Posted: October 12, 2012 By James Molesworth
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.
Posted: October 11, 2012 By Mitch Frank
When I heard the news that Amazon executives were meeting with wineries, hoping to launch Amazon.com Wine Marketplace before year's end, I was reminded of the play Waiting For Godot. In Samuel Beckett's work, two characters spend two acts waiting in vain for Godot, whom we never meet. There's a sense that everything will change once Godot shows up. For a dozen years now, the wine industry has been waiting for Bezos—Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, who has made unsuccessful stabs at selling wine twice before.
Amazon loves efficiency, and the wine business, where each state is like a separate country with different laws, is not efficient. But either Bezos is a wine lover or he sees great potential in it, because Amazon is back. If it succeeds in launching Wine Marketplace, the question is: Will this truly be a game changer for the wine business or just an absurdist drama?
Posted: October 10, 2012 By Tim Fish
Oh look–Ahi tuna tartare is on the menu. And short ribs. Pizza, too! Who’d a thought?
I know my chef friends will hate me for this, but I think things are getting little monotonous on the restaurant menus of America. Certainly, there’s still innovation in the kitchens, particularly in top restaurants as well as the small bistros where young and creative chefs are keeping it real.
Posted: October 9, 2012 By James Molesworth
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.
Posted: October 9, 2012 By Jennifer Fiedler
When I took up running after years of playing team sports, I gave myself permission to not be competitive: no races, no time trials, no slippery slope to marathons. If I could do an around-the-park loop of 3.5 miles a couple times a week without collapsing like Scarlett O’Hara after a fight with Rhett, I was totally all right with myself.
This experience got me thinking: I didn’t necessarily want to get better at running, but what about a field where I did, such as wine? Had I reached a comfortable plateau with wine drinking as I had with running around the park and, if so, could some sort of equipment tweak raise my level of “fitness”?
Posted: October 8, 2012 By James Molesworth
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.
Posted: October 5, 2012 By James Molesworth
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.
Posted: October 4, 2012 By James Laube
Some of the most frequently asked questions of me are about tasting: How do we conduct tastings? How often do we taste? How many wines do we taste at a time? My philosophy: Less is more.
Posted: October 4, 2012 By Ben O'Donnell
Before becoming a vintner, Rajeev Samant struggled for more than three years to get a license to put down vines. Finally, he persuaded alcohol-suspicious authorities that the ability to grow vinifera in the region was "a gift from the gods." A novice grower, he had no idea what to plant and where, and once he decided on Sauvignon Blanc, he had no idea if his grapes would ripen—no idea if they would even bear fruit.
15 years later, India is poised to become one of the world's most important wine markets.
Posted: October 3, 2012 By James Molesworth
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."
Posted: October 3, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Jason Lett has been working on a project, tasting through every single bottle of Eyrie Vineyard’s library wines, then recorking them. The collection represents one of the true treasures of American Pinot Noir, hundreds of bottles that testify to the longevity and quality possible in Oregon.
When he has time, Lett opens eight cases of a vintage to recork. It takes about half a day and most of the time 90 percent of the bottles are just fine. Sometimes, he said, “only half will be correct for the vintage,” an experience that has led him to reseal the bottles with a cork alternative called Diam, a conglomerate cork that promises zero cork taint.
Jason’s father, David Lett, one of Oregon’s earliest pioneers, founded Eyrie in 1966, and made the wine that called the world’s attention to what was happening with Pinot Noir in Oregon—Eyrie Vineyard Pinot Noir Oregon South Block 1975, from a portion of the estate vineyard in what is now known as the Dundee Hills AVA.
Posted: October 3, 2012 By Tim Fish
I've been writing about wine and the Internet since the Dark Ages of the mid-'90s, so I felt déjà vu all over again last week when I heard that Amazon was giving wine yet another try.
Three strikes Bezos and you're out!
Jeff Bezos, of course, is CEO of Amazon, and this will be the Net giant's third attempt at wine in the past 12 years. Let's hope this venture won't be as cursed as the first two.
Posted: October 2, 2012 By James Molesworth
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.
Posted: October 2, 2012 By Robert Taylor
When "normal" people think of wine experts, occasionally a few unsavory words come to mind: Geek. Snob. Bibulous fusspot. Coincidentally, those same words are commonly associated with another profession: Copy editor.
Imagine, then, the frustrations of the copy-editing wine pro. As someone who has copy edited professionally for more than a dozen years and has been a member of the Wine Spectator editorial staff for nearly 10, it's my pleasure to present here a few of the myriad misused terms in the wine industry. Hopefully we can all learn a little, laugh a little and lift each other's wine language skills.
Posted: October 1, 2012 By Bruce Sanderson
Jacques Lardière, the winemaker for Maison Louis Jadot is retiring at the end of 2012, after 42 consecutive vintages. He was in New York earlier this year, for a farewell lunch with some of the wine journalists he has met during his career. We also sat down for an interview on video.
Posted: October 1, 2012 By James Molesworth
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.
Posted: September 27, 2012 By Mitch Frank
Fall tends to be my favorite time of year, a sentiment many wine lovers apparently share. After a long, hot summer, temperatures are finally dipping—and lower temperatures bring happy boxes to my door. When the weather cools off, wineries I order from can ship bottles to my New Orleans home without fretting that summer heat will turn their Merlot into Madeira. A new study finds that October is the busiest month for direct shipping orders from U.S. wineries.
More than seven years have passed since the Supreme Court's Granholm decision, which said that state governments cannot prohibit out-of-state wineries from shipping to residents while allowing in-state wineries to do so. Today, 39 states allow some form of direct shipping, up from 27 before the 2005 ruling.
The new report, authored by Ship Compliant, measured the direct shipping market from August 2011 to July 2012, surveying every U.S. winery in Wines & Vines' comprehensive directory about their direct shipping sales. They found that consumers ordered 2.98 million cases of wine in that time. With a value of $1.35 billion, that wine represents 8.6 percent of the total wine market in the United States by value. (Tasting room sales that were shipped to customers' homes were not included, which would make the growth even bigger.)
Posted: September 26, 2012 By James Molesworth
I sat down with Aline Baly, whose family owns Château Coutet in Barsac, here at my office today. The estate has made its first dry white, which debuts with the 2010 vintage. Here are my notes on the debut vintage.
Posted: September 26, 2012 By Tim Fish
An honest value is something you appreciate when you grow up in a blue-collar house like I did. Dad always joked that Mom had "Champagne taste on beer money," which was partially right. She didn't believe in settling for something inferior even if she wasn't spending a lot of money.
That's one reason I've always had a soft spot for wineries like Pedroncelli. It's owned by an old Italian family that has been in Sonoma County for four generations. They grow their own grapes and, without a lot of fuss, make wine that people can afford to drink every day. While many of California's Italian winemaking families have taken their businesses upscale or have sold to large companies, the Pedroncellis have stayed the course.
Posted: September 25, 2012 By Jennifer Fiedler
Getting "good" at wine is not necessarily just about being good at tasting wine. A lot of non-drinking homework is involved too. And the crazy volume of places, names and vintages tends to reward those with a good memory for facts (or those who work at memorizing facts).
But is it possible to get better at remembering data? Certainly, suggests author Joshua Foer, in his 2011 book Walking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which chronicles his rise from regular guy to winner of the 2006 U.S.A. Memory Championships. His experience shows that we all have the ability to improve our memory, with effort. I called Foer to see if he had any memory tips regarding wine specifically. Below are three of his suggestions.
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