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!



One response to this post.

  1. I have to apologize for the formatting of this post. WordPress is not happy with my directions today.


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