Today we re-start (again) the LENNDEVOURS Q&A project with Amy Cheatle, tasting room manager at Damiani Wine Cellars on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. I first met Amy at my Atwater-Billsboro tasting a couple months ago when she came in to join the fray. But, I'll let her speak for herself as she answers our standard set of questions:
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?

Its actually a very romantic story, really. Picture a crisp, fall, upstate New York day blasted in sunshine, and under all that warm sun is a vineyard on a hill in Naples, New York. Somewhere lost in those vines are two young people sharing a bottle of wine…I forgot his name, but the wine was Bully Hill's "Love my Goat" red. What the wine lacked in grandeur was more than made up for in the label's hand drawn charm.

What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?

I think it was mostly a decision that stemmed from my developing interest in the Local Foods movement that was blossoming in Manhattan while I was a doctoral student there. I had met some great food theorists whose work I really admired, and was at the same time moved by these visceral experiences of simple foods. A sun-ripened heirloom tomato, the aroma of freshly-ground flour, tangy, living homemade yogurt, hand-crafted beers…many of us were.

A friend lived in Hector, New York, and we would often make the get-away trek up to pitch our tent or sleep in the barns of farmers who lived around the area. I wanted my children to have some of that experience growing up. Wine seemed the best match for me as the field of study was at once incredibly local (down to the meso-climate) and potentially, endlessly, global — as one learns the historical, regional and cultural differences of winegrowing and making.

Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?

Having the tasting room in the winery has been a great learning experience. Barrel and tank samples have really shown that wine changes day to day. A beautiful wine with all the potential of greatness on Monday can, by Wednesday, be an entirely different (and sometimes frightening) creature.

The point I'm trying to make is that both the wine and I are constantly changing, so to pick a favorite is close to impossible. Some days the sauvignon blanc is my favorite, or the cabernet franc, and then all of the sudden the lemberger will show off amazing earth or kiwi that suddenly intrigues or inspires me (then there is Gewurtz and the 08 Riesling still in the tank) — wow.

What has surprised you most about being a member of the Finger Lakes wine community?

How amazingly cool everyone is, seriously.

Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?

I am on a monster Prosecco, Cava, anything-with-bubbles kick. Or maybe a creamy Belgian triple…or a cask ale from Tap and Mallet in Rochester, NY…and I'm falling in love with the Central Coast Pinots

Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?

About 15 years ago I became a vegetarian, and now I am missing out on a lot of the "home-grown" meats that so often appear on the menus around here. Scott Signori's portfolio at Stonecat Cafe in Hector is slowly, deeply, making me question my meat-free diet, so, a lot of classic pairings I haven't yet tried.

Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.

The social aspect of wine is what I'm all about. Meeting new people, catching up with old friends. Throw in some fresh-baked crusty bread, a local cheese (soon the fruits and veggies will be hitting the farm stands) and suddenly you have one of those elegantly legitimate moments created out of tiny, timeless enjoyments….I know all of this sounds fluffy, so to keep it real we'll blast some big hair 90's glam rock…or is that too obvious?