Archive for September, 2008

Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #2-Bob Madill, Winegrower at Sheldrake Point

Our Finger Lakes Visionaries interview series continues with insights from Bob Madill, Winegrower and General Manager at Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake, Vice Chairman of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and Chair of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

MD: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

BM: I began to visit the Finger Lakes in the early 90’s to attend the Geneva Wine Workshops. In 1996 Thomas Henick-Kling (Cornell Station) introduced me to Greg Sandor who was putting a group together to purchase the farm on Cayuga Lake that became Sheldrake Point Vineyard. I had been working in the wine industry in Canada and was looking for a suitable opportunity. After several visits and spending time looking over the property I joined the founding group and was able to secure our start up capital. Having traveled looked at opportunities elsewhere in the US and Canada I was struck by the beauty of the area and the opportunities to produce fine vinifera grapes and thereby fine wines in an area that had such wonderful tourism values. We secured the farm in Jan 2007 and planted our first five acres that year.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

BM: 1. Superb growing circumstances with Lake Ontario to the north, deep lake microclimates and well drained slopes facing east and west.

2. Consistent regional wine profiles that exhibit fresh fruits, liveliness, moderate alcohols, with world-class aromatic white wines – most particularly Riesling.

3. Terrific hospitality and very consumer friendly pricing.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

BM: The Finger Lakes is gaining visibility on the strength of Riesling and aromatic white wines. As Chair of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and President of the Cayuga Wine Trail – we have been developing and offering media visitation and tasting programs, coordinated participation in national wine media evaluations and the expansion and enhancement of visitor facilities.

A comprehensive program of traveling tasting programs for consumers and media in major markets, modeled after the FLWA Riesling Summit in New York City would further energize interest and support for the Finger Lakes.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

Consistent and stable funding for outreach programs such as those provided by national agencies in Germany, various French export groups, Italy and others.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

Continued growth in our visibility and recognition as a world-class region for wine growing and visitation leading to wider distribution of our wines directly to enthusiasts.

MD: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

An invitation to taste, visit and enjoy Finger Lakes wines and wineries!

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

Week of 9/22/08

  • Solid scores for the 2007 vintage of Finger Lakes wines continue with The Wine Advocate’s David Schildknecht rating four of the region’s wines from 86 to 88 on the 100 point scale.

Herman J Wiemer
Riesling 2007 Finger Lakes Late Harvest
score: 88 / $25

Landing 2007 Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc T 23
score: 88 / $18

Herman J
Wiemer Johannisberg 2007 Finger Lakes Riesling Dry
score: 87 / $19

Anthony Road
Riesling 2007 Finger Lakes Semi Dry
score: 86 / $15

I agree with Lenn Thompson at LENNDEVOURS blog on his view that NY wines certainly have the potential to break through and more consistently receive 90+ ratings. For the Finger Lakes region, I like the strategies that favor the wineries continuing to submit their best, most elegant wines for review to key wine publications. I feel that winemakers and winery owners should continue to collaborate and work toward elevating the image and reputation of the region by being extra attentive to how it is represented to consumers, trade and the media. In other words, continue to look beyond their own front doors and toward the big picture. Wouldn’t it be amazing to create an intimate, elegant consumer and trade/media wine and food showcase in a setting that truly “showcases” the beauty of the Finger Lakes? Perhaps it makes sense to appoint a winemaker or winery owner as the go-to spokesperson, someone who will be media trained so that she or he is comfortable and engaging on camera. (Our very own Robert Mondavi) This spokesperson could be called upon to proactively continue to educate consumers/trade/media on the region and its wines beyond what associations including Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing, Inc., Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the Wine Trails, and other agencies are already knocking themselves out to do. I see this person as a thought leader in the industry who is not afraid to continue to push the envelope, embrace technology and look toward the strategies that elevated the reputation of the West Coast wine industry in order to create our own plan to change any misconceptions that our wine region is second-rate.
  • In these uncertain and scary economic times, is there a market for “cheap chic” wines? This article on the popularity of value store brands such as those carried by Target, who is now finding success in repositioning itself as the merchandiser of affordable chic goods, brought to mind a possible marketing strategy for wineries: producing a line of wallet-friendly but still elegant, quality wines. It may be as simple as taking your table blends or meritage and recreating and redesigning their labels and names while keeping bottle prices affordable. Some beautiful examples of label designs can be found here. Click through and get the creative juices flowing!
Thank you for continuing to check out this column and cheers until next week!

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2007 Finger Lakes Rieslings Receive High Ratings in Wine Spectator

What does a hot, dry season do to the wines of the Finger Lakes region? It creates a vintage that is receiving scores in the high-80’s in the Wine Spectator with more coverage of the 2007 and other vintages to come. Anthony Road and Atwater Estate Vineyards were given special mention for their consistent track record for very good quality. (Full disclosure: I have been shadowing some of the staff at Atwater recently as an apprentice and they have all been great and supportive!)

Here are the ratings:

RAVINES Riesling Finger Lakes Dry Argetsinger Vineyard 2007 Score: 89 | $25

Focused and pure, with tangy fennel, anise and apple notes allied to a bright, pure frame. Nice drive on the finish. Drink now through 2009. 150 cases made.


ANTHONY ROAD Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2007 Score: 88 | $15

Plump up front, with fennel and anise hints, before the dry edge emerges on the bright, minerally finish. Very solid. Drink now through 2009. 700 cases made. —J.M.

ANTHONY ROAD Riesling Finger Lakes Semi-Dry 2007 Score: 88 | $16

Broad and forward, with quince, dried pineapple and green almond notes followed by a rich, creamy finish. Drink now. 750 cases made. —J.M.

ATWATER ESTATE Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2007 Score: 88 | $18

Fresh and nicely defined, with a mouthwatering edge driving the apple, fennel seed and lime notes through the lengthy finish. Drink now through 2009. 500 cases made. —J.M.

DR. KONSTANTIN FRANK Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2007 Score: 88 | $17

Quite taut, despite a marzipan edge running through the tangy green apple and lime notes, which linger on the petrol-tinged finish. Has some mature hints already, but it’s fresh and long, and should age nicely. Drink now through 2009. 4,500 cases made. —J.M.

STANDING STONE Riesling Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 88 | $14

Ripe and juicy, with a solid core of anise, melon and fig flavors backed by a nice mouthwatering MacIntosh apple note on the finish. Drink now through 2009. 1,124 cases made. —J.M.

BELHURST ESTATE Riesling Seneca Lake Semi-Dry 2007 Score: 87 | $18

Tangy for an off-dry style, with lively quince and lime notes leading the way for apple and pear hints on the juicy finish. Quite tasty. Drink now. 200 cases made. —J.M.

KING FERRY Riesling Cayuga Lake Treleaven Dry 2007 Score: 87 | $15

Quite dry and bony, with a slate-driven spine leading the taut green apple and lime notes. Tangy, chalk-tinged finish. Drink now through 2009. 1,320 cases made. —J.M.

KNAPP Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2007 Score: 87 | $15

Nice purity, with a crisp lime edge backed by slate and green apple notes that linger on the chiseled finish. Drink now. 307 cases made. —J.M.

LAKEWOOD Riesling Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 87 | $13

Quite crunchy, with a tangy lime streak running through the Pippen apple and green almond notes. Lively finish. Drink now through 2009. 800 cases made. —J.M.

SHELDRAKE POINT Riesling Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 87 | $16

Good focus, with a nice slatey edge to the apple and fig flavors. Good drive on the finish too. Drink now through 2009. 743 cases made. —J.M.

SHELDRAKE POINT Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2007 Score: 87 | $16

Juicy and open, with quince, pippen apple and braised fennel notes that stay fresh on the finish. Drink now. 987 cases made. —J.M.

FOX RUN Riesling Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 86 | $14

Fresh, with a bracing edge to the lime, green apple and chamomile hints. Good cut on the finish. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. —J.M.

DR. KONSTANTIN FRANK Riesling Finger Lakes Semi-Dry 2007 Score: 86 | $15

Fresh, with off-dry apple, pear and quince notes followed by a round, generous finish. Drink now. 3,900 cases made. —J.M.

SWEDISH HILL Riesling Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 86 | $15

Plump and forward, with good apple, green melon and anise notes. Round, juicy finish. Drink now. 1,500 cases made. —J.M.

Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #1-Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards

Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards

Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards

To kick off my series of interviews of the thought leaders and visionaries driving the wine and culinary industries here in the Finger Lakes region, I’m happy to present you with my interview with Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake.

MD: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

SO: I was originally from Rochester and after I began working in the wine business out in California I came back to visit family. I decided to go wine tasting and knew if I went I would be welcomed and would get to visit with the people who were making the wines. It was also my introduction into Cool Climate Wines which I was unfamiliar with coming from the California industry. I was told Santa Barbara where I worked was a cool climate. My last stop was Wagner and I tasted their 82 Chardonnay. I was blown away. It was an epiphany, one of many I have had while pursuing my wine career. I now understood what a real cool climate wine was all about. Over the next few days I decided I wanted to make Chardonnay like that and the only place I could do that was here in the Finger Lakes. So I went back to California and made plans to move back here and take my chances on finding work in a relatively unknown wine region. The reason I say unknown is that making wine from Vinifera in the Finger Lakes was unheard of outside of the Finger Lakes.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

SO: This is the place to grow and make Riesling!

This is the place for large outside investors who are interested in the wine business and investing, to invest in vineyards and wineries.

We need investment in larger hotels so more people can visit and stay over night.

The future is very bright and we are excited about it.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

SO: I have mixed feelings. On one hand the progress of wine making and increased quality of our wines is going very well. The Rieslings of the Finger Lakes are some of the best in the world and we have the potential to make the best in the world.

On the other hand, our wines are not recognized for being as good as they are. This can be evidenced by reading the description of Finger Lake wines in the major wine magazines then compare those descriptions and scores to other descriptions of California or French wines with higher scores.

We need to keep pounding on the glass ceiling by sending our wines to be reviewed and eventually the tasters will start giving us the scores we deserve.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

SO: Mostly getting Liquor stores and restaurants to give our wines the same chance they give wines from France, California, Italy, and Australia. Most of them still remember the old days of New York wines and can’t get out of the past. Our wines are better then most wines made in the world yet they won’t put our wines on their wine lists. The other is for our local consumers to order the wines when they see them on the wine lists. I always suggest that people order a Finger Lakes wine then one from another region but always order a Finger Lakes wine if it is on the wine list.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

SO: My dream is to be totally sustainable, having enough Riesling and other varieties so I can have the wines for sale all year round. I also want to see more vineyards and less development so we can keep the landscape the way it is so people always have a place to go to relax and enjoy this wonderful wine growing area.

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

What a gorgeous fall day it is out there!

Week of 9/15/08:

  • Fox Run Vineyards held a press conference to officially announce being selected as a Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits Magazine. For a report from the conference, please see my post at Lenn Thompson’s blog LENNDEVOURS. Thanks to Philip Beckley and Charles Wilson of Splash The Finger Lakes for inviting me to attend. If you see them out and about around the Finger Lakes, be sure to say hello. They’re great to talk to! Here’s a link to a segment on the Wine & Spirits award from Rochester’s 12WHAM.
  • Edible Finger Lakes is Going to Capitol Hill. The local foods magazine has been officially invited to attend the Senate Agriculture Advisory Board meeting next week on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. According to Senator Clinton’s office, Edible Finger Lakes is “doing as much if not more than anyone to promote the Finger Lakes agriculture and foods movement.” If you haven’t seen the magazine yet and you’re a lover of the farm-to-table movement, be sure to seek it out.

I think that will do it for this week. I hope that you’re as excited about these recent indications that the Finger Lakes wine region is at a turning point. Now it’s just a matter of continuing to spread the word about the high quality wines being produced here. So why not engage in conversation about Fox Run’s award and Edible Finger Lakes invitation to Capitol Hill and the positive reviews of many of our wines. These are great accomplishments for the entire wine and culinary industry in the region and can only mean that there will be more good news to come.

Cheers until next week!


“What’s a City Girl Doing Telling Me How to Run My Winery???”

A new acquaintance in the Finger Lakes wine industry recently brought something very important to my attention. We were discussing my new wine PR and marketing business focused on the wineries here and he told me that I may run into a bit of initial skepticism due to my origin and experience. What he said was, you may hear from some of the winery folks, “What’s a city girl doing telling me how to run my winery?” Very good question, indeed.

I’m slowly starting to build relationships and reach out to those who may want my services in the future by attending local wine events and seminars, visiting tasting rooms and by speaking with them via my blog. I honestly haven’t been aggressively pursuing business yet. I’m doing some assessment of the state of the wine industry here, self-educating by reading just about anything I can get my hands on about wine, wine marketing and public relations and asking questions of those I meet. I’ve been developing an extensive network of friends in the wine industry both nationally and internationally, absorbing all the wine business knowledge, opinion, controversy and insights that may help me in my business and in turn may help my clients and future clients. I’m looking to establish trust and become a resource for any winery or wine-related business owner who may be frustrated with a business problem and who would welcome a new perspective or creative idea. I’m looking for opportunities to bring more awareness and visitors to the Finger Lakes wine region, drive interest and traffic to winery websites and have been looking to California, Washington and Oregon for the “magic bullet” or series of landmarks that will propel our region to the next level.

So here’s the thing. My husband and I moved to the region and I fell in love with the beauty of the wineries, the lakes and the warmth of the people here. After working on PR campaigns in Technology and Business to Business arenas after leaving my position with Deutsch, Inc. for Sam Adams Beer, I couldn’t ignore my desire to bring my passions together and create a business working within the local wine industry. Aren’t the wine folks here so busy running all of the pieces of their businesses and concentrating on perfecting their wines that they may want someone else to take the public relations, marketing, and events pieces off of their plate? If the winery does have a marketing person, could that person benefit from having an additional person to brainstorm ideas with on occasion or regularly? Could the region use an additional ambassador, someone to help spread the word about the wine industry here who is plugged into the latest social media conversations? I expect that my upcoming series of interviews of the Finger Lakes Visionaries will provide candid and frank insight as to the state of the Finger Lakes wine industry, its challenges and triumphs, and where we would like to go next to ensure continued success for the wineries here. I truly understand any skepticism that may initially be present about me, but I hope that once we meet or in time, you will see that my ideas come from a place of passion, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to bring fresh ideas and tactics to the wine industry here as it emerges and claims its spot amongst the most respected regions of the wine world.

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

Here it is a little later than usual this week, my apologies! My husband Rich has been dealing with severe back pain and diagnosed with degenerating discs in his neck and lower back, so I’ve been playing nurse a bit the last few days.

Week of 9/8/08:

  • Big breakthrough this week. Fox Run Vineyards was recently notified that it has been named a Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits magazine. Editor and publisher Joshua Greene noted that Fox Run is the first New York State Winery of the Year in the 22-year-history of Wine & Spirits Winery of the Year awards, honoring both American and international wineries. Fox Run will be among the award recipients honored at the Fifth Annual Top 100 event on October 14 in San Francisco. Greene states that the tastings conducted to determine the Top 100 wineries are under controlled, blind conditions and advertising in the magazine has no influence on the wines selected for tasting and evaluation. Congratulations to Fox Run owner Scott Osborn and winemaker Peter Bell and team for this honor.  This award and recent coverage in other wine publications are sure to bring more awareness and accolades to the entire Finger Lakes Region as well as to the New York Wine Industry as a whole.
  • Speaking of Fox Run, while checking their website for background information this week, I am highly impressed with the winery’s entire website especially the homepage featuring fresh content including their latest accolades and events, Trade button and Press Room including press kit for journalists and bloggers to easily gather information. The easier it is for them to access critical information such as bios, images, accolades, specific wine information and label images, and quick story ideas, the more likely your winery will receive coverage=search engine juice=traffic driven to your website and the beginning of a relationship with new customers or a reminder to visit you for current customers (this includes consumer and trade customers). If you don’t have a marketing person on staff, you may want to consider hiring a Winery PR & Marketing consultant to assist you with writing copy, selecting images and keeping your site up to date as you receive media coverage.
  • Upcoming Family, Love, Wine blog series: I’ll be interviewing some of the key thought leaders in the Finger Lakes Wine Industry in the coming months and you’ll see their ideas and assessment of the state of the industry here. If you have a leader you would like for me to consider interviewing for my “Finger Lakes Visionaries” series, email me directly at melissa (dot) dobson (at)

Thanks for your interest and cheers until next week!


Finger Lakes Reds Rated Good to Very Good in October Wine Enthusiast

So when you think about the wines of the Finger Lakes, do you automatically think of Riesling? Of course, the region is most famous for its white wines, and now the producers here are receiving increasing acclaim for their red varietals as well.

The October issue of Wine Enthusiast includes reviews of fifteen wines of the Finger Lakes, thirteen of which are Finger Lakes reds, in the monthly section “The Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide” . The wines that were reviewed include:

87 Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2005 Owner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

87 Dr. Konstantin Frank 2006 Dry Rose

87 Red Newt Cellars 2005 Cabernet Franc

86 Damiani 2006 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon

86 Sheldrake Point 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

86 Swedish Hill 2005 Optimus

85 Goose Watch 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

85 Keuka Springs 2005 Epic Reserve

85 Treleaven 2006 EIS Lake Harvest Riesling

84 Anthony Road 2006 Cabernet Franc / Lemberger

84 Atwater 2005 Red Table Wine

84 Bellangelo 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

84 Billsboro 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

84 McGregor 2005 Black Russian Red

84 Shaw NV Keuka Hill Reserve Red Table Wine

The review of Chateau Lafayette Reneau stands out for the winery’s distinction as having a reputation for elegant wine and could be one to look to for more quality reds in the future. Overall, this is real progress for the region, on its way to establishing a solid presence within the top consumer wine publications that are so often looked to for a stamp of approval, both by wine consumers, distributors and those in the direct-to-trade circuit.

Several wines from Long Island were also included and rated at 86. Bully Hill NV Ravat 51 received a rating of 84 and designation as a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy.

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

Happy Friday!  A few news notes for you.

Week of 9/1/08:

  • The International Riesling Foundation has announced the creation of a program to help consumers in their selection of Rieslings by taste profile.  There are four very simple graphic options listed on the back label, point-of sale materials and other promotional items to provide a guide for consumers.  The graphics indicate where on a scale the taste profile of the bottle of Riesling falls, from Dry to Sweet.  With demand for Riesling growing steadily, producers have found that one of the roadblocks toward an even greater demand for the white wine varietal is that many consumers believe that Rieslings are all sweet in taste.  There has been some skepticism of the effort from what I’ve heard, but I think there is value in the scale for those who are new to Riesling or marginal drinkers (those who drink wine once or twice a month at most) who may be looking for additional guidance.
  • If you share in the frustration over navigating compliance issues, here’s a link to a vendor solution that you may find helpful.
  • REthink Compliance a free compliance solution powered by Inertia Beverage Group.  I received a walk through of this platform by Inertia’s Matthew Mann and found it to be intuitive and straight-forward.  There is some set up of SKUs initially that will take some time to input, but REthink Compliance simplifies the compliance reporting process and will analyze each order for compliance with every states laws, simplifying and streamlining the process.  To schedule your walk through, contact Matt Mann at and for more compliance tips and information, go to Inertia Beverage Group’s REthink blog at
  • Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s YouTube channel has just posted a new video featuring fun, playful interviews with winemakers from Hazlitt Vineyards 1852, Anthony Road and Seneca Shore wineries. 

That will do it , have a great weekend until next week!

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Wines of New York Being “Locapoured” at Union Square Greenmarket

Over the weekend, I was happy to discover the recent addition of the New York Winestand on Fridays at
The Union Square Greenmarket. As posted in NY Magazine’s food blog “Grub Street,” the event showcases
the wines of Long Island, The Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley paired with Greenmarket dishes from Manhattan restaurants such as Back Forty and Republic.

As a former frequenter of the Union Square Market on Saturdays, I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the wines of the Finger Lakes and throughout New York to get in front of the foodies/winelovers of Manhattan who are already interested in the locavore movement, so “locapouring” seems to be the next logical step…and a boost for creating a trend toward drinking local wines. I’ll be keeping a close eye on New York Winestand, and applaud this effort to continue to highlight our local New York wines. If you find yourself in the area on a Friday afternoon, be sure to stop by.

For more information on the Greenmarket:

Contact Information

Michael Hurwitz

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