By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor

When I dine out, I’m looking for three things on a wine list:

  1. Diversity. I get it. Ravenswood Zin is awesome, but it would be nice to see a little more.
  2. Price: I expect to pay a markup, but I don’t expect to need to pay in installments.
  3. Age: This is rare, but it’s always fun to see if an establishment carries any older bottles.

The first time I had dinner at The Village Tavern in Hammondsport, NY I could hardly believe the wine list. The restaurant, located on the southern end of Keuka Lake, carries the oldest and most diverse list of Finger Lakes wine in existence. It’s almost as if the Tavern is single-handedly challenging the “drink now” mentality that dominates local wines. (Here’s a sample of the wine list).

We ordered a Hermann J. Wiemer 1994 Johannisberg Riesling on that first visit, paying $60 for a wine that was released at roughly 1/6 that price. We didn’t blink at the markup; the Tavern has a reputation for carefully storing bottles and this was a rarity. And we were thrilled to find that the oldest Riesling on the list was still showing marvellously. 

On this trip, as you’ll see in the video, we ordered an even older Riesling now on the list. And the general manager and wine director shows us a bottle he selected specifically for the company at our table: McGregor Vineyard and Winery owner John McGregor and his wife Stacey. You’ll find a handful of aged McGregor Black Russian wines on the list at the Tavern.

But how do they make sure they’re not selling customers some heavily marked-up vinegar? How are they stored? What’s the philosophy behind such a quirky and compelling wine list? And what does John McGregor think about having his older wines on that list? You can find out in the video. And we hope you’ll tell us what your criteria are for restaurant wine lists — and which establishments offer your favorite lists.