wines.”

Customers come into the store and often ask Mayora if they ‘have any dry red wine,’ or ‘what’s good.’ Instead of simply picking something for them, he tries to understand what they are really interested in drinking.

“I respond to those questions with ‘No, I want to know what you want,’” said Mayora, “So I can give you something that has character and maybe more of a risk, but also have more potential to fit what you want better than me just picking the homogenized bottle.”

The wine bug is contagious, as noted by Rob Hickson, another Cellar d’Or employee who has been working in the shop for two months.

Hickson started working in the wine industry part-time while he was attending Central Connecticut State University, and moved to the Finger Lakes to expand his knowledge of production and harvesting, specifically.

“I wanted to get my hands dirty a little bit,” said Hickson.

He said that there is a significantly younger clientele at The Cellar d’Or than he is used to seeing in Connecticut. With the strong college presence, he sees more young, budding oenophiles coming in for free Friday tastings, event tastings, or just to buy a bottle of wine.

“This is my first time here,” said Catherine Isom, a senior at Cornell University. She’s currently enrolled in one of Cornell’s wine courses that she’s “obsessed” with, but believes that she needs to supplement her classwork with outside tastings to remind herself of what she does and doesn’t like.

Mayora often finds himself goofing around to try to make the customers more relaxed and shake off the wine-snob stigma. At the same time, he wants customers to respect and understand the craftsmanship behind each bottle.

“We definitely see this as drinkable art,” said Mayora. “You have families who have been caring for the same plot of vines for generations…That is ridiculous, and I think the more that we can communicate that to everybody, there more I think that we start to get a more genuine appreciation for the art.”

Local circus studio invites Ithaca community to come and play

This story was originally published by Ithaca Week.

By Erica Dischino and Taylor Rescignano

Amy Cohen, the founder and director of Circus Culture downtown, watched a performer practice for her upcoming show. Old-timey show music plays faintly in the background as Cohen gave the performer advice on how to perfect her beats while entering and exiting the stage.

“Maybe you can work in a few kicks,” Cohen says. “Take your time when you do that last one.”

In a bright white room filled with jeweltone colored fabrics chained to the ceiling, more people congregate for the Juggle Jam as Cohen and the performer finish up her last steps.

From juggling to acrobatics to unicycling, Circus Culture, located on W. State Street, holds a variety of circus classes and sessions open to the Ithaca and broader community since it’s opening in the beginning of August.

Cohen’s passion for circus blossomed when her parents signed her up for a circus camp when she was a child. She hopes this passion she developed when was younger can be shared with others through the efforts of Circus Culture.

As an Ithaca College graduate and founder of the college’s Circus Club, Cohen found that the Ithaca area has a lot of circus performers. She wanted to create the school as a place for such individuals to collaborate.

“Circus Culture was established in an attempt to share circus in any way possible, to encourage people to see it as something they can take part in, and also to translate it into life skills,” she said.

Circus, Cohen said, allows for people of different interests and talents to find unity. She thinks it provides a way to the unique individuality of a person or a discipline through performance art.

Sam Boyles, one of Circus Culture’s instructors, has participated in other forms of performance art such as acting and playing in band. He said that performing circus acts provides him with a different type of satisfaction.

“Circus performance empties me out. I totally lose myself and that’s when I know it’s good,” Boyles said. “It feels incredible afterwards like a high, otherworldly and natural at the same time.”

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The benefits of circus is not limited to performance value though, Cohen said. She believes there is a freeing aspect of taking risks in a safe environment.

“In circus you’re kept humble all the time by the diversity of the things you try and learn and do and the people who are excelling right next to you or the people who are trying something new and failing right next to you,” she said. “That’s part of being a human in the world and it manifests in this little ecosystem way that’s both creative and physical.”

PJ Arroyo, a Juggle Jam participant, found Circus Culture after moving to Ithaca several months ago. He said that he was excited to find a juggling group after being a part of one at his former college.

“It’s a great way to pass the time,” Arroyo said. “It’s addicting and I think anyone can learn to juggle.”

The inclusivity of circus, Cohen said, will provide the business new ways to reach different audiences. She plans on using circus as a form of social change and wants to provide it for populations, such as people children with autism and elders, that would not necessarily have access to it.

“It’s about communication and cooperation and physical literacy. It just has amazing benefits for humans,” she said. “It’s great for adults to play.”

Cohen said that she often asks herself if what she’s doing is “in the spirit of circus” and if she’s being authentic. She hopes that Circus Culture will provide a connection to circus in bigger way.

“As a circus person you’re always advocating what circus is and can be,” she said. “Unlike dance or theater where people have an idea in their head, this art form is really blossoming.”

Ithaca College professor pioneers wearable figure skating device

This story was originally published by Ithaca Week.

By Taylor Rescignano, Kelli Kyle and Miranda Materazzo

Deborah King, associate professor of biomechanics in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at Ithaca College, entered the final stages of her most recent study. King specializes in figure skating and has been collecting data from a new piece of wearable technology that attaches to the ice skate. After conducting trials with the device since March, she’s hopeful that this round will be her last.

King and her team designed the instrument to measure the vertical and horizontal forces exerted by skaters during jumps, in hopes of making sense of overuse injuries.

“Skaters have a lot of injuries,” said King. “We’re not sure if those injuries are caused from jump landings or takeoffs. It seems somewhat logical, but we don’t know that yet. If we go with that theory that it’s certainly a possibility, this will give us the tools to look at different interventions and see if they’re effective.”

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King met Sarah Ridge, assistant professor of biomechanics at Brigham Young University, at a conference in 2009. As a former competitive figure skater, Ridge uses her own experiences to further her research.

“I was also motivated by the number of injuries I saw in my friends,” said Ridge, “Like cracking and popping hips. I feel like you shouldn’t be cracking at 18!”

“Compared to other sports, ice is the hardest landing surface and it has virtually no shock absorption. Therefore, the joints in the foot, ankle, knee, hip and back must do all the work to absorb the shock upon impact.”
-United States Figure Skating Association

Ridge has been working closely with the engineering program at BYU to design the device. Ithaca College does not have an engineering program, so the research team relies on a combination of faculty members and graduate assistants to develop the instrumentation and communicate their results with the team in Ithaca.

Along with several student assistants at IC, King recruits local skaters to volunteer in the lab to jump on a force plate covered by a slab of artificial ice.

The team hasn’t sufficiently waterproofed the skate, so right now it’s only being used in a lab setting. Their main goal is to measure the data received by the device and the force plate to make sure that they match up to determine that the device code is reliable.

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Ithaca College senior Cody Stahl, who admits that he’s “a terrible skater,” assisted with the project this past summer while on a DANA scholarship, which is reserved for students who do summer research or an internship. It helps secure funding while providing the student necessary research experience.

“I’d kind of walk [the skater] through what we were gonna do for each trial and how it’s gonna go,” Stahl said. “I’d be the one collecting the data on the computer. Really it’s just stop and start and a few saves. Then [Professor King] would turn on the boot, because we have a card that reads each jump. So we turn it off and back on, and when we go to analyze it, we have to know which one’s which.”

While King received the prototype in March, she’s had to send the boot back to BYU multiple times to adjust something. She is now starting to do trials on the third version of the blade.

“On the version we’re on now, which is hopefully the final version, we’re only up to 150 or 200 trials over across maybe four skaters,” said King. “We plan on using about ten skaters and each skater is doing about 25 trials.”

Figure skating is a harshly under-researched topic, with practically no data on file. King states that running, for example, has been researched heavily for decades and there are still plenty of unanswered questions. Without proper instrumentation, figure skating lacks the means to produce similar data.

The ultimate goal of the project is to be able to read a specific skater’s data and determine where his or her high forces lie, and find out how to combat or reverse them.

“Maybe strength and conditioning programs to help them handle the higher forces,” King said.

As of right now, however, there is not enough data to determine if any of her theories are true.

“We want to get started and pass the research along,” said King, “because we can’t do everything ourselves.”

Educate the Children Inc. provides relations with Nepali village

This story was originally published by Ithaca Week.

By Olivia Cross and Taylor Rescignano

In 1966, a group of college-aged students traveled to Nepal as Peace Corps volunteers. Beth Prentice went with a desire to give kids the opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

“Living in a society whose daily life, culture, expectations and religious views and pretty much everything were completely different from my own was really mind-expanding,” Prentice said. “We’re so very different in our understandings of the world yet the elements of humanity are still the same.”

Ithaca-based, Prentice is now the volunteer U.S. Board President for Educate the Children, Inc., an organization that gives a classified village an English education to give them more stable lives with more opportunities.

Founder Pamela Carson began the organization in 1990 after a personal visit the year before. Seeing the lack of women’s and children’s education in Nepal, she felt inclined help.

Now, 25 years later U.S. Director Lisa Lyons manages this organization all from her laptop.

When she started working at Educate the Children Inc., she stated that the non-profit had an office. For years, they had been trying to find a third party to share the space with because of the cost of rent. Finally, Lyons made the decision to give up their space, and use their money towards something “more meaningful”—like Nepal.

“All the work happens in Nepal,” Lyons said. “Because we are supporting something that is not here [in the United States], it makes it possible to work mobily.”

Nine board members, who are dispersed throughout different areas of the country, meet three times a year at an agreed location. There they discuss the organization’s status, ideas for upcoming events and future trips to Nepal.

While the group has gotten smaller and the management has changed over the years, Lyons hopes that the flexibility of the job description will draw in more younger people. She aims to gain interest from individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s in particular.

ETC relies primarily on donors and fundraisers to keep up the work they do in Nepal. The organization has roughly 200 to 300 supporters at the moment, but that number fluctuates regularly.

“Nobody goes into this to get rich,” said Lyons.

Prentice states how the board holds the responsibilities of overseeing the organization’s spending and ways in which donations are being used.

Approaching her fourth year of work with ETC, Lyons has made two visits to Nepal, once in early 2013, and the second in early 2015.

According to the The World Bank, Nepal’s per capita annual income was only $730 (USD) in 2014. There is a huge economic disparity between castes, and there is a lack of stable infrastructure in many rural areas.

ETC currently employs 17 people in Nepal, several of whom are full-time residents in the villages they work in.

As a non-profit, Lyons states how their concern is always about the residents of the village and the people that they are responsible for educating.

ETC works with 30 schools, totaling more than 3,000 students, and supplies classroom with colored pens, crayons, paper, notebooks, textbooks, among other materials.

“We concentrate highly on early childhood education because kindergarten is somewhat rare in Nepal,” Lyons said. “We have started both pre-k and kindergarten programs because we want the children to be prepared before entering school.”

If a family cannot afford to send all their children to school, they will very often keep the daughters home. They will raise them to be homemakers, parents often leave them responsible for taking care of their younger siblings.

“We always put them first,” said Lyons. “We want to know how they are doing, how we can continue to help, and what things we can do here in the U.S. that they are unable to do there, such as fundraising.”

Lyons states how many Nepali women in this specific community cannot read. Less than 25 percent are completely literate according the the ETC website, and many of them are struggling to support their families due to systematic discrimination and Nepal’s cultural preference for sons.

Spanning from ages 20 to mid 60s, women are grateful that ETC has supplied them with an education, as well as the means to support and express themselves.

Two earthquakes in the spring of 2015 left the country in shambles. ETC was affected severely, losing most of their students’ homes, and displacing all but one of their Nepali staff members who resided in the village.

“The earthquake was a true sign of how strong we are as an organization,” Lyons said. “We pulled together money to enable over 1,000 families with shelter.”

Because of the rapid action from ETC supporters and donors, the organization as well as its community are now returning back to their normal lives.

Ithaca Catholic School hosts annual “Fun Walk” fundraiser

This story was originally published by Ithaca Week.

By Taylor Rescignano and John Stanley

“Hey!” booms Principal Donald Mills as he observes dozens of students taking laps around the Immaculate Conception School’s campus. “We’re not running, jogging or anything…” Principal Donald Mills said light-heartedly to a small girl. He chuckled as he reminded her to walk slowly, slowing down his voice for emphasis.

From noon to 2 p.m. on Friday October 23, students ranging from pre-kindergarten to grade six took part in the Immaculate Conception School’s annual “Fun Walk” to raise money.

The school is a member of the Diocese of Rochester, and as a Catholic school, tuition and fundraising are the school’s primary means of support. The Fun Walk is their second largest fundraiser of the year.

The money raised by sponsors will be used toward the school’s tuition assistance program for financial aid, technology in the classroom, school maintenance, or other things on a need-basis.

Rich Rasmussen, an organizer for the Fun Walk and a parent of ICS students, said that the event draws a lot of community support and attention. Parents take note of the fact that although the school costs tuition to attend, there is an open admission policy and scholarship opportunities funded through fundraisers such as these.

“It’s one of the things that makes you really marketable as a school,” said Rasmussen. “A lot of parents are looking around to see what the best environment for their kid is, so there’s a lot of advantages that happen with open enrollment, not just as a school district, but as a Catholic school.”

Each child participant is given a sponsor sheet, which is to be filled out by family, friends, and community members that give a certain amount of money to the school. Sometimes sponsors will donate a flat rate, and sometimes they will pledge to donate by rate.

Rasmussen said that his brother-in-law gave one dollar for every lap that his children walked, which incentivized them to walk faster to raise more money.

Parents and faculty weren’t the only volunteers at the fun walk. The Cornell University Men’s Lacrosse team, which volunteers often at the Immaculate Conception School, was also present to lend some helping hands.

Many members of the lacrosse team take part in a program called Big Red Readers, which was founded by former captain George Boiardi. Boiardi died suddenly during a lacrosse game in 2004 after being struck in the chest by a ball. The group comes to the Immaculate Conception School frequently to read to different age groups. The team likes to help out regularly, doing whatever they can.

“It’s fun. We love doing it because George [Boiardi] loved doing it,” said Charlie Estill, a sophomore on the team. “He was big into literacy and childhood education. He and his family are really supportive of this and it’s good to give back like he was trying to.”

The team marked down the laps completed by each student and helped the organizers keep the kids in line.

In addition to the Fun Walk, the school also hosts an auction in the spring, a spaghetti dinner in the winter, and an alumni appeal, where they ask former students to give back to the school.

The money raised from all of these events will go to whatever area needs the most attention, which could be as simple as school supplies or as imminent as building maintenance; Principal Donald Mills mentioned that the school is currently in need of a new boiler.

The school currently has 103 students but is looking to grow.

“When we enhance our enrollment we increase diversity in the school,” said Rasmussen, “and that advances the learning experience.”

Cornell students get a taste of the industry in winemaking courses

This story was originally published by Ithaca Week.

By Ciara Lucas and Taylor Rescignano

For one Cornell senior, a homemade wine experiment gone wrong turned into a possible career path.

“This is not inspiring…Freshman year me and my friend were like, why don’t we make some wine with grape juice?”, she said, explaining how she chose to take her first Viticulture and Enology course.

“We looked it up online and bought jugs of grape juice and baker’s yeast from the store and made it in our dorm room fridge”, she said. “It was gross, and we didn’t drink any of it because it was disgusting.”

From pruning, to harvesting, and bottling wine, Cornell students are learning all about vines and wines. In the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, there’s no shortage of high quality wineries and lakeviews to accompany them. While Cornell University has played a role in the area’s wine industry for decades, now students have the opportunity to become an integral part and learn to produce their own products.

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Cornell’s teaching winery opened in July 2013, and was a large investment made by the university. The $105 million facility has contributed to growing the Viticulture and Enology program—otherwise known as V&E—and has allowed the addition of majors and minors, as opposed to smaller elective courses within the agriculture school that existed prior.

The new facility, filled with small-scale equipment, allows a handful of students to work at a time, and also mirrors what real-life wineries and vineyards use to produce their wines.

“There’s only so many staff that are teaching viticulture and enology, said Dwayne Bershaw, an Enology professor at Cornell. “We have lab classes in the teaching winery and getting more than 15-20 students in a lab starts to get unwieldy. It’s hard to handle that many, and there’s only so much equipment.”

Bershaw teaches upper-level winemaking courses, focused on harvesting the grapes, pressing them, and waiting through the fermentation process while simultaneously testing sugar levels.

The V&E courses change seasonally, depending on how the grapes need to be treated.

“In the winter time, we’ll be finishing the wines, filtering them and getting them ready and bottling them in the spring,” said Bershaw, assuring that there will always be something to do.

“It’s not as busy as the harvest time, but there’s still lots of things to do and learn about when grapes aren’t growing.”

Senior Biology major Alanna Todd is a viticulture minor and a teaching assistant for the introductory wine course. She’s taking part in a group project right now where she must harvest and produce a wine.

“My group has Chardonnay, but it’s probably going to be rotten because of all this rain.” said Todd.

While Chardonnay is the name of a commonly known white wine, it is also the name of the grape that produces it. Originating in the Burgundy region of France, it is well-suited for cooler climates and does fairly well in the Finger Lakes if harvested before the autumn rain comes.

Todd explained that after the harvest, the groups have to press the grapes, rack them— “filter out all the junk that falls in,”—inoculate the wine, then keep track of the fermentation “and all that crazy stuff,” test the sugar throughout and then say, ‘“Okay, fermentation’s over.”

Aside from the wine she drinks in class, Todd admits that she isn’t a huge wine drinker.

“In order to be a T.A., we have to participate by drinking the wines,” she said, “But I don’t actually drink wine on a daily basis…maybe two days a week in labs. We don’t even get to keep any of the wines we make in class, obviously, because most of the people are under 21.”

Cornell’s teaching winery focuses more on experimenting than bottling and selling. Bershaw explained that if the school did plan on selling students’ products, an additional marketing and selling component to the program would need to be added.

“Maybe we’d think of expanding later on someday”, Bershaw said. “But for now we’ll let the program grow a little bit”.

Ribbon cutting marks addition of new wellness practice in Ithaca

This story was originally published by Ithaca Week and also appears in The Ithaca Voice.

By Faith Maciolek and Taylor Rescignano

Mayor Svante Myrick and members of the Ithaca community welcomed a new business on Friday, bringing a new kind of wellness practice to the area.

Margaret Snow, a spiritual life coach, held a ribbon cutting for her new office at the Integrative Medicine Center on W. State Street. Snow, who has been in practice for three years, offers a technique called reiki to individuals and groups and archetypal counseling, which helps clients understand their behavior through self-identified personality types. Snow opened a business in Ithaca in the hopes of making reiki more mainstream.

Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) is an ancient natural method which can reduce stress and provide deep relaxation.

“I have an office next door to Margaret, and she is really amazing.” said Daniel Kaiya, a Holistic Artist offering Chakra therapy in the Center. “What she’s doing is an incredible bridge between mainstream reality and a holistic reality in a way that very few people pull off…Her reiki is exceptional. I’ve studied with some of the best teachers in the country, easily, and what comes through her is daunting.”

Reiki is not a massage.The client is fully clothed. They can be on a Reiki table, or she can do it while they’re sitting up. She’ll either put her hands lightly on the client or hover her hands over the client and let her energy come through.

Snow said Reiki has many positive effects. Its uses can range from relieving the physical stress of grief from mourning mothers who have lost children, to calming the anxieties of patients before medical treatments. While Reiki does not cure physical ailments, it does put the body in a “rest and digest” mode which allows it to heal more quickly, according to Snow. She said clinics across the country use Reiki in their chemotherapy treatment centers.

“A couple weeks ago I gave Reiki to a woman whose cancer came back,” Snow said, “and she was really stressed. And I went to her house to give her Reiki. I could see there was a lot going on in her family besides her own stress of having a relapse of cancer… and after I gave her Reiki she said, ‘This is the first time in so long I’ve felt cared for.’”

Snow believes Reiki is a great way for people to take control of their own healthcare. She said many people go to the doctor with a “fix me” mentality, and Reiki gives them the tools to allow their body to fix themselves.

Snow’s archetypal consulting helps clients better understand their own psyche and personality makeup. Archetypes, which are universal symbols such as the Prince, the Mother and the Rebel, are traits every person is born with. Snow said it is another way for people to become “self-aware.”

“I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs…and I’m “IJ” and I don’t even remember what that means anymore,” Snow said. “But I do know that I’m a Rebel. That’s just easy. It’s easy to remember. It’s easy to relate to. So it was just something that seemed easy and made a lot of sense, and people seemed to enjoy it. And they’re proud of who they are.”

Snow said the archetypes people are born with are with them “until the day you die,” and learning the light and shadow sides of each archetype can help them better understand themselves and others.

“It’s important that we know what’s going on with us and why it’s happening,” Snow said. “You were born that way, and it’s okay. You’re living out your life like you’re supposed to.”

For more information on Margaret Snow, visit her website at margaretsnow.com