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finesse in the finger lakes Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

NM: So, it sounds like it boils down to a marketing decision for some of these producers whether to continue producing wines from native grapes as a way of reaching out to a segment of the market that might not otherwise have yet warmed up to wines made with vinifera varietals.  In short, the sweeter wines provide producers with a way to expand their consumer appeal and ultimately attract new consumer interest in wines they make in the drier style.

MD: Right, exactly.  I think, too, that some consumers may just stay with the sweeter wines; it might simply be their palate, and they're happy with that.  I'm hearing that that consumer base is still a pretty large segment of the total market for Finger Lakes wines.  But what you what just said definitely applies, too.  There's a lot of thought and discussion around the issue, especially among producers who make both styles of wine.

NM: From your understanding, who and where are the consumers of Finger Lakes wines?

MD: Right now, a lot of the wine remains within the state.  Of course, we do have a lot of travelers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey who come through and visit the wineries.  But the wines themselves really aren't sold much out of New York state.  I think that's definitely an opportunity for the future, to expand the market out further and go direct-to-consumer.

NM: Now, how would you describe the prevalence of the wine industry in the local culture of the Finger Lakes region?  In some of the long-established wine regions — for example, Napa and Sonoma, as you've recently witnessed — the wine industry is very prominent; it's tightly integrated into the local culture.  What is it like where you live?

MD: It's not there.  I noticed that in Sonoma — even with something as simple as the names of streets or commercial establishments [that often incorporate wine terms] — there's a great deal of integration with the wine industry; it's all very obvious.  [In the Finger Lakes region], they're still working on increasing awareness of the local wine industry.  There's probably a desire to have all that happen.  With the regional branding and all that, it's in process, but it isn't there yet.  I think there could be a little more support from the locals.  It seems that the Finger Lakes region has more support from outside of the immediate area, more downstate.  From the time I've spent in tasting rooms, I've heard a lot of discussion that we really don't see too many locals visiting the wineries or attending the wine events.

[To be fair, though, it could be said that that's part of the natural evolution for any growing wine region.  Taking Napa as an example, it's only been in the last couple of decades that the now world-renowned region has seen a considerable increase in the wine-related consciousness and appreciation among its residents concurrent with a boom in commercial infrastructure both supporting and benefiting from the wine industry.  Years of quality wine were being produced there before there was any significant appreciation of it among the locals.  So, it's understandable that the local infrastructure and awareness among residents of the Finger Lakes region is somewhat lagging behind what we might expect from the increasing quality of the wines being produced there.]

NM: On the subject of consumer awareness, local or otherwise, what would you recommend to someone who's unfamiliar with wines from this region — a consumer who's perfectly content with buying and drinking wines from more established regions, who might otherwise have no incentive to try Finger Lakes wines?

MD: I would say that the Finger Lakes region offers a lot to someone who really enjoys a dry, crisp, acidic white wine.  If you're looking for something that's food friendly, something to compliment your meals, there are several producers whose wines you'd really enjoy trying.

NM: I like that!  Because it really is about selling points — the things that make a region's wines stand out and more likely to pique someone's curiosity to try.

MD: I know there's discussion, too, about whether [the collective of producers] should lead with just one varietal.  If we lead with only Riesling, is that going to pigeon-hole us as a region?  I feel that because there's increased demand for Riesling, and even though on a grand scale it may be only a small piece of the pie, that it's still something that can increase awareness of the region and its wines.  If you can capture attention [among consumers] for doing one varietal [wine] well, perhaps that can lend to the overall umbrella of quality for the entire region.

NM: In closing, from your perspective as a wine writer and publicist, are there any final points you'd like to drive home about about the Finger Lakes region and its wines?

MD: We're a region to watch.  There's probably going to be some interesting developments in the next couple of years.  I think that the trend and the interest in the Locavore movement is going to play a part in driving awareness to Manhattan and downstate, which has been a challenge up until this point.  Also, this would be a great destination for those from outside of the region who are looking for an authentic, family-oriented, warm, inviting wine region to visit that's on a smaller scale — and with gorgeous lake views from many of the decks of the wineries here!


Clearly, and true to her role as its publicist, Melissa Dobson does a great job of promoting the Finger Lakes wine producing region.  For more of her perspectives, visit her wine blog, Family, Love, Wine.  For comprehensive information on the region, its producers, and their wines, visit the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance online.

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