Archive for August, 2008

Georg Riedel Charms and Educates a Group of Finger Lakes Wine Lovers

Last Friday, I was honored with an invitation by Christina Chely of the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, Inc. to attend a recent Riedel Glass Workshop with 10th generation glassmaker and owner of Riedel Crystal, Georg Riedel, for a comparative wine glass tasting that included three world class Finger Lakes Rieslings. As you can see from the clip, Mr. Riedel is charming and funny and was quick to share his thoughts on the Finger Lakes Wine Region and his affection for it and the people found here. He told our group that he came to the Finger Lakes for the first time in March of this year and fell in love with the people and the region and considers the Finger Lakes an emerging wine region.

Although there were many skeptics as to the importance of a wine glass to wine enjoyment, the attendees I spoke to at the event were convinced of the subtle enhancements of distinct characteristics of the wines we tasted by glasses of different shapes and sizes. Among the key points that Mr. Riedel taught us, he emphasized that when buying wine glasses, you should never buy them on aesthetics alone. He insists that you taste wine with them first.

As Georg walked us through the tasting, some glasses brought out a wine’s minerality, bitter components, acidity, warmth, fruit and complexity. We were asked to vote on our favorite glasses for each of three Finger Lakes Rieslings from Knapp Winery, Glenora Wine Cellars and Sheldrake Point Vineyard in a horizontal tasting, meaning that the same wine was tasted from seven different Riedel glasses and then the next wine was tasted across all seven glasses.

The result was that there were two distinct favorites, the #454/05 and #446/15 for the Rieslings that we tasted. But more than the educational aspect of enhancing wine appreciation via Riedel glassware, I came away with something else…a connection to Georg and his company. He was rather humble in his presentation and quick to jump in with questions to winemakers as they explained some of the complexities of the winemaking process, ever mindful of the newbies among us. Georg was hands-on and poured wine before the event, assisting his staff and taking pains to assure that the wines were ready for the event and not corked. He was quick-witted, inviting and warm in his presentation and his passion for his family’s famous glasses was palpable and much-appreciated.

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

WEEK OF 8/18/08

  • The wines of the Finger Lakes region continue to receive accolades this week. In an article with a political slant about Red and Blue state wines, Eric Arnold of turns to Tyler Colman, aka Dr. Vino, for his take on the less-heralded red and blue wine states outside of California, Oregon and Washington. Tyler includes New York as being among the blue states often overlooked and escapes the designation of being thought of as a wine-growing hot spot. He states that Long Island wines have been developing an increased following over the last 10 years, but that in order to find “greater consistency, quality and bang for the buck, look north.” As in North to the Finger Lakes.

“In the Finger Lakes area, the wines are still a bargain, and the Riesling grape tends to perform nearly as well there as anywhere else in the world–the grape’s home is Germany. Colman recommends Heron Hill, one of the region’s best-known and highest-quality Rieslings. The wine has a touch of sweetness to balance its acidity and also features that kerosene aroma wine aficionados associate with the best German Rieslings.”

The In-Depth slide show also touts New York as a sleeping giant in the wine industry and names Finger Lakes Rieslings as particularly good, calling out Heron Hill, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Herman J. Weimer and Fox Run as the wineries to seek out. Let’s keep these types of articles rolling.

  • Wine event source has launched a video arm to its site, dubbed Video Juice. Here you will find videos in the categories of Wine, Food, Spirit and Beer. If you have videos in these categories available, you may want to consider sharing them via this site to drive traffic to your website.
  • Speaking of videos, if you haven’t checked it out yet, Seneca Lake Wine Trail has videos posted to at If you create your own profile with YouTube, you can subscribe to Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s videos as well as other channels of interest for updates of new videos. As you know, video is a tremendous avenue for getting the message out about your winery, your winery’s story, what makes you different and offers a direct avenue for you to speak directly to consumers.

Cheers until next week!


Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

I recently received some great advice from Morgen McLaughlin, President of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, Inc. This new feature is just one of the many ideas that Morgen suggested to me. I will feature a round-up of interesting items from the week and welcome your input, as always!
After our lunch, I came away thoroughly impressed with her vision for the Finger Lakes Wine Industry and her dedication to pushing the envelope with forward-thinking strategies to bring the region to new levels, ultimately driving new tourists to our tasting rooms. Thanks so much, Morgen!


  • If you haven’t seen it yet, there has been an interesting exchange in the comments section of a recent post on Wine Enthusiast’s Unreserved Blog. In his post, WE Senior Editor and Finger Lakes native Joe Czerwinski responds to an article written by New York Wine & Grape Foundation’s President Jim Trezise in which Trezise laments about New York wines not receiving scores of 90 or higher in tasting reviews by editors of Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. Jim points out that there seems to be a gap in the fact that NY wines have received acclaim at the national and international blind tastings, and have won accolades from other highly-respected wine writers, however seem to have hit a glass ceiling of sorts with several scores in the 80’s but not 90’s in both WE and WS magazines. It is said that a 90 rating or above in these publications can create increased demand and sales of that wine to distributors and retailers. Although Joe states that New York wines including Rieslings can compete on a value basis, they are not yet held in high regard with the world’s top producers from Germany, Australia, Austria and New Zealand because NY wineries “have yet to show that they can regularly produce wines at the level of the world’s best”. He concludes his post with ” Since 1999, four NY Rieslings have scored 90 points in the magazine
    (listed below), and I can recall tasting a few others that I probably
    would have scored at that level if I had tasted them under properly
    controlled conditions. I’m sure that there will be many more to come.”

    90 Ravines 2005 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes); $16. Editors’ Choice. (8/1/2006)

    90 Silver Thread 2002 Riesling (Finger Lakes); $13. Best Buy. (8/1/2003)

    90 Standing Stone 2001 Ice Riesling (Finger Lakes); $32/375 ml. (8/1/2003)

    90 Pindar 1999 Ice Wine Johannisberg Riesling (Long Island); $35/375 ml. (4/1/2001)

A response from Bob Madill, Winegrower at Sheldrake Point and Board Chair of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, challenges the post:

“I can’t help but ask the question; just how many judges have tasted Finger Lakes Rieslings over the vintages such that one can truly say that there in an informed palate at work? Curious that during private
conversations at Riesling Rendezvous several name European producers independently offered the observation that they understood and acknowledged Finger Lakes Riesling for their evocation of character and
place. Mind you, many of them would only have tasted wines from this region a few times. My own vision for Finger Lakes Riesling lies less within the context of a wide spread market but as we are a collection of 102 or so small producers, more within the notion of pockets of aware enthusiasts across the US. Our challenge is two fold. One the one hand to grow grapes and ferment wines that exhibit regional specificity, and on the other, to get the word out. Viewed in this way, I am not so sure that achieving 90+ points matters as much as some of think.”

From what I understand, a majority Finger Lakes wine sales are generated directly in the tasting room. Are Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator ratings and wine competition medal wins as relevant to those visitors and core enthusiasts of the region? Or is the personal connection and nostalgia of a trip established in the tasting room during wine trailing ventures more of a factor? My take on the debate is that for those wineries looking to widen their distributorship and availability in out-of-state retail stores and via online wine sales, the scores are extremely important because they provide a benchmark and reference point for decision makers while each wine is struggling to gain attention in a sea of available wines. In order to attain scores in the 90’s, it sounds like Joe is looking for more consistency from our vintages, a challenge especially with the unpredictable growing conditions present here in New York. But with an influx of talented and visionary winemakers, surely we’re making great strides in our quest to further establish the Finger Lakes and other wine regions of New York as among the world’s best. For wineries who are very happy with direct sales via their tasting rooms and wine clubs, scores and medals may provide a helpful guide for winery visitors, but ultimately individual consumer palates and ties to the region may win out and drive their buying patterns. Keep an eye on Joe’s post for other responses to this debate.

  • Accolades for Finger Lakes Rieslings:

Laurie Daniel of the San Jose Mercury News reports from the recent Riesling Rendevouz event at Chateau Ste. Michelle outside Seattle,

There are also good dry versions from France’s Alsace region, Austria, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Domestically, the best dry rieslings tend to come from Oregon and New York’s Finger Lakes region, although there are some good ones from California, Washington, even Michigan. (Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to find wines around here from the Finger Lakes and Michigan, and most Canadian wines you’ll see are ice wines.)”
  • Seneca Lake will be the home of Finger Lakes Distilling, the region’s largest craft distillery and also a New York State Farm Distillery using locally grown fruits and grains to produce high quality, handmade spirits. Be sure to check out Finger Lakes Distilling President Brian MacKenzie’s blog for updates on construction progress…and kudos to him for engaging readers of his blog by continuing the conversation and connecting via the comments section. I also love the photos of his team and his family. Great personal touches that create interest and helps establish a bond for readers with the project. I’m also fully supportive of their vision and their use of local New York farm ingredients. (I know that my husband, Rich and my father-in-law Dick will be excited to hear about Finger Lakes Distilling’s opening. They’re both enthusiasts of fine spirits and we’ll have an additional destination on Seneca Lake to look forward to.)
  • Eric Lindstrom of Ithaca, NY is among the finalists of the I Love NY Short Film Competition with his take on the NY Wine experience called “…when in Rome…”

Cheers until next week!


Finger Lakes Wine Region Featured in Special Issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine

Wine&SpiritsCover.jpg, originally uploaded by MelissaADobson.

Wine & Spirits Magazine has just published a special issue “Rebels Rock The Best in the World of Wine.” Inside of the New Wine Travel section, the editors compiled profiles of four key wine regions in the U.S. to drive to in order to spend 48 hours immersed in wine country, with New York’s Finger Lakes wine country front and center of the feature.

Wine & Spirits publisher and editor Joshua Greene wrote the profile and mentions that “although the legacy of sweeter styles from native and hybrid vines is what fills the local tasting rooms…recently the crowds seeking out dry wines based in vinifera vines have arrived in force.” He also touts the region’s great Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Another compliment is his comparison of the Finger Lakes region to the region of Alsace.

I like this comparison because I feel that it helps to elevate the image of the region and its wines, and may even tempt lovers of Alsatian wine to give the American versions found here a try. Positioning the Finger Lakes wines as great locally-produced, better-valued alternatives could be a key selling point to the skeptical wine connoisseurs in New York City and other major metropolitan areas who tend to look to key publications such as Wine & Spirits Magazine for recommendations and affirmation of a region’s wine and culinary offerings.