In all my travels, I don’t think I’ve found anywhere in the world to be quite as special and magical as Red Maple Vineyard. When you think of a wedding venue – I don’t think of the word “family” as the first word to come to mind. But at Red Maple Vineyard – whether you are blood or not, if you work there, you are family.
The first time I came to Red Maple was circa 2017 when I was photographing an engagement session for my sweet couple, Kiren and Micah who were getting married there in June 2018. I knew from our previous conversations how much they loved the venue – but when we pulled up to the front of the building, I actually started crying.
I can’t quite put my finger on why I was so emotional about a place I had never been before – but I instantly felt a connection to the place. Little did I know that 4 years after this first visit – almost to the day – I would be marrying the love of my life there.
But – that’s not why I’m here writing about them today. When the pandemic hit – everything about my wedding photography business – and their wedding portion of the business came to a screeching halt. Around October, I was feeling extraordinarily burnt out from sitting behind the computer all day, and reached out to Shae – the doer of all things, magic maker behind the scenes, Red Maple extraordinaire, to see if I could come up and do a photoshoot on the property of her and all the staff. I was craving a good story, and there is none better than Red Maple Vineyard.
Shae and her parents, Gary and Liz, essentially built Red Maple Vineyard into the magical place it is together from the ground up. They purchased the venue in 2012, and transformed every inch of it with their incredible vision, and their own hands. From the vegetable garden, to the kitchen, to the rock wall, to the wine cellar, to the chandeliers made from old wagon wheels, to the collection of vintage and antique furniture curated by Shae, every inch of the property, the main building, and their newest additions, are made with love, care and astute attention to detail.
On the day of the shoot however – what I really wanted to focus on was the story of the people that make Red Maple as magical as it is. Because any place can have beautiful gardens, delicious food, and pretty buildings – but the people – that’s what really makes the heart of a place beat. And the staff at Red Maple are second to none.
I started my day with Shae Stone, co-founder along with her parents, and magical visionary of this place. I wanted to document the places that were most important to each person – the areas that made up their chapter of this larger story. For Shae – it was the vegetable garden, the hilltop ceremony spot with sweeping views of the Hudson Valley, and inside the main building, in the loft where her collection of antique furniture lives, and the stained glass from her grandmother’s home, or even just the music playing over the radio late into the night at events. There is an air of nostalgia everywhere for Shae, and it was important to us both that we get to capture her in this season – showcasing her love for this place.
After I photographed Shae, I went into the kitchen to meet Jose – their chef, and truly, family. Jose has been with the stones since they first opened their catering company in 1992. For this portion of the shoot, I knew I just wanted to get Jose in action – I wanted to stay out of his way and his stroke of genius, and let him do his thing as I documented it. I had the pleasure of photographing him as he made Salsa for that week’s events, and he even let me take a few portraits of him too!
After Jose, I went to the wine cellar, where I was giddy with excitement to hear more about the wine making process from Madi. Madi has been with Red Maple for quite a long time now too, and went to Cornell for Vineyard Management and Wine Making. In 2019, they were able to finally start producing their own wines, so by the time 2020 rolled around, Madi was already a pro. For Madi’s portion of the shoot, I knew I wanted to photograph her in the vineyards, in the cellar, working with grapes, holding a glass of wine, and hanging with her dog. It was important to me to capture the heart of each person, and Madi truly lights up about her job in the best way possible. I absolutely LOVE that I got to experience their passion this day.
During the cellar portion of the shoot, I also got to photograph Malike, who is in charge of many of the farm operations, and on this day happened to be helping Madi with the wine. When I asked him where he’d like his photos taken (other than the cellar) he wanted to go right to the tool shed to his tractor! I love that everyone has their favorite spots on the property.
After Malike, I got to meet Stephen, their newest staff – who would become the property manager! Essentially – this title meant he had to know a lot about a lot of things. Managing a farm, a lot about vegetables and the food, enough about wine, how to make drinks, how to fix tools, and so on. I asked him where he wanted to do his photos – and we wanted to go to a few places! We started out at the bar where he proudly made me a drink (watermelon if I remember correctly), and then we ventured out to the vegetable garden and to the chickens! We got to feed the chickens, visit the pigs (RIP), and pick some vegetables. He was so knowledgeable about everything in the garden, and you could tell how passionate he was just with what he wanted to share with me about each vegetable!
Next, we went inside the reception space to photograph Amy, the magical unicorn that is Red Maple Vineyard’s Event Coordinator. Since the majority of Amy’s job is coordinating with the wedding couples, we wanted to capture a few scenes for her: working on her laptop, setting up a reception table, and just some headshots with her pup!! I love how these came out!
Lastly, I got to photograph Gary and Liz – the amazing couple that, along with their daughter, started it all. Married 31 years, Liz and Gary Stone met at the Culinary Institute of America and later embarked on a lifelong journey that spurred the opening of Corner Stone Caterers – a charming gourmet store and catering company based out of Rye, NY. Within a few years, they expanded with a central production kitchen in Port Chester and began hosting weddings at The Wainwright House. In 2012, the Stones started Red Maple Vineyard and have now built it into what you see today, alongside their incredible family and staff.
For Gary and Liz, I knew the one shot I really wanted to get was them on the front steps of the building, and one on the road where you could see the sign that says Red Maple Vineyard. This space is so much more than a place of work for either of them. It’s a legacy. They built their home on the property as well, just across the street and up hidden a little way from the venue, so we ended the shoot up there with their horses. Of course the horses had other plans than to be in a photoshoot that day, but the light we got gleaming into the pasture was the perfect end to a magical day. What this family has built is nothing short of magic – and I can’t wait to continue enjoying Red Maple for many years to come.
To all of you who make Red Vineyard what is – thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on a dream and idea. Thank you for following your passion and sharing it with others each and every day. Thank you for your commitment to sustainability and community. Thank you for giving back. Thank you for bringing together an unbelievable group of people. Thank you, for making every person that walks through your doors, feel like they’ve just arrived home.