Archive for the ‘Wine Education’ Category

Follow Up: First Finger Lakes Wine Tweetup


David Breeden, Me, Amy Cheatle, Morgan and Evan Dawson and Tom Mansell

Our first Finger Lakes Wine Tweetup was a success. We had a small, hard-core group of Finger Lakes wine devotees in attendance, the day was beautiful and we were shown a great time by Sheldrake Point Vineyards‘ winemaker David Breeden, wine club manager Antoinette Di Ciaccio and staff.

The Past, Present and Future Riesling vertical tasting was set in a bright but intimate room with limited seating. David walked us through the tasting and answered some tough questions. He was interviewed by one of our attendees and my fellow blog contributor at LENNDEVOURS, Evan Dawson and even after that, wholeheartedly took us to taste several barrel and tank samples from Sheldrake’s 2008 vintage.

MayJune_2009_Wines of ChileFLXTweetup 018

With a new appreciation for the ageability and finesse of “older” Riesling vintages, I grabbed up the 2001, 2005 and 2008 and have resisted cracking into them. (The ’08 will not be available for sale for around another year, but was for sale to attendees of the tasting.) I was excited by what I learned that afternoon in a setting with other enthusiasts: I detected the petrol on the nose of the ’01! I picked up beautiful honey notes in the nose and palate of several vintages! I really should hold onto bottles and cellar them more often than I do, etc.

Great day, fun company, new insights…we’ll be doing this again soon. 🙂

First Finger Lakes Wine (mini) Tweetup

Tweetup defined: a real world meeting between two or more people who know each other through the online Twitter service (source:

When:  Sunday, May 31st, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Where:  Sheldrake Point Vineyards to attend “Future, Present and Past Rieslings: A Vertical Tasting Experience” in honor of May is Riesling Month

Why:  for fun, to get together and explore wine with like-minded Finger Lakes wine geeks

I’ve had the idea to start a local wine tasting Meet Up or tasting group for some time now.  With a few more Finger Lakes wine industry members jumping into conversations on Twitter, I thought it would be fun to blaze forth with a Tweetup.  In this case, it will be a mini-Tweetup because the Sheldrake vertical tasting has limited seating, so for the next one we’ll work to include more tweeps (people on Twitter).  Ideas welcome.

Thanks to Tom Mansell of Ithacork blog for coming up with the Sheldrake tasting idea.  Watch Twitter on Sunday afternoon …you may see some live TwitPics and tweets.  More details on the next Finger Lakes Wine Tweetup soon.

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Preparing for the PALATE Showcase in Finger Lakes Wine Country

Organizers of PALATE

Organizers of PALATE

2008 certainly helped to elevate the image and awareness of the emerging world-class wine region here in the Finger Lakes. But now that we are on the stage, what do we do to keep the spotlight here and turn interest into increased wine sales?

I’m strongly in favor of creating opportunities to get to know the faces, wines, food and art behind the buzz. Events that are intimate, upscale and personal can introduce newcomers to the region and enhance relationships with those already happy to call themselves raving fans. As I’ve mentioned before, the people who make up the industry here are its biggest asset in my opinion.

Next month, I’m proud and terribly excited to be a part of the organizing committee on PALATE: A Wine, Food and Art Showcase in Finger Lakes Wine Country…more specifically here in my city of residence of Corning, NY. I was invited to contribute my ideas to the event by Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, Corning’s Gaffer District and the ARTS of the Southern Finger Lakes. Our challenge is to bring all of the ideas for the showcase to life on a shoe-string budget and represent the best offerings of the industry here.

Some of the highlights include:

More to come. It will be fun to capture the excitement of the industry and present an opportunity for wine lovers to meet and experience all that there is to offer here in our wine country. I feel that this event will attract a new breed of wine lover to the region, those who are in the “core drinkers” demographic described as those who drink wine the most, usually several times a week or at least 3 times a month, are responsible for 88% of wine sold in the US and tend to be better educated, more affluent and with more disposable income. (From Wine Marketing & Sales by Paul Wagner, Janeen Olsen and Liz Thach) If you’re a winery who has been looking for opportunities to get in front of these “core drinkers,” this event may be the way to do that. Ultimately, we would love to drive attendees up to the tasting rooms, so we’re exploring ideas to lure them up to your wineries. Let us know what special opportunities you have to offer to PALATE attendees during that week and we’ll help get the word out for you.

“Big Business” Wines Are Proper and Have No Soul

I was recently inspired by the Sauvignon Blanc episode of Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course on DVD. During the lesson, Jancis traveled to the Loire Valley in France and spoke to its rebel winemaker, Didier Daugeneau “The Wild Man of Pouilly-Fume.”

The things that struck me so much about this interview were these key points that Didier made to Jancis:

Big business wines are proper and have no soul. They are technically correct and well-made, but have no heart, no terroir, no identity.

Wine is more than a drink, when you want pleasure, you drink wine. I make wine to give people pleasure. To me, wine is art and an expression of the artist.

Yes! One of the most attractive things about exploring new wines and regions of my favorite varietals is the excitement of experiencing the winemakers’ individual expressions of it. I am now beginning to understand that the corporate, accessible wines that were a majority of the wines I purchased in the past are drinkable in most cases, but lack the hand-crafted and loving individual elements that I am coming to appreciate and seek out now that I understand how much more soulful and gratifying these wines are.

Have you had a similar breakthrough in your wine appreciation?

PS-Thank you to wine educator Kathleen Lisson for the recommendation of Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course on her blog.

Meeting the Master: A Day with Kevin Zraly

My husband and I were lucky to discover that Kevin Zraly, renowned wine educator and author of “The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course”, would be attending the Rendezvous with Riesling and teaching a one-day Master Class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY recently.

We attended the Master Class and unanimously agreed that it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences that we have had in a long time. I went into the day full of anticipation after pouring through Kevin’s book and admiring his work from afar for years.
We sat right up front in the Wine Spectator Educational Theater, a gorgeous amphitheater at the heart of the Center, and were very pleased that we did. We got to see Kevin in action, front and center, and had the opportunity to interact with him during his class.

I was particularly excited to find that Kevin is extremely personable, funny and a bit sarcastic, all of which delights his students and sets them at ease. I can tell you that he kept our attention for the entire day, no small feat for a nearly 7-hour course schedule. Kevin started out by going around the room and asking each student to introduce themselves and what their occupation is. Not surprisingly, there were several winery owners and winemakers among us. Also present were wine educators, members of wine associations and consumers. Quite a fun and interesting group!

Kevin then began his One-Hour Wine Expert segment in which he gave us an overview of the wine industry and highlighted key topics within “The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.” Some of the really cool things that he shared with us included his description of white wine varieties. He compared Riesling to skim milk, Sauvignon Blanc to whole milk and Chardonnay to heavy cream in terms of body and style. And he named the best Rieslings as being from The Finger Lakes, Alsace and Germany, much to the delight of The Finger Lakes winery owners and winemakers among us. Kevin demonstrated how to fully appreciate and taste a wine by showing us his Sixty Second Wine Expert method of tasting and judging. He had us look at the color, swirl and sniff once then a second time and then swirl and cover the glass with one hand and then sniff, noticing the different and more pleasing smell that the wine emitted after lifting your hand off.

Then, Kevin instructed us to sip and drink the wine, taking notice of how it tasted during 0-15 seconds, 15-30 seconds, 30-45 seconds and 45-60 seconds. Was the acidity pleasant? Could you still taste the wine or did it rapidly lose its flavor? Did it spike at any point? Was the finish pleasing? Of course, this may not be ideal for every day wine drinking, but it sure lends to an increased understanding of the wine if you’re judging or opening a special bottle.

Our next segment was a 30-yr. Perspective in the Wine Industry in which Kevin discussed the key highlights of the emerging and developing wine industry from a historical perspective. One of the neat things that he shared was that originally wine consumers primarily consisted of men, at 90% and that now that percentage is equal to women at a 50/50 ratio of consumers. Another key fact about the industry that he mentioned was that 2007 was the 14th year of consecutive growth in the wine industry and that wine is now mainstream.

After lunch, Kevin concentrated heavily on the wines of New York, comparing NY Wines vs. The World and then concluding with A Tasting of NY Rieslings. We learned that New York wines tend to be lower in alcohol for the most part and that the Finger Lakes, Alsace and Germany produce balanced Rieslings and that 2006 was a particularly good year for Finger Lakes Rieslings. Our tasting of NY Rieslings was enlightening, I enjoyed each of the wines we tasted. The wines were the 2006 Dr. Frank Dry Riesling, 2006 Hermann J. Weimer Reserve Riesling, 2006 Chateau Lafayette Reneau Johannisberg Riesling, 2006 Pindar Vineyards Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling and finally 2003 Heron Hill Riesling Ice Wine.

One of the most memorable parts of the day was when Kevin invited John Ingle, the owner of Heron Hill Winery, to describe the process of producing, picking and bottling his Ice Wine. He told us about how the winery staff has to time picking of ice wine grapes just right, that it needs to be 17 degrees Fahrenheit outside for several hours consistently, which is oftentimes in the middle of the night, and then the wine staff can pick and net the grapes. Wow, now that I heard that, I realized that a small bottle of ice wine that retails for nearly $100 is completely justified and the wine should be savored and appreciated even more.

Unlike many other classes that I have attended, no one bolted for the door at the conclusion of the Master Class. Quite the opposite, actually. The lines to see Kevin and speak with him one-on-one were long and he cheerily sat for pictures and signed his book. I can tell you that I will seek out more opportunities to see Kevin and participate in his classes if at all possible. Originally I feared that my husband, Rich would be bored after a few hours, but he wasn’t at all. He told me that he loved the class and Kevin and we both left the Center with a new understanding, appreciation and excitement for wine and those in the wine industry. Not to mention we are now raving fans of Kevin’s!

If you were among our class that day, I would love to get your input as well. Please feel free to comment on your experience and anything I may not have mentioned.

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