September 3, 2016


             Winery of the Year, 2016 Veraison to Harvest debuts, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing spreads the word, Farm Day looms, and more from New York wine country. 



             Jim Trezise

 Keuka Spring Vineyards: Winery of the Year



                   This week I had the pleasure--not once, but twice--of driving across Keuka Lake to Keuka Spring Vineyards.  (Actually, I drove around the northern end of the lake--I don't have a pontoon car!) On Sunday, it was to present the "Winery of the Year" award, and then on Thursday to witness Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul do the same..


                    Our annual New York Wine & Food Classic has two different top prizes: the "Governor's Cup" for single best wine out of about 900, deservedly won this year by Billsboro Winery 2013 Syrah, Sawmill Creek Vineyard; and "Winery of the Year" for the best overall showing in terms of consistent quality across the board, which deservedly went to Keuka Spring Vineyards.


                   Why?  Their 2015 Gewurztraminer won Best White Wine (out of about 500).  Out of the four different Riesling categories (Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet, Sweet), they won two (Dry and Medium Sweet) despite the fact that there are many other Finger Lake wineries producing superb Rieslings.  Their Celebrate white wine blend also won Best of Class, joined by many other Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.


                    Oh, and did I mention that  a few years ago their Riesling won the Governor's Cup?  This makes KSV one of very few wineries to win both top awards.


                     From my studio on Keuka Lake where I write this, I can see Keuka Spring Vineyards across the lake, high up on a hill with a commanding view of the "jewel of the Finger Lakes".  It wasn't always so.  I remember very well, after they opened in 1985, their miniscule tasting room in the corner of a small barn on Route 54 south of Penn Yan.  Frankly, I wasn't sure they'd be in business for long.


                      But Len and Judy Wiltberger, some of the nicest people you'll ever meet (they say it's because they're from Buffalo, where everyone is nice), had a dream which they have patiently and methodically pursued--expanding their vineyard, sourcing other grapes, focusing on quality, building a superb facility with a stunning view, and hiring great people in all phases of the operation.  Cornell-trained winemaker August Deimel and his assistant winemaker Rachel Hadley obviously deserve a lot of credit as well.


                      On Sunday, the scene was a big party overlooking the lake, with the awesome band "Agonal Rhythm" (doctors and nurses playing out their musical dreams) and tons of loyal supporters basking in the warm sun and exquisite beauty of Keuka Lake while celebrating the accomplishments of their friends.  They day before, Len and Judy had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  They also showed me their first new label in 30 years--with a dramatic graphic of Y-shaped Keuka Lake--and introduced me to one of their granddaughters--named Keuka.  Obviously they love this place as much as I do.


                      On Thursday, it was quieter and more intimate, but no less memorable.  It was almost like a Buffalo reunion, with Len and Judy, Lt. Gov Hochul, and other nice Buffalonians in the audience who toasted their common hometown, and the Wiltbergers' success, with a glass of award-winning wine overlooking a gorgeous lake  Life if good..




Veraison to Harvest: It must be fall!                

                     On Tuesday, the scene at dawn said that harvest is imminent.  It was a bright, blue-sky day, but down on the Keuka Lake where I live it was cloudy--"lake effect" cloudy.  The warm water and cooler air created this magical natural phenomenon which dissipates as the air warms, but still provides such fleeting pleasure.


                    I also knew fall was upon us when the first edition of the "Veraison to Harvest"  e-newsletter landed in my in-box on Friday afternoon.


                    This is a great service provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension, with funding from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and the Lake Erie Regional Group, that reports every week on what's going on across the state in terms of harvest conditions, how to adapt to them, and ways to maximize quality.  The reports are based on actual field sampling of grapes and other scientific information collected each week by the CCE representatives in the various regions.


                    "Dry!" was certainly the common thread in the first edition, though with some variation by region; and in some cases, recent rainfall might help.  At this point, a somewhat smaller than normal crop looks likely due to smaller berry (individual grape) size, but the lack of moisture has also had the benefit of lowering disease pressure and costs associated with it.


                     (At a meeting in Albany this week, my colleague Susan Spence was talking with someone from another industry who said, "I guess the drought this year means all the wines will be dry."  You can't make stuff like that up!)


                     The bottom line: Wine (and grape juice) are farming, first and foremost.  There are some things you can control, but the weather is not one of them, so the best you can do is do your homework, follow CCE, and hope for the best.


                     Cornell University and CCE are major reasons why the New York wine industry is now regarded as one of the most quality-focused and respected in the United States and world.  We thank our colleagues for all their great work.

Free Run...                        

                     "LISW--Certified Vineyards" is a new app just launched by Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing and available for iPhone and Android Systems.

                      The idea is to provide increased visibility for the LISW program and its members, in part through a Google map including all certified vineyards on Long Island which provides an easy way to visit any of the LISW member wineries.  Users can also browse sustainable vineyards alphabetically and find their websites, phone numbers, general emails, and street addresses.  Why not plan a sustainable trip?  

                       LISW is a not-for-profit organization that provides education and certification for Long Island vineyards, and is the first program of its type in the eastern United States.  The New York Wine & Grape Foundation provided a grant for the app project, and we were happy to do so.

                      The timing of this launch is ideal, as next weekend we will escort a group of New York City sommeliers, writers, and wine store managers visiting Long Island wineries under our NY Drinks NY program. 



                      WineAmerica is a smart investment for any winery that wants to save money.  Don't you all? 

                      The Special Occupational Tax (SOT) was instituted to pay for the Civil War(!), but was finally repealed in 2004, thanks in part of WineAmerica's advocacy.  Ever since then, small wineries have saved $500 per year ($6,000 since repeal), and larger wineries $1,000 per year ($12,000 total).

                      On January 1, 2017, a separate annual savings of $1,000 per winery will kick in due to repeal of the federal bond requirement, which WineAmerica also advocated for.

                      Annual dues in WineAmerica are only $500 for wineries making up to 10,000 gallons; $2,500 for those producing 50,000; and $4,500 at 100,000 gallons.  That's peanuts compared with the savings.  How much do you pay for a new barrel, and what's your measurable return on investment on that?!

                     After the election, we anticipate another bill will be considered that could reduce excise taxes. Once again, WineAmerica will be working on it, but we need more of the beneficiaries (wineries!) to get involved.  We are grateful to our members, but encourage others to step up and finally do their part.

                     Every American winery should join WineAmerica.



                     Fresh Oysters and Clams...Seared Duck Breast...Smoked Brown Trout...Chili Lime, Roasted Red Pepper, Three Pepper Salsa, and Smoked Onion Parmesan dips...Maple Cheesecake Delight...Hazelnut Truffles...Lemon Sparkling and Cherry Merlot Wine Ice Cream....

                      Hungry yet?

                      Those are just a few of the many treats to be available on September 14 at New York Farm Day, accompanied by a great selection of New York wines, beers, ciders and spirits plus apple juice, grape juice, and milk.  Watch for a full menu and beverage list later this week.

                     This will be the 15th annual New York Farm Day, which we began in  2002 with then-Senator-Hillary Clinton as host, followed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  The whole purpose is to educate official Washington that New York is a major farm state whose views should be considered as agricultural policy is being developed.  It has worked, and we are grateful for their support as well as that of Senator Chuck Schumer.

   Words on Wine...                      
         "Wine is the divine juice of September."
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