After a decade immersed in the Long Island wine industry Erik P. Bilka has decided to create his own brand. The choice of Riesling was simple. As a Buffalo native as well as through professional interaction with the Finger Lakes, NY grape growers and winemakers, Erik has made countless trips to the region and has fallen in love with the grape. “I’ve always wanted to work with one of the premier grapes so well suited to the Finger Lakes. Riesling is a grape that ripens fully and shows a variety of characteristics from one vintage to the next.” In 2009 an opportunity presented itself. Erik purchased Seneca County Riesling and thus, Influence Wines was born. Now a year later the 2010 vintage of Influence Wines has increased its production, with plans of continuing to grow in the coming years.
Erik P. Bilka was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. At an early age he developed an interest in the culinary arts. Cooking came naturally to Erik. It wasn’t long before he found himself a part of the restaurant world. He fine tuned his abilities in a range of areas, from the kitchen to the front of the house. His experiences in restaurants led him to pursue a degree from Niagara University in Hospitality Management. During his studies he was afforded an opportunity to take a semester abroad in Engelberg, Switzerland. While in Europe, Erik studied oenology and came to discover his passion and understanding of wine.
After graduation Erik toured the United States on motorcycle, making time to take in the food and drink of the many regions he visited. His travels and work experiences took him from the east coast to the west coast from Alaska to the Caribbean. In 1999 Erik relocated to the North Fork of Long Island, his goal being to learn of this regions wines and find employment in the wine industry. Erik first worked for the Cornell Cooperative Extension as a vineyard assistant. Soon after Erik was hired by Premium Wine Group, a custom crush facility in Mattituck, NY, first as a cellar man, then as production winemaker. Erik has been a part of creating many of the wines offered on the North Fork. In 2009 Erik developed the concept and label of Influence Wines. Given Erik’s experience and knowledge as a winemaker, Influence Wines promises to be one of the most exciting producers of wines on the North Fork.