Vineyards at Heron Hill in Hammondsport, overlooking Keuka Lake

2012 Redux: Local Paradox, Getting Finger Lakes Wines the Recognition They Deserve

Palate Press has selected our top ten stories from 2012 and will publish a 2012 Redux article each weekday until January 4, 2013. These stories highlight our featured columnists, widely recognized contributors, and most popular works published through the year. The Palate Press editorial board hopes you enjoy these highlights as we look forward to bringing you the best stories for your palate in 2013.

[box] Editor’s Note: No one is a prophet in their own country, goes the saying. It seems true for winemaking in the Finger Lakes, sometimes, as Katrina Anderson found out, when she noted how New York wine lists – even the ones in the Finger Lakes themselves – often made little room for local wines. Are the wines too expensive or is the quality lacking? Who is interested — or not — in New York wines? Such are the questions the piece seeks to answer. –Rémy Charest, Editor[/box]

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes, my husband and I were amused to encounter a wine list that was not exclusive to local wines. We were less amused when it happened again. As a pattern slowly began to emerge, we could not help remembering vacations to Sonoma County and Austria, where local wines dominated the menus and wine shops. Our conclusion: the lack of local pride within our own state was pitiful.  In New York City, where we live, we have basically resigned ourselves to the fact that wine shops and restaurants cannot limit their selections, although it has always seemed strange that local wines do not have a stronger presence here. In Finger Lakes wine country, however, one might expect otherwise. The problem seems widespread, begging the question: What is it going to take for New York wines to get the presence they deserve across New York State? Why are they so difficult to find outside tasting rooms?

These questions have been asked before, and responses typically fall along these lines: 1) the Finger Lakes produces lesser quality wines, 2) smaller-sized wineries cannot manage production at large enough scale to infiltrate wine shops and restaurants around the state, 3) these wines struggle to get picked up by the big distributors, and, when they do, they get lost among those distributors’ heavyweight clients, and, 4) New York wines simply cost too much for their value.

These excuses can be easily dismissed. It’s no secret that Finger Lakes wines haven’t always been great.

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