In addition to a burgeoning number of quality-oriented wineries, the Finger Lakes is also home to a bustling food scene, much of it of the farm-to-table variety. Prices are often low (compared to what urbanites are used to), the settings are always casual and a few places are attached to or next door to wineries, making weekends of wine tasting and eating ideal. Here are a few options for good eats. You can also refer to my Nov. 2008 blog post for more recommendations on Finger Lakes dining.
After my visit to Ravines and a quick lunch, I headed up to Silver Thread Vineyard, which is under new ownership since being purchased by the husband-and-wife team of Paul and Shannon Brock. Paul, 36, is the former winemaker at Lamoreaux Landing and he also currently teaches viticulture and winemaking at Finger Lakes Community College. He accentuates the professorial background with his tussle of wiry black hair and thin-rimmed glasses. Shannon, 35, was wine educator at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canadaigua, so she also knows what it's like to stand at the head of a class and educate others about wine, and she commands attention with her bright, vivacious personality.
After leaving Fred Merwarth at Wiemer to deal with his remaining 70 tons of Riesling fruit, I headed farther up the western side of Seneca Lake to check on the new digs for Ravines Wine Cellars. Owned by Morten and Lisa Hallgren, the winery was started over on Keuka Lake in the 2002 vintage, and it's grown steadily since then, from a few thousand cases to now 14,000 cases annually, with a projected 20,000 cases within the next five years.
On my second day in the Finger Lakes I made my usual lap around Seneca Lake, the region's most prominent lake and home to the largest collection of wineries.
While I always try to mix in some new faces on each trip, I need to stop in at benchmark estates on a regular basis. Since assuming control in 2007, Fred Merwarth has made sure that the Hermann J. Wiemer estate hasn't skipped a beat. With 75 acres under vine and three-quarters of its 15,000-case annual production represented by Riesling, this is the flagship winery for the region's best grape.
Sheldrake Point's Bob Madill, a Canadian native, got the wine bug early. While working in tech and software, he was already moonlighting with Ontario wineries such as Lakeview Cellars in the '80s and early '90s.
"I was a cellar rat, a cellar master and then I learned how to sell wine too," said Madill, a spry 65. "The selling part was the hardest."
Well, it's been almost a month since I traveled. That's so long between trips, I think Nancy was starting to get annoyed with me being around the house too much. So, off I go again. This time, back to the Finger Lakes, just a four-and-a-half-hour drive from New York City.
The Finger Lakes is at the tail end of their harvest right now, so it's a fun time for me to check in and see how things are. Here in my office in New York I've been tasting through the bulk of the recently released Rieslings and other wines from the 2011 vintage, a tricky season for the region; so far 2012 looks to be much more even.
I caught up with Richard Betts the other day. Betts, the former sommelier at the Grand Award–winning Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, former partner in the Betts & Scholl brand which made Rhône and Aussie wines, current mezcal producer with his own Sombra label, general all-around hipster … And what's he doing now? Making Bordeaux.
Here are my notes on the first two releases of St.-Glinglin, Betts' collaborative effort with François Thienpont.