Posts Tagged ‘Finger Lakes Wine’

TasteCamp East: Voracious Wine Bloggers Taste Throughout the Finger Lakes

Ravines Wine Cellars Morten Hallgren sharing '07 Ravines Argetsinger Vineyard Riesling and wife Lisa's skillet breakfast pizzas

This past weekend, I was among a group of wine bloggers who participated in the 2nd TasteCamp East, this year in the Finger Lakes.  The local wine industry is the inspiration for this blog and my business as I’ve mentioned to you before.  I had nothing to do with the selection of our region as the host of this year’s TasteCamp East, but of course I was pretty ecstatic that it was chosen from several other regions by TCE organizers at The New York Cork Report.

Tom Higgins of Heart & Hands Wine Company

I consider many of you my friends and part of a significant, vibrant and beautiful industry in New York State.  I have also developed friendships with several wine bloggers since attending the Wine Bloggers Conferences and meeting many of them via Open Wine Consortium, Twitter and Facebook. This year’s TasteCamp East brought these two worlds together and I enjoyed hearing the unvarnished feedback and impressions of the region and its wines from the perspective of wine bloggers, craving info on the world of wine and winemaking intricacies and eager to educate their audiences about their discoveries.

Fox Run Vineyards winemaker Peter Bell

Posts and photos started appearing pre-TasteCamp and several bloggers posted live updates and pics via their mobile phones, bringing followers along with us as we navigated through the region, lake by lake, meeting with and tasting an array of wines and food selected for us.  I noticed excitement from some of the winery owners and staff pouring for attendees because of the keen interest and knowledge level of the wine bloggers.  It’s not every day that over 30 wine enthusiasts travel to the region from several states and Canada with pen, wine journals and lots of questions!

Anything Wine's John Witherspoon

Most of the wineries greeted our group with enthusiasm, but the ones who stood out most, from what I’m hearing so far, are the ones who brought their stories front and center, educated this wine savvy audience on their winemaking philosophy but also remembered to share a bit of their personal selves and beliefs, including their struggles and challenges.

Sam Argetsinger of Argetsinger Vineyard

If you missed out on following along, check the New York Cork Report posts tagged “tastecamp” which will be updated with a list of the bloggers posts and check out FLXTwits and the #tastecamp hashtag’s results on Twitter Search.

Thank you to Lenn Thompson and Evan Dawson at the New York Cork Report for organizing TCE and all of the sponsors and wineries for hosting us.  This was my husband Rich’s first wine blogger weekend as my date and we enjoyed seeing the region from a new perspective.

Wineries: the agenda that Lenn and Evan created for us is a good guide for the types of personalized, intimate experiences that your more advanced wine customers would enjoy.  Vertical tastings, wine and food pairing and a BYOB in a casual gathering place (ie on a boat ) went over well this weekend.  Bloggers, any other types of events that you’d like to see more of?

Happy Thanksgiving!

As you’re rushing around today, getting ready to gather with your family and friends for Thanksgiving tomorrow, let me stop you for just a moment to say thank you.  I sincerely appreciate your interest in my posts and the fact that you continue to return here, even though my posting schedule is oftentimes sporadic.  This blog houses my passions, both personal and professional, and being a bit of a creative soul, passion oftentimes comes in spurts.  I plan to continue to improve the content here as I learn and grow and I hope that it helps and entertains you.

Pictured above are the bottles I’m bringing along for this Thanksgiving weekend.  The 2008 Red Tail Ridge Barrel Fermented, Estate Grown Chardonnay is a gift for my sister to congratulate her on a big promotion she just got.  Anthony Road Tony’s White is for those who enjoy a bit of sweetness in their whites and the 2008 Bloomer Creek Reserve White Riesling blend will accompany Thanksgiving dinner.  When I select wines to share, I tend to think about the style preferences of those I’ll be popping the cork with, not just what I prefer.  I enjoy mixing it up, bringing some of my favorites and new discoveries. What are you bringing to share over the holiday?  (Disclosure: I purchased all of the bottles shown)

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!!

Melissa

 

 

Seneca Lake Wine Touring on a Beautiful Fall Day

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Cynthia, Janelle and I at Red Tail Ridge Winery

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to have a “girls weekend” like I used to before I met Rich, and I definitely miss my girl time.  (Don’t worry, Rich is well aware of this and was brave enough to offer not only to host my friends for the weekend, but also to drive us for our wine tour on Saturday  🙂 )

It really is a blast to get together and explore the beauty of the region along with the wines and especially to see who likes and dislikes each of the wines we taste together.  The only things I knew about my friends Cynthia and Janelle’s wine personalities was that they both dig Sokol Blosser’s Evolution, an Oregon State produced, stainless-steel fermented  blend of nine grape varieties: Muller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and that they’re both partial to drinking California reds ranging from Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon.

We ventured out on what was supposed to be a rainy, windy Saturday afternoon but turned out to be sunny and warm, starting at Red Tail Ridge Winery.  The first thing we noticed was the privacy and beauty of the winery setting.  It’s set back from the road and the tasting room is small and intimate.  This was my first visit to Red Tail Ridge and also my first taste of their wines.  Our group was partial to the whites over the ’07 Estate Grown Pinot Noir and I explained to my friends that the style of Pinot Noir here is much different than from other regions and that with their palates being accustomed to West Coast Pinot Noirs, a Finger Lakes Pinot Noir would be of a unique style that they may or may not enjoy.

Our overall favorite wines were the ’08 Estate Grown Semi-Dry Riesling (1.8% RS) and the ’08 Semi-Sweet Riesling (4% RS) and I mentioned in jest that I’m one of those wine drinkers who professes to prefer dry wines, but in fact I like a bit of sweetness as long as there’s nice structure, balance and acidity which both of these Rieslings have.

Our day included stops at Anthony Road Wine Company from which we posted pictures to our Facebook pages. Anthony Road Wine Company is among our favorite wineries and we enjoy their reds and whites across the board and always highly recommend them to newbies seeking Finger Lakes winery recommendations.   We agreed that the value discoveries to please a crowd were Tony’s White made of the Cayuga White grape ($8.99)  and the new 1.5 liter offering called PN II Red Table Wine (around $15), from pinot noir grapes that are the second selection of the sorting process.  I told the girls that although I’m enmeshed in the wine industry and love and appreciate special bottles like anyone else, I’m truly an everyday wine drinker in that I’m driven to find wines to enjoy of a high QPR and save my special bottles for sharing at get-togethers or to celebrate with.

We also visited Glenora Wine Cellars, where we discovered that Cynthia much prefers sweeter reds and doesn’t like sparkling bruts.  This is where Janelle and I disagreed with her and both chose ’07 Pinot Noir Rose’ and newly-released ’08 Merlot.  We had an incredible view of Seneca Lake from the back tasting bar and we had a blast watching Cynthia grab up every pair of Santa Pants wine holders they had out on the floor.

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Our last stop was to Fulkerson Winery.  We’ve consistently been treated very well each time we’ve tasted at Fulkerson and Vincent is one of our favorite red hybrids in the region.  The tasting room is spacious and beautiful with bright sunlight streaming in the large windows.  We had the opportunity to say hello to John Iszard, Wine Sales and Marketing Director at the winery and, of course, the topic of interest among my group of Buffalonians and John was football.  We “admitted” to our love for the Buffalo Bills and I wished him luck in cheering for his favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It’s just this type of banter and low-key conversation that I have come to cherish among the members of the Finger Lakes wine community.  During our day, we spoke to a group of out-of-town tourists who are regular visitors to the region.  They reiterated the importance of wineries selling not only their wines but the experience of each winery and their backstory.  More on that in a post to come.

Update: Academy of Wine Communications Finger Lakes Chapter

awcmasthead

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the development of the Academy of Wine Communications Finger Lakes Chapter. With the announcement of the AWC’s new website today, it’s time for an update.

The AWC has recognized that there’s a need for an organization that will become the go-to resource for wine writers, bloggers as they seek sources within the industry to interview for articles and posts.  Having this  information readily available on the AWC site will be a time saver for both writers/bloggers and PR and marketing representatives and becomes a first step in getting them connected.

The rapidly changing wine communications industry has made it difficult to keep up with the latest in best practices for engaging with wine writers and bloggers.  The Academy of Wine Communications plans to open and facilitate conversations surrounding these topics in order to keep members up to speed and ready to apply traditional methods and the latest in social technologies to help them tell their winery’s stories, establish trusted relationships with writers/bloggers and plant the seeds for coverage in a manner in which writers and bloggers want to be engaged with.

I’ve been honored with the role of Finger Lakes Chapter Director of the AWC. My goal is to organize and facilitate a strong chapter here in order to help keep the Finger Lakes wine region in-the-know, front and center in the world of wine public relations and marketing.  With the increase in interest in the region and the people behind the numerous wineries here, it’s prime time to continue actively collaborating and pushing forward.  Let’s do all we can to make it easy for writers and bloggers to contact us and get the information, photos, videos and samples needed in a buttoned-up, efficient manner so that those writers and bloggers will come back for future articles and posts.  One of the best ways to stay updated on things is to reach out to and participate in conversations with wine communicators in other regions.

With that, our first meeting will be an info session to discuss the organization and get your input on the shape of our chapter.  I’m working on the details but look for it to be sometime in November after Harvest, and you can count on a glass of wine or two.  What are some of the things that you would like to see the Academy of Wine Communications help you with?  In the meantime, check out the Resources pages on the site for info that can help you right away.  And be sure to  submit your contact information to be included in the Wine PR Directory.

Follow Up: First Finger Lakes Wine Tweetup

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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.

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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. 🙂

Winery Marketing: U.S. Consumers View Alcoholic Beverages As Affordable Indulgence For Holiday Season

holiday-hamperA recent Nielsen Company report finds that “despite a fragile economy, consumers continue to see alcoholic beverages as an affordable indulgence.” Online alcoholic beverage shopping is expected to continue to increase and will be especially evident in the wine sector.

According to Richard Hurst, Sr. VP of Beverage Alcohol, The Nielsen Company, “Many stores are adding alcoholic beverages to their assortment, providing more opportunities for consumers to purchase alcoholic beverages at competitive prices,” said Hurst. “And as we’ve seen in the past, some states may experiment with extended hours for alcoholic beverage purchases, such as Sunday sales, for an additional boost. Given that fewer consumers are likely to be able to afford luxury wines and spirits in their holiday budgets – – and there is evidence of trading down — stores would do well to ensure that they offer products across a variety of price segments.”

Another key finding: with exchange rates continuing to be unfavorable to the American dollar, imports have had to increase their prices, affecting their growth rates in favor of domestics. A few other key take-aways from the study:

  • During tough economic times, consumers are often biased toward national or local products, further enhancing the prospects for domestic brand growth, whose prices have remained relatively stable through the year.
  • The weak dollar helps tourism, especially in major cities.
  • Wine and spirits are popular gift items and there will be a tendency toward value-added packaging and “retailers should consider multiple store display locations to capitalize on impulse purchasing, as well as providing gift accessories nearby, such as bottle openers, gift bags, mixed drink party pack ingredients and glassware.”
  • “While there is evidence of consumers reducing on-premise consumption, as well as trading down to less expensive beverages, they are reluctant to cut back significantly on beer, wine and spirits, especially for at home consumption and entertaining. With the prospect of limited economic recovery in 2009, consumers are likely to consider alcoholic beverages as an affordable indulgence during the holiday season.”

Overall, this study indicates opportunities for growth of the domestic wine segment with consumer mindsets in favor of American and local wine products (if you like Riesling from Mosel, Rheingau or Alsace, have you tried a Riesling from the Finger Lakes?)

With the consumer mindset toward at home consumption and entertaining, are you catering to wine lovers who are pressed for time and looking for items to enjoy in the comfort of their homes? Do you have attractive displays of items and wines that deliver a high quality-price ratio? (Think Target’s popular and lucrative “cheap chic” trend.) A favorite example from here in the Finger Lakes is Ventosa Vineyards’ Tocaice Dessert Wine, one of the nicest dessert wines I’ve tasted, and at a very affordable $27.95 for 375 ml bottle, it is sure to fit most gift-giving budgets.

Is There a Great Divide Among Wine Producers in the Finger Lakes?

As I’ve come to understand more about the present state of the Finger Lakes wine industry, a few key topics seem to bubble up to the top consistently. One that I find to be important is the question of whether or not there is a divide or segmentation of the wine producers here based on the types of grapes being planted and produced by each winery.

The Finger Lakes wine industry has a history steeped in plantings of native varieties such as Concord and Catawba and some of its best-selling wines still reflect a significant demand for these wine varietals as well as for hybrids. It seems that there is a bit of a divide amongst those producers who are catering to this sweet wine-drinking consumer, in some ways the lifeblood of the region, and those who are throwing themselves into producing vinifera varietals such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Franc in a dry style that are attractive to a more sophisticated palate, for those wine geeks and foodies among us.

And I’ve seen wine lists at wineries that incorporate both sweet, native varietals and vinifera. Where is the future of the Finger Lakes in regards to native vs. vinifera? Do you feel a divide amongst producers with one side all for producing the sweeter style wines vs. those who are much more interested in perfecting their vinifera offerings? Will vinifera varietals continue to put the Finger Lakes “on the map” as a serious world-class wine producing region, overshadowing the image that clings to the region because of its history of producing sweet wines? I wonder if there should be a separation in marketing efforts for the two segments. Are the sweet wine-only producers dragging the vinifera producers down in terms of the perception of Finger Lakes Wine Country? Or is there some way to use the diversity of wine offerings available in the Finger Lakes to our advantage and tout the region as one that offers both ends of the spectrum, appealing to many types of wine palate?

Morgen McLaughlin, President of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, offered these observations on the topic, “I think the reason that many wineries still produce sweet wines is because they sell better in tasting rooms. The drier, vinifera wines do well with journalists, restaurants, retailers, and with certain consumers. The wineries in the Finger Lakes rely heavily on tasting room sales (over 80% of sales for many wineries) and at the end of the day the wineries need to stay in business. Even those producers who focus on dry-style vinifera wines have at least one “cash cow” wine. Maybe not always a native or hybrid blend, but something with residual sugar. Most people talk dry but drink sweet. Why do you think Kendall Jackson has sold so much Chardonnay. They added some residual sugar and saw their sales skyrocket.”

(Full disclosure: I work with Morgen and Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association on projects on a regular basis)