Posts Written ByEvan Dawson

Thoughts on the Finger Lakes’ Sh!##iest Vintage Ever

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“No reserve wines in 2009 due to shittiest vintage ever.” It was one of the greatest tweets I’ve ever read, because it came from a winery employee. The tweet is long since deleted, but that is close to a word-for-word recollection. How could I forget it? I admired it instantly. Wine and food writers are often sifting through spin, and this was unvarnished. That was the summer that wasn’t, as my wife calls it. Almost never sniffed 90 degrees, and spent most of July in the low-to-mid 70s. Ripening was slow, and when frost came in October, it was, for…

Appreciating the FLX Wienery: A Conversation with Christopher Bates

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Here’s the scene: You are biting into a burger called The Local, made with goat cheese and miso mayo and lettuce and tomato and herbs, and you’ve just pillaged a bottle of 1988 Dunn Cabernet from the secret wine fridge, and you’re wondering if this high-end comfort food oasis is only for serious food lovers. And then a well-placed dick joke cuts through any concern about pretension. This is the FLX Wienery, a little food-and-wine joint on Route 14 that has been open for a year. It’s already become a regional treasure, a must-visit for wine tourists on Seneca Lake.…

Getting Rose Right: Finally, the Finger Lakes is Making Consistently Excellent Rose. Here’s Why

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Photo via David Diaz, Damiani Wine Cellars No one is immune to bad ideas, and for years, the Finger Lakes had consistently bad ideas when it came to rose. It all seemed to culminate in one ill-fated February evening in 2014. You might be wondering why anyone was talking about rose in February, and you would be on to something. On the evening Thursday, February 27th, 2014, Fox Run Vineyards hosted an industry and media “Discover Dry Rose Grand Tasting.” Perhaps you recall that January and February of 2014 had been colder than an ex-lover, hammered by snow and raw…

For Peter Becraft, a Dream Winemaking Job Starts with a Challenging Vintage

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In June, the head job was his. By the end of August, he might have been wondering why nature had served him such a cruel dish for his first solo vintage. But at Anthony Road Wine Company on Seneca Lake, Peter Becraft knew very well to stay patient. He could wait to see what September would bring. He had been waiting years for the chance at a head winemaking job, and he is not the type to stew. That’s probably framing the situation unfairly. Anthony Road has become one of the most significant names in the New York wine industry,…

Finger Lakes Region Mourns the Loss of Top Grape Grower Sam Argetsinger

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The Finger Lakes lost one of its most prominent grape growers on Sunday night when Sam Argetsinger died at his home. Argetsinger is the owner of his eponymous vineyard, which rises high above the southeast side of Seneca Lake. “We’re still in shock,” said Morten Hallgren, co-owner of Ravines Wine Cellars, which uses Argetsinger Vineyard fruit to make some of the finest wines in the region. “Sam was a loyal friend, a passionate grape grower, and an Iroquois translator who was so in touch with his environment that you could see it in his fiery blue eyes. A friend like…

Terroir in Whiskey? Inside the Quest for Individuality at the Hudson Valley’s Hillrock Estate Distillery

Hillrock Estate Distillery owner Jeff Baker

It wasn’t yet midnight, but it was long past sunset in the peat marsh. Two men who looked like deep-sea divers were prepared to use their wetsuits for a new purpose: they would be diving for peat. The decayed vegetation is an attractive part of the process of making single-malt whiskey — it’s smoked, adding a classic aromatic texture the likes of which can be found in Lagavulin and Laphroaig — but there’s one problem. The New York State Department of Environmental Conversation protects the marshlands, so the peat can’t be extracted legally. That’s why the men were prepared to…

Dancing in September: How 2014 Went from Potential Disaster to Potential Cool-Climate Classic

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To say that the 2014 vintage was in crisis mode before September is not an understatement. “I’d say it was like 2009, but it was probably in worse shape,” one winemaker who asked not to be identified told me. “Way, way behind in the numbers, and way, way behind in flavor development.” The running joke was that the 2014 wines might be harvested in early 2015. That’s thanks to a snowballing (pardon the too-soon pun) of a brutal and costly winter, a late spring, a cool summer and a cold August. Veraison occurred nearly a month after it did in…

Chateau Lafayette Reneau Wins 2014 Governor’s Cup

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The most prestigious award in New York wine went to Chateau Lafayette Reneau, a wine producer that can boast some of the finest vineyard land in the Finger Lakes. CLR won the coveted Governor’s Cup for their 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling. The wine edged out several other best-in-category winners, including two wines developing a strong pedigree: Macari’s Cabernet Franc (this one the 2010 vintage) and Anthony Road Dry Rose (the 2013). It will be interesting to see if this award affects CLR in any significant fashion. In many ways, CLR feels like it has been frozen in time, from the antiquated…

Fracking is Not Coming to the Finger Lakes. Here’s Why.

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Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is not coming to the Finger Lakes. The process to extract natural gas from shale formations deep below the surface of the earth is almost certainly a dead idea in a large part of New York State. The reason is a concept known as “home rule.” A few weeks ago, the state’s highest court upheld the rights of towns and municipalities to pass their own localized fracking ban or moratorium. The decision is a bit more complicated than that, but it essentially is an endorsement of home rule as a legal concept. Towns that pass…

Inside the Olney Place: The Beating Heart of the Finger Lakes Recalls Great Stores

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Gualala, California is a small ocean-side town in California, northwest of Napa. It’s home to the Surf Market, the coolest community grocery store in the country. And while the locals love it, it convinces tourists to make the drive from Napa Valley. “Perhaps the closest thing to the perfect small town store,” is how Seth Olney describes it. Olney is the owner of the Olney Place on Keuka Lake, and he knows something about what makes a store special. At the age of 34, Olney has developed his community store into the beating heart of the Finger Lakes. He’s traveled…