Archive for September 29th, 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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