Posts Filed Under on the road
“They already got themselves a woodchuck today.”
Sam Argetsinger was leading a slow but determined downhill walking pace, flanked by his two dogs who had done the woodchuck hunting before we’d arrived. He is stout, and affable, and his wide smile accentuates a face of weathered features. Sam’s vineyard is small, relatively steep, and on the morning of May 8 it was playing host to a series of alternating bursts of warming sunshine from above, and strong cold breezes off of New York’s Seneca Lake.
A group of thirty-odd wine writers and bloggers descended onto the area as part of TasteCamp East; I was part of a dozen-or-so who were taking a morning tour of Sam’s vineyard on the second day of our trip. We had already, in a mere half-day, tasted dozens and dozens of Finger Lakes wines, some of which have been sourced from Sam’s vineyard.
“The other thing about woodchucks,” added Sam, stopping briefly and turning to face a small number of our group walking closest to him, and uttering the words without a modicum of sarcasm, “is that they’re delicious.” We laugh, of course – most of us aren’t farmers and none of us has ever tasted woodchuck.
“Must taste like chicken!” one of us says. Sam’s response – again without hesitation and appearing completely genuine: “Naw – it tastes like muskrat, mostly.” Sam then briefly explains how woodchuck gut can be employed to create a fine-sounding drum skin.
Welcome to the Finger Lakes, folks, where the water – carved out of the land like the claw marks of angry gods by retreating glaciers eons ago – runs long, narrow, and deep, like the traditions and views of the region’s people.
It would have been easy to joke that a Fingers Lake red is the best thing to pair with that woodchuck (or muskrat), given the past history of red wines from the region. And there certainly is nothing about Sam’s vineyard that would suggest anything other than the belief that This Is Riesling Country: from the steep plantings facing the water, to the heightened amplification of every nuance of viticulture – aspect, elevation, light exposure, ripening… we might as well be in the Mosel, right?
Exactly what you’d expect of the Finger Lakes.
That is, until you taste the wines that aren’t Riesling. Until you taste the region’s new reds…
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Here we go again!
TasteCamp East, the brainchild of New York Cork Report founder and fellow Steelers fan Lenn Thompson, is now in its second year and this weekend will be gathering together nearly 40 North American wine bloggers in New York’s Finger Lakes wine region for a few days of tasting, eating, and (probably) writing.
Last year’s inaugural TCE (held in Long Island) was by all accounts a success, especially in terms of exposing wine bloggers to the developing North American wine regions outside of California, Oregon and Washington.
The 2010 version has a promising list of wineries involved, and personally I’m excited to get back to the Lakes to see (and taste) how things are progressing there. I’m also working on a press junket that will take me back to the area in 2011, so I’m viewing TCE as an important milestone in covering and evaluating the Finger Lakes wine action.
Best of all will be hanging out with the great people that Lenn has assembled to participate, many of whom I consider friends and all of whom I respect as talented writers; for me that is, by far, the best thing about these gatherings, and I always come away from these events a bit awestruck at the collective talent, passion and brainpower that is being devoted to wine writing on the virtual pages of the blog-o-world.
It’s so easy for us to take that situation for granted, and events like TCE remind us just how lucky we are to be digging on wine in these changing (and exciting) times.
More to come, Lakeside…
This is not just the final shot in terms of my coverage of the event, but literally the event’s “final shot” – below is the group photograph that we took at the conclusion of the 2010 Professional Wine Writers Symposium, with the attendees, speakers, and panel members lined up outside of the conference area at the posh Meadowood resort.
I’m pretty sure that the photo was taken by the uber-talented Steven Rothfeld, which probably explains why it makes a crowd of people that includes disreputables like me, Alfonso Cevola, “Papa” Charlie Olken, Steve Heimoff, and Alder Yarrow look respectable. Well, that and the majority of attendees and speakers who are all actually respectable.
I’m including it only for my own purposes of completeness and nostalgia, though I hope it provides some interesting “oh, I didn’t know that so-and-so was so tall / short / handsome / hot / not-so-hot” moments. The who’s-who list is below the group photo. Click to embiggen…
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Virginia, as the marketing slogan goes, is for Lovers.
VA may soon be for wine lovers, especially if you’re fond of Old World style Cabernet Franc.
VA is not necessarily for wine writers, however.
Those are the tidbits of knowledge that I came away with anyway, after touring a handful of Loudoun County wineries with a group of other bloggers, sponsored by Reston Limousine.
To be fair, before I start making pronouncements on the state of wine in D.C.’s wine country – and I will make pronouncements about D.C.’s wine country, of course – my tour visited only a handful of wineries in the Harmony Cluster. While it’s situated in close proximity to D.C. and Reston, Loudoun County gets particularly rural particularly quickly, and if you’re planning on a tour of the area’s wineries you could hardly do better than to hire someone else to navigate the narrow, twisting, unpaved roads between wineries, which I imagine would be harrowing to navigate in poor weather, darkness, or when you’re hammered. Not that you’d do that, right? Right?!??
I did come away quite impressed with Reston Limo, who sponsored our trip and offer public tours of the area’s wine trail. Our driver was big enough to have been on NFL offensive lineman, and thankfully was quite funny, approachable, and talented (he possesses a very good singing voice, and is able to create – I am not making this up – cursive renditions of your name created from a piece of twisted wire). So I came away from the tour fairly impressed by Reston Limousine.
The Loudoun country wineries, on the other hand, did not all impress me…
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