Last week I returned to Asheville, North Carolina, where I had the pleasure of speaking with Sommelier-Chef-Restaurateur Vijay Shastri of The Continental Lounge and taste some of his fantastic wine selections. What a delight to share with you this exclusive video interview curated and produced by G Social Media.
As I turned off California Highway 29 and onto Dowdell Lane, I did not know quite what to expect, as the first part of the drive is mostly industrial parks with wine storage warehouses and the like. However, just past that, it was as if I entered a completely different place…
Last weekend I traveled to Finger Lakes wine country for the first time in my life. Below are some of my first impressions.
The people: Everyone I encountered in the Finger Lakes was friendly, gracious, hospitable, and kind. Some went well out of their way to make sure I had a wonderful food and/or wine experience. The winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company, Johannes Reinhardt, produces a wine that matches my personality. Who knew? I can’t wait for the release in early 2013. Thank you to Anthony Road Wine Company, Bully Hill Restaurant, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, Fox Run Vineyards, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Heron Hill Winery, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, Ravines Wine Cellars, Red Newt Cellars Winery and Bistro, Sheldrake Point Vineyards, and Veraisons at the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars for an unforgettable trip.
The countryside: The region is one of the most beautiful in the country. The first time I looked across Keuka Lake from atop one of the steep banks above it, it took my breath away. Even the cool, gray November weather did not spoil the beauty. I imagined how amazing the view would be during spring, summer, autumn, and blanketed with a winter snowfall. This means I must return to experience all of the Finger Lakes seasons.
The food: During my trip, I had the opportunity to dine and taste at wineries that offered meals and samples of local food. I could not be more pleased with the locally-produced foods that the Finger Lakes region has to offer: delicious meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, luscious cheeses, rich chocolates, and tasty breads. Local is the only way to go when dining here.
The wines: I don’t think I can ever say enough about the wines. I knew that the area was primarily known for Riesling. I tasted many, many, many Rieslings: dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, and late harvest. The Finger Lakes wineries I visited produce world-class Rieslings, while also demonstrating that not all Riesling is the same and that it is a versatile grape. The Rieslings I tasted varied greatly due to climate variations, production differences, terroir, vineyard locations, and winemaker style and expression. The region also produces other wines such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Lemberger, Merlot, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Rkatsiteli, Sauvignon Blanc, and vitis Amurensis. One interesting thing I noticed is that many wineries publish the RS (residual sugar) content of their wines. I think this is because the Finger Lakes region is still trying to shake the public perception of only producing sweet wines from native American grapes like Catawba and Niagara, as well as to make sure their customers know the style of wines they produce. However, do not be deceived by what may appear to be higher RS, as the RS is balanced by the mouthwatering acidity. Many wineries also emphasized that they grew vinifera (European grape varieties), not just created hybrids or native American varieties. If you are someone who still thinks that Red Cat (Red Catawba), Niagara, and hybrids are representative of the Finger Lakes, and that great, European varieties – red, white, and rosé – can’t be produced here, then please allow to me to assist you in planning your Finger Lakes wine trip.
Final thoughts: This is such a welcoming and beautiful area for enjoying nature, dining, and wine tasting. I am surprised that there are still very few lodging and dining options. There are some lovely bed and breakfast choices and small, local restaurants, but there seems to be untapped opportunity. If you are interested in opening a local hospitality business, I suggest the Finger Lakes area.