Sipping (And Mostly Spitting) in the Finger Lakes


Anyone with a pile of grapes and an empty trash barrel can make wine.

That doesn’t mean we should pay money to drink it.

Before I continue with the story of my experience at the 2012 Finger Lakes Wine Festival held in Watkins Glen NY this weekend, let me elaborate on the above statement for the purpose of clarity.

  1. There’s some GREAT wines coming out of the Finger Lakes region of New York.  Rieslings from bone dry to super sweet, perfect for summer (or anytime actually), spicy Gewurtraminers, and complex floral Traminettes that get me about as excited as Ryan Gosling naked. (read: FREAKING EXCITED).
  2. Unfortunately, the majority of the wineries showcasing their wares during this annual event about 5 hours north of NYC  were not these fantastic producers. Honestly, the wines were terrible. I could have over-indulged my way to tipsy bliss, but honestly couldn’t stomach enough tastes for that to be possible. Producer after producer seemed to be pouring overly-sugary Franzia-esque rosé and white wines, and the pourers who described the juice as “grapey” and “winey” really didn’t help.

By all means, drink what you like, I’m not here to hate on people with a taste for sweet wines. Overall, I simply found that the majority of wines at this festival lacked any sort of redeeming character.  The wine slushie station was innovative, but I was sad to discover margarita mix was the secret ingredient. I was at a loss for food pairings and even good descriptors. (My favorite tasting note: “smells like cheap perfume and tastes as bad”).

The good news is that a few good producers were present, and I knew how to find them thanks to recommendations from my NYC wine peeps.

Anthony Road Wine Company gets points from me for Finger Lakes classics like Riesling and Cabernet Franc, but also for their tasty  “pizza and pasta” blends. Simple, inexpensive, and yummyTony’s Red and Tony’s White were wines I would recommend keeping on hand for easy drinking during the week. Their Semi-Sweet Riesling was another winner, bursting with juicy apricot flavors.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars was the overall winner in my book. Their Dry Riesling was excellent–fresh and light, food friendly and perfect for a hot day. I was also impressed by their Rkatsitelli, a Russian grape that was completely new to me. It smelled like a big white bouquet, sprinkled with cinnamon and a dash of honey–and tasted just as earthy and fresh! It’s definitely a variety I’ll be keeping my eyes open for moving forward.

Long story short, I won’t be headed back to what I’m calling the “Get Drunk and Stumble Back to Your RV” Festival anytime soon, but I will be continuing to explore the the Finger Lakes in a more refined setting that allows the wine to take (and deserve) center stage.

 Finger Lakes Wine Festival Uncorked:

Laura Loves: The festival’s “Launch of the Lakes” toga party.  Nothing like watching a bunch of maniacs dressed like Romans (or red Solo cups) try to socialize.

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The gorgeous Finger Lakes Region.  It’s definitely worth the drive, and most tasting rooms are open year round.  You can find out more here.

Honorable Mention Wines: Ravines Wine Cellars, 21 Brix, Inspire Moore Winery & Vineyard.

Overheard: “Why does everyone with beads and a glue gun suddenly think they’re an artist?”

“Last year, I was already puking out of the truck window at this point.”

“You’re going to the festival eh? It’s your first time then? Pace yourself, and get ready for bad decisions.”

Know Before You Go: Tasting room hours vary by season, so check the websites of some places you’re interested in before heading up.

The Finger Lakes Wine Festival is really about getting as drunk as possible as fast as possible. It’s spring break for adults. Just be aware.

  • July 17, 2012
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