Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday

This months Wine Blogging Wednesday topic hosted by Dr. Vino is to write about "wine shops that feel the love", being that it's Valentines month and all. The wine shop that I love to frequent is The NYStateWine Tasting Room & Wine Gallery in beautiful downtown Watkins Glen NY, just a short walk from Seneca Harbor at the south end of Seneca Lake in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country. The Tasting Room is a cozy place, with a 27-foot copper-topped tasting bar along the one wall and racks of Finger Lakes and other New York wines along the back and far side wall, with wine gifts and accessories toward the front. Store manager Carman Massey, your charming hostess and confirmed Dead Head (Grateful Dead Fan to the uninitiated), pours the tastings and answers your questions with a smile. They have a tasting menu of about 5 or 6 wines that changes weekly and you can buy wine by the glass or bottle. The place just has a really friendly and warm feel to me. I always feel welcome there. They also have entertainment on the weekends featuring blues, bluegrass, and rock. Banjo Boris is one of my favorites and he even let me play his banjo on a break one time. They actually close for the winter, so I will have to wait for spring to visit again. And I can't wait! But you can still order wine from their website www.nystatewine.com (I tried to upload a picture of the store, but Blogger was not cooperating). So if you are in the area, be sure to stop in and maybe you'll see me playing my guitar. I keep threatening Carman that I am going to bring my guitar in.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

News and Notes

-- Lenn at LennDevours Blog and at Long Island Press reviews Fox Run Vineyards 2003 Reserve Chardonnay.

--The New York Wine and Grape Foundation are preparing to move from Penn Yan into the new New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua. Does anyone know when the Center is scheduled to open?

--Looks like another successful Wine On Ice Wine Festival. I couldn't make it, but it sounds like it was a lot of fun.

--Winegeeks.com has created a Google map for the Finger Lakes wine region. It uses satellite imagery and you can zoom in on the map for more detail.

--It's Fiori month at Casa Larga Vineyards, a month-long celebration of Fiori Delle Stelle, their award-winning Vidal Ice Wine. See the Calendar of Events here.

--I just made plans to attend the Wineries Unlimited Wine Trade Show on March 12-15 in Lancaster PA. Finger Lakes wineries will be well-represented (see Program Guide) with seminars by Art Hunt from Hunt Country Vineyards, Chris Stamp from Lakewood Vineyards, John McGregor from McGregor Vineyards, John Santos from Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Thomas Laszlo from Heron Hill, Peter Staltonstall from King Ferry Winery, Steve DiFrancesco from Glenora Winery, and Peter Bell from Fox Run Vineyards. I know many of the Finger Lakes winery owners and winemakers will be attending and I hope to be able to meet as many as possible.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Finger Lakes Winery Website Rankings

As I've said in previous posts, I believe that, in general, Finger Lakes winery websites have room for improvement. Mike Duffy at www.winerywebsitereport.com has been kind enough to send me his Top Twelve rated Finger Lakes winery websites. Mike bases his ratings on over 20 different website elements including Branding, Compatibility, Contact Info, Domain Name, Current and Past Information, Media Kit, A variety of Navigational elements, Newsletter, Obstructions, Personalization, Responsiveness, RSS, Search Rank, Shipping Info, Site Search, Trade Marketing Materials, and Visual Appeal. Keep in mind that Mike is still evaluating about 20 wineries in the Finger Lakes and the following rankings are based on the evaluation of 61 wineries. So, drum roll please.... Here are the Top Twelve:

Numbers 12 thru 8 all tied with a score of 51 points are:
--Knapp Winery- www.knappwine.com
--Casa Larga Vineyards- www.casalarga.com
--Atwater Estate Vineyards- www.atwatervineyards.com
--Arbor Hill- www.thegrapery.com
--Anthony Road Wine Company- www.anthonyroadwine.com

Numbers 7 and 6 tied with 52 points:
--Thirsty Owl Wine Company- www.thirstyowl.com
--Swedish Hill Vineyard- www.swedishhill.com

Numbers 5, 4, and 3 all tied with 54 points:
--Hosmer Vineyard- www.hosmerwinery.com
--Dr. Franks Vinifera Wine Cellars- www.drfrankwines.com
--Chateau Lafayette Reneau- www.clrwine.com

Number 2 with a score of 58 points and runner up that will be able to perform all duties of the number one winery website in case number one is unable to fulfill its duties:
--Heron Hill Vineyards- www.heronhill.com

And The #1 ranked Finger Lakes winery website with 65 points:
--Sheldrake Point Vineyard- www.sheldrakepoint.com Congratulations to Sheldrake Point Vineyard!!! One of the things that I really like about their website is that they make great use of pulldown menus on their home page to easily navigate a large number of pages with very little clutter. And then each page is well-written and detailed with good graphics. Well Done!!!

To put the point scores in context, www.winerywebsitereport.com has evaluated over 2800 winery websites and the average score is around 48, with the highest score being 83.

In addition to winerywebsitereport.com's top ten above, I'd like to give recognition to some other websites that I feel do a good job in most or all of the following areas that are important to me: Keeping News and Event Pages updated, Attractive layout and design, an easy to navigate store to purchase merchandise, Descriptive tasting notes, Newsletter Signup, Winery History & Personal stories of the wine and people of the winery, and Wine Education pages:
--Lakewood Vineyards- www.lakewoodvineyards.com
--Fox Run Vineyards- www.foxrunvineyards.com
--Standing Stone Vineyards- www.standingstonewines.com

I have seen that some wineries are updating and remodeling their websites, so I will post again as they appear. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that a website is as important a marketing and branding and customer retention tool as a wine label or a tasting room or any form of advertising that a winery does. As a winery, you wouldn't skimp on the design of your wine label or the construction of your tasting room, so why should the internet portal to your brand and products be treated with any less diligence. I see way to many static websites or websites with news and events that have not been updated in years. It may be true that not as many people will actually buy product from a website, but it is also a fact that people do a large amount of their pre-buying research from browsing websites. So please, for the sake of your customers and potential customers, get those websites updated and make them a real reflection of your passion for making great wine and your pride in your products. Sell me. I want to buy!!!

Once again, Thanks to Mike Duffy at www.winerywebsitereport.com. If you are interested in finding out how to improve your website, visit his website.

If you have a favorite Finger Lakes winery website, please leave me a comment and let me know why you like it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blog Housekeeping

I have added a few things to the blog that will hopefully enhance it. I have added an RSS Feed Link for those of you who would like to get new posts as soon as they are posted via RSS. The link is located on the right sidebar below the "I Power Blogger" button. Also, I have added a Form at the bottom of the page for those of you who would like to sign up to receive free monthly updates on Finger Lakes wine info, events, new releases, specials and discounts. Or you can use the form to make comments or suggestions. Thank You to all of you who stop by and share my interest in The Finger Lakes area and its wines and wineries!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wine News Droplets

-- Sheila Livadas at FingerLakesWine.com writes her latest winery profile about those Nautie women at Lucas Vineyards.

-- Jeff Richards at the Star-Gazette writes about a new winery on Cayuga Lake, Cobblestone Farm Winery, and about some Kat Knapps, and some cider.

-- Tickets are now on sale for the 2006 Finger Lakes Wine Festival - July 14 to 16 - at Watkins Glen Racetrack. Discount tickets are available now through June 23. Over 70 New York state wineries, live music, arts, crafts, food, camping, and lots of fun!!!

-- McGregor Vineyard Winery, overlooking Keuka Lake, kicks off their vineyard's 35th anniversary with their annual Robbie Burns Day Celebration this Saturday, January 28 from noon until 5pm. This celebration in honor of Robert Burns, the great poet of Scotland, features Scottish food, bagpipes, poetry, and of course McGregor wines. Cost is $10 per person/$19 per couple.

-- Here's an interesting interview at Bloggasm with the owner of a small California winery, Dover Canyon Winery.

-- So you think you want to plant a vineyard. Here are some things to think about from Ohio winery Kinkead Ridge.

-- I guess it had to happen. A new reality series for PBS called "The Winemakers" is now casting for contestants who will compete to win the opportunity to launch their very own wine label. It will be filmed in California's Paso Robles wine region and is scheduled to air in 2007. If you are interested in being a contestant, contact Doc City Productions at casting@doccitytv.com
I can only imagine what challenges they will be asked to do. Maybe the Fermentation Tank High Dive. Or maybe Speed Pruning. And at the end, maybe they'll say "The vines have spoken, You are the weakest grape. You must now leave the vineyard immediately. Goodbye!"

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Liquid Wisdom

Here's my tasting notes on a couple of wines that I have had recently. First, a Hickory Hollow 2002 Chardonnay. Hickory Hollow is our nearest winery neighbor on Seneca Lake and a relatively new winery, opening in 2003. Hickory Hollow encompasses 23 acres and is owned by Bruce and Suzanne Kendall, Peter and Cindy Oughterson, and Ed Woodland and Theresa Cholewa-Woodland. Peter Oughterson is the winemaker. The winery's slogan is "Liquid Wisdom" and Peter has a lot of that. Peter grew up on the farm next to the vineyards of Finger Lakes icon Hermann Wiemer and he worked with Hermann for many years. The beautiful woodsy tasting room is one of my favorites and it comforts me that it is only a few minutes away to find excellent wine. The 2002 Chardonnay shows a straw color and opening aromas of mineral and petroleum. At first taste, I found it smoky tasting with bits of sweet vanilla and spicy oak and hints of nutty butteriness with a somewhat overwhelming petroleum bitterness that was a little unsettling. As I worked on the computer, I left the glass alone for about 15 minutes. When I tasted the wine at this point, it opened up with new tastes of butterscotch and citrus and the petroleum heaviness had subdued greatly, leaving a host of wonderful flavors of smoke, spice, nut, citrus, butter, and butterscotch. All which led me to this thought- Maybe more White wines should be decanted. I seem to only ever hear of reds needing decanted to open up the wine. It was very obvious to me that this wine presented amazing complexity only after it had breathed for a time. I Googled for "decanting white wine" but only found a few vague references. I am far from a wine expert, so I appeal to all the wine experts out there- Should some White wines be decanted?

And now the first Idaho wine I have ever tasted,
Sawtooth Winery 2004 Chardonnay. My wife was at a Jewelry Party and this was being served and she liked it so much, she asked the hostess if she could take the rest for her hubby to taste. She is so good to me. Her hubby liked it very much. In researching this wine, I learned that Idaho has a long wine history dating back to the late 1800's, but like other wine regions such as the Finger Lakes, wine production came to an abrupt halt during Prohibition and the regions winery rebirth and growth has been fairly recent. Sawtooth Winery is located in Idaho's Snake River Valley and they have won many awards for their wines. The 2004 Chardonnay is a smooth-drinking Chardonnay the way I like it and very similar to Finger Lakes' Seneca Shore Chardonnay, which is one of my favorites. It was very buttery and not overly dry, with just the right balance of vanilla and oak for me. So now I know that Idaho is not just for potatoes anymore.

It just amazes me how many areas of the U.S. that you would not normally think of as wine regions are making great wine. I was watching the Fine Living channel on cable, which is one of the few channels that has good wine shows, and I watched Andrea Immer's 50 Wines, 50 States, where she picks her favorites from all 50 states. I believe this is an old show, but Dr. Franks Riesling was her favorite from New York and she had a nice segment where she chatted with Willy Frank in Central Park.
Click here to see the list. Of course the problem is being able to purchase these out of state wines. I wish the state governments could get over their hangups about shipping wine between states. Tom Wark at the Fermentation Blog and the Free The Grapes website have good info on the ongoing battle for wine shipping. As for Andrea, I really like her because, even though she is extremely knowledgable about wine, she is not pretentious and snobby like a lot of wine experts and you can tell that she is a fan of the small family winery and value wines. Andrea's website is here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Winery News

-- One of the newest wineries in the Finger Lakes, Ventosa Vineyards on the northeast shore of Seneca Lake, is bringing a bit of Italy to the Finger Lakes. Ventosa is Italian for "windy" and you can feel the lake breezes as you take in the beautiful view. They have 21 acres of vinifera grapes and their wine offerings include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Vino Rosso (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Sangiovese), Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Saggio (a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot). Spring 2006 releases will include a semi-dry Riesling, 2004 Chardonnay, and Vino Bianco (a blended white).

-- Glenora Wine Cellars has announced the release of 2 wines- a 2004 Syrah ($18.99) that winemaker Steve DiFrancesco describes as having cherry flavors and intense black spice, along with elegant French Oak. This is the first Syrah that Glenora has released since the 2000 vintage. The other new release is a semi-dry Blanc de Blancs Sparkling wine ($13.99) described as having bright citrus and vanilla flavors.

-- Fulkerson Winery has announced the release of 2 wines- a 2004 Dornfelder ($16.00), a Dry Red aged in French Oak for 8 months and their 2005 Matinee ($16.00), described as having heavenly mint aromas followed by dazzling sweet, yet light, tastes of green melon, kiwi, and citron (8% Residual sugar). Fulkerson is also offering discounts for Bargain Bash this week on their 2003 Caleb, 2003 Chardonnay, and 2004 Diamond (20% off single bottles and 25% off cases).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Prejean Winery Wins Silver Award

I was just looking at the results for The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition that took place last week and I see that Prejean Winery on Seneca Lake won a Silver Medal for their 2004 Riesling. Congratulations to them!!!

Here are the results in the Riesling category.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Finger Lakes Wine-derings

-- I've been hearing rumors that UPS is finally actually shipping wine from out of state wineries, who have the proper approval and license, directly to New York customers. The last I had read, UPS was approved, but the logistics of what documentation UPS would need to have the customer sign when receiving a shipment of wine had yet to be worked out. If there are any New Yorkers out there who have received a shipment of wine (legally) from an out of state winery, please leave a comment or email me.

-- Lenn over at LennDevours is taking a survey to see if there is interest in a publication that would provide information specifically on all the wine regions of New York state. If you have an interest in New York wine, and I assume you do since you are here, please take the survey.

-- I stumbled on to a website by Photographer Jim Emery that has some good photos of the Finger Lakes area and from all over the country. I love good photography and a lot of Jim's photos are truly stunning.

-- I find the process of how real cork is made fascinating. A cork oak tree must be at least 25 years old before the first harvesting of the bark, which cork is made from, can be made and then the bark can only be harvested every 9 years. The harvesting or removal of the bark from the tree must be very precise because if the cut is too deep, the tree can be killed. The tree grows only in Portugal, Spain, and North Africa. Here is more info on cork.

-- I had hoped to ride the Rochester high-speed ferry to Toronto this year, but that will not be happening now that funding for the ferry has been cancelled by new mayor Robert Duffy because the ferry was losing too much money. Some say the ferry was never given a fair chance, but I think most agree that the city could simply not afford to operate the ferry with the losses it had produced. Here are comments about the decision from the Rochester Business Journal. Hopefully, a private company will take over operating the ferry and make it profitable.

--Remember to get your tickets for the upcoming Wine On Ice wine event on Jan. 27 & 28 at First Arena in Elmira NY. Wine On Ice features 32 Finger Lakes wineries presenting tastings, along with other vendors and entertainment.

-- If any of you are looking to buy a Finger Lakes winery and have 1.75 million dollars to spare, have I got a deal for you. One of my favorite wineries on Seneca Lake, Logan Ridge, is for sale. It is one of the most beautiful wineries in the Finger Lakes with a great view overlooking Seneca Lake and a fantastic restaurant and beautiful tasting room. I'd buy it, but all my cash is tied up in investments that I can not liquidate at this time. Yeah, right.

-- The wines that I have been drinking lately have actually been Non-Finger Lakes wine. I've had a very good Chardonnay from, believe it or not, Idaho- Sawtooth Winery and some German Rieslings. But there's a lot of winter left and the cellar is stocked with my favorite Finger Lakes wine to get me through.

More Info On Bargain Bash 2006

I just wanted to pass on more info on Bargain Bash 2006, happening at participating Seneca Lake wineries from today, Jan. 14 through Jan. 22

Here are some of the deals being offered:

-- Anthony Road Wine Company is offering their 2003 Sweet Dream- a dessert style vignoles for $5.99 per bottle (originally $16.99)!!! Get em while they last!

-- Glenora Wine Cellars is offering their Monarch Cabernet for $6.99 (750ml) or $8.99 (1.5L) and their Catawba for $11.99 (1.5L). They also have some great specials on books, music, and Christmas decorations and a winter special is on at The Inn for a Sunday night stay for only $69!

-- Lamoreaux Landing has their former DTH ornaments at half price!

-- Miles Wine Cellars is offering 20% off gifts and 40% off Christmas gifts and on their Willow and Wisteria wines, they are offering 15% off 3 bottles and 25% off 12 bottles!!!

-- Nagys New Land Vineyards is offering free wine tastings and a 5% discount on wine purchases up to 5 bottles, 10% discount on 6 to 11 bottles, and a 15% discount on 12 bottles or more!!!

It's a good time to stock up before the REAL winter weather hits!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Finger Lakes News Trickles

-- Don't forget the Bargain Bash at Participating Seneca Lake wineries from January 14-22. Get bargains on wine and gift products. It should be a good week to get out to some of the wineries as we've been seeing some unusually warm weather lately with highs expected in the 50's through this Friday, but then Saturday looks like a return to some wintry weather.

Click here to see the full 2006 Seneca Lake Wine Trail Calendar of Events.

Click here to see the full 2006 Keuka Wine Trail Events Calendar.

Click here to see the full 2006 Cayuga Wine Trail Events & Winery Events Calendar.

It's not too early to start planning your Finger Lakes trip and purchasing your Wine Trail Event tickets. These events have been selling out faster and faster every year.

-- Take a look at the winners of the 2005 Finger Lakes Photo Contest at Life In The Finger Lakes Magazine. There are some really beautiful shots.

-- Lenn's guest writer Charles Massoud writes an interesting post about the debate between Long Island wineries on whether to promote the Long Island Wine Region with a Merlot-based marketing message. It seems to me that this parallels the Finger Lakes issues as a Riesling-based region.

-- The Chicago Tribune has an article on Finger Lakes wineries.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thinking "In The Box"

Well, I'm shopping for wine last week and I come to the boxed wine section and I say to myself, "Self, we ought to try this box wine thing and see how it is", not really expecting much. So I ask the sales guy, "How are these boxed wines". He says (with $ signs in his eyes), "They are great." So I buy the Carl Reh Riesling because I like Riesling (duh) and it's the only boxed Riesling on the shelf. I know nothing about Carl Reh or his Riesling, but the box says "Riesling Qualitatswein Rheinhessen, Product of Germany, The grapes for this cool-climate Riesling come from vineyards planted on the rolling hills close to the river Rhine (I immediately imagine the rolling hills along the river Rhine and it's a pleasant thought of those time-honored vines overlooking a riverside castle or two); A long ripening period allows the grapes to develop a complexity of flavours (NOW I know we're in Europe) and aromas reminiscent of peaches and apricots, with a subtle twist of lemon." And the price is right- $11.99 for the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine. OK, I'm cheap- I've come to terms with it, you should too. So I bring it home and my wife asks me what I purchased. I say I bought some boxed wine and she immediately disowns me, saying she had some boxed wine at some kind of gathering and that it tasted like water with wine flavoring. OK, so it looks like I will be drinking 3 liters of Riesling on my own whether I like it or not. So I chill the box o' wine for a while and then pull the little tap mechanism out of the box (still not believing that there really is 3 liters of wine in this small box), and I pour myself a glass. Hmmm. Not as bad as I was expecting. It has a touch of mineral and a touch of citrus and a bit of apricot. A bit thin compared to the Finger Lakes Rieslings that I enjoy, but for $3 a bottle, I really can't complain. It would be a really refreshing summer wine. I finish a glass and as I go back to the frig for another I think to myself, "Self, I think I like the concept of Wine on Tap in my frig, I just need better wine to be on tap." One thing I was curious about was how well the boxed wine would hold up over time. The sales guy said boxed wines were good for 6 weeks, but the box I bought says to consume within 3 weeks. But as I drank more of the Carl Reh Riesling over the next week, I could tell that it was rapidly losing what flavors that it had when first opened. So the boxed wine experiment proved to be interesting. There's no doubt that it is more portable and convenient for taking to parties and picnics and there is added convenience in not having to wrestle with a cork and I sort of liked being able to have wine on tap when I wanted, but the romance and "specialness" of wine is lost without the traditional bottle and cork. Many questions remain in my mind such as, Can boxed wines retain flavor and aroma as well as bottles and Will more and better wines be appearing in boxes (or tubes)? I like the concept because of the value and convenience, but I think that boxed wines already have an ingrained perceived inferiority to bottled wines that wine marketers would have to overcome. I would be very interested in hearing your opinions on boxed wines.
Here is an article on all you ever wanted to know about boxed wines.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Story of Dr. Frank Wine Cellars

I'm not sure of the date of this article but it is a great in-depth look at the history of the legendary Dr. Frank and his son Willy of Dr. Frank Wine Cellars:

After a quarter of a century of struggling to earn recognition and financial stability for the New York winery started by his father, Dr. Konstantin Frank , Willy, at 79, has finally pushed that Sisyphean rock to the top of the hill. Dr. Frank wines are available in 30 states, wine competition awards arrive on an almost weekly basis and son Fred is in place to take over.
Anyone else might figure it's time to enjoy the grandchildren, go sailing on Keuka Lake, or nap in the sun. Not Willy. His week still has seven days, all for working. If he's not manning a tractor at 6:30 in the morning or working the streets with wine salesmen, then he's speaking at wine events or educating distributors, just as he's been doing for the last three decades--and he doesn't intend to stop. Wife Margrit and son Fred urge him to throttle down, but Willy knows only one pace: straight ahead at quick step.
His high-geared striving to build a healthy winery, while also bringing attention to an often overlooked region, have been likened to what his idol, Robert Mondavi, did in California or what Alan Shoup did at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington. Dr. Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars , New York wine, and the Finger Lakes, have arrived. The tourist trails clog up in the summer, the wines are hot in the New York market and the dreaded word "allocation" is being heard, particularly after a brutal winter.
Unlike Mondavi and Shoup, Willy Frank remains in harness. Dispatched to Florida for a recent winter vacation, he spent most of the month working with the distributor for Vinifera Wine Cellars and Chateau Frank, doing missionary work with salesmen and retailers. Back from what could only loosely be termed a vacation, he hit the road again, visiting distributors up and down the Atlantic Coast, and spreading the word at an endless round of winemaker dinners. One dinner was in a remote corner of Western Pennsylvania where he's been the speaker for the past 10 years. The event is so popular that it now runs for two nights.
Read the whole article by Mort Hochstein at Wine Business Online