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.