Spend even a short time in the Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York and you quickly realize that it’s not just the bucolic landscape or the fresh-from-the-farm produce or even the impressive wines that make this place so special. What ties it all together and what will lodge a visit firmly in your memory is the people. New York’s largest wine region comprises more than 130 wineries spread around the shores of four main lakes (out of 11 total), but after five days of traveling and tasting through the area, what quickly became clear is what a tight-knit, collaborative community it is. They lend a helping hand when needed, collaborate on making wine, and when 250 wine bloggers invade their vineyards, what do they do? Welcome them with open arms, serve them delicious food straight from the farmer’s market and generously share their wines. Here are some of the friendly winemakers who opened their doors for the 2015 Wine Blogger’s conference.
Ventosa owner Lenny Cecere with his 2011 Lemberger on the night it won the Governor’s Cup award for best New York wine. At 28, Jenna Lavita, Ventosa’s winemaker is the youngest to win this award.
Liz Leidenfrost is the third generation of this winemaking family.
Erica Paolicelli poured this light, bright Riesling from Three Brothers.
Along with her husband, Tom, Marti Macinski makes a lovely lineup of wines including this Gewürztraminer ice wine.
The sage of the Finger Lakes? Certainly one of the most gregarious hosts we had. John Martini, owner of Anthony Road, knows how to captivate a wine tasting audience, and the wines are great too.
The handiwork of John Santos, vineyard manager, ends up in this fine bottle of Hazlitt’s Cabernet Franc.
Owner Scott Osborne (top left) and winemaker Peter Bell (bottom right) treated our group of 50 to a winery tour and lunch with wine pairings. Peter’s not-so-secret passion is port made in the Australian, rancio style. This tawny is outstanding.
Tom Higgins and his wife, Susan (sadly not shown, she’s lovely), focus on Pinot Noir and Riesling. Their dedication shows in this white Pinot Noir Polarity.
They pulled out all the corks when our small crew stopped by unannounced for a tasting. Fred Merwarth (top right) makes an outstanding range of wines that include single-vineyard Rieslings, sparkling Chardonnay (I highly recommend the 2009), Pinot noir, Cabernet franc and botrytized dessert wines. Katie Cooke, assistant winemaker and Oskar Bynke, estate manager, (lower left) kept the wines flowing.
Dinner from Dano’s at Hazlitt 1852
That chef Dano Hutnik was a ballet dancer in Vienna was just one of the many surprises of our dinner at Hazlitt 1852. That seafood stuffed cabbage could be so delicious (paired with Gewürztraminer) was another. Alas, our Russian napoleons were served without a pirouette, but they were still delicious.