By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Photograph shows a vineyard atop Mount Veeder, Napa Valley
I recently spent four days in various parts of northern California wine country, including Napa Valley and the Russian River Valley. During public tastings and private appointments, in wine shops and food markets, I asked people what they heard or knew about Finger Lakes wines.
I expected some out-of-date responses, perhaps including:
"The Finger Lakes makes wine? Real wine?"
"The Finger Lakes makes whites, I hear, but the reds suck."
"The Finger Lakes, yes, I've heard of it. Bully Hill."
But in all of our conversations, none of the above surfaced. In fact, there were two main responses that came up over and over. The most common response from Californians when asked about the Finger Lakes?
"We hear the white wines in particular are just outstanding. Can't wait to try them."
Finger Lakes winemakers and marketing directors should be pleased to hear that. The message wasn't cloaked in snark or sarcasm. There is momentum for Finger Lakes wine producers to build upon. Future success will mean finding new channels of distribution and new, creative ways to deliver bottles to consumers eager to try them. Even all the way out in California. The local model won't work for everyone, and it doesn't raise up the region as a whole.
Now, the second most common response was the following – and I mean we heard this maybe a dozen times:
"You're from the Finger Lakes? Have you met so-and-so? Pretty crazy."
I'm not going to write in detail about the person in question. You can figure out what we're talking about. That's been done, and this blog no longer deals with that issue publicly. However, given the amount of times it came up, I believe it's an issue that must be addressed.
Here's what I mean when I say it must be addressed: This region must become more active in all forms of media. If you're wondering how so many people in California are aware of certain people, it's because certain people have gotten involved in every possible form of media. Online discussion groups like eBob, Wine Berserkers, and many more. Social media like Twitter. In fact, in most of these forms of media, there is only one voice coming from the Finger Lakes at all.
Think about that for a moment.
Most Californians followed up by telling me, "No one takes it seriously, anyway." But consider that this is the first thing that comes to mind when these people think of the Finger Lakes. That means that the Finger Lakes isn't taken seriously as a result.
We're thrilled that so many people in the Finger Lakes wine industry are actively engaged on this blog. It gets your message out, it allows you to interact with customers and writers, and it's free. Yes, there is opportunity cost when it comes to time. But this blog is just one virtual hangout and discussion. I realize that the changing media world can seem overwhelming, but this region needs to understand that at least one person has figured it out. As a result, that's the regional brand for more potential customers than you realize.
Some might think it's risky for the Finger Lakes Editor of the New York Cork Report to write about the need for readers to visit other sites and experiment with other forms of media. I'd disagree. That's because we're building the NYCR to be the go-to source for news, reviews, trends, features, and more. I'm not advertising when I say that. It's the truth. This site is going to continue to dominate.
But there are so many new channels that allow wineries to tell their story now.
And of course everyone has a right to tell their story, coherently or not. The free market tends to sort itself out. But imagine if a movie studio produced, in one year, the following films: Shawshank Redemption, Cirizen Kane, A Man For All Seasons, Forrest Gump, The Godfather, and Cabin Boy. Now imagine that the only film they advertised was Cabin Boy.
It's pretty easy to guess what movie fanatics would think about that film studio.