Ah, the famous Hazlitt Red Cat wine. Or maybe it’s better to call it the infamous Red Cat (a.k.a. HHJ) wine. Everyone comes to the winery to taste the Cat. Why? Because it’s a great wine with a great story! A forbidden 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, less apparel was worn in the hot tub. Thus HHJ, the original hot tub wine, was born.
These days, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards makes many thousands of gallons of Red Cat a year. Tens of thousands of visitors each year stand at the horseshoe bar and bellow the Red Cat chant with friends and staff. Red Cat offers logo T-shirts, golf balls, beer and wine koozies, and, of course, thong panties. The rumors still circulate, new stories are told, and Red Cat still brings smiles and fun to a party.