Before I offer my thoughts on Evan Dawson’s recently-released Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes, I need to make sure that you thoroughly understand that this is NOT a book review.
It’s not really a book review because as a personal friend of Evan, and a fan of his writing in general, and a member of the Palate Press ad network (which is currently running ads for Summer in a Glass, some of which appear right here on this site), I am very likely incapable of producing an unbiased review of his first book.
In fact, I’m quoted in the book as well, and, now that I think about it, about the only way I could be more firmly lodged like a NYC prostitute onto the tip of this book would be if I were somehow receiving a percentage of the advance (I’m not). So let’s just say that when I tell you that Summer in a Glass is not really a wine book, but is a humanist take on a local industry finally finding its mature footing, and just happens to be set in a wine region – and that it’s a total joy to read – I’m at least being subconsciously influenced into seeing the more positive gleams from the sheen coming off of its glossy cover.
What I can tell you without appearing like a total shill is that Summer in a Glass seems to be hitting the shelves at exactly the right time. I’ve written in the not-so-distant past that the NY Finger Lakes wine region seems to have hit its best stride ever in recent years, with the levels of experience, industry camaraderie and wine quality all headed up a steep curve simultaneously. If you want to settle into your fave reading chair with a book like Evan’s, there’s never been a better time than now to pour yourself a glass of Finger Lakes wine to accompany it – and that is NOT just Riesling, mind you; I include Finger Lakes reds in that group, as they are producing increasing amounts of high-quality reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (let’s not forget that the 2008 Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir made my list of 2010 Top 10 Most Interesting Wines, people)…
The Finger Lakes also continue to work the David-vs.-Goliath angle in the wine biz, and for the last few years have managed to successfully parlay that stance into an underdog-to-cheer-for status without beating wine consumers over the head about it. This probably makes some of the better producers in the region the sentimental favorites of wine geeks across the U.S., and the beautiful scenery of the area isn’t hurting them, either.
Is bad wine still being made in the Finger Lakes? Of course it is – some of it is textbook flawed, as in could-use-it-in-a-wine-cert-faults-tasting bad. BUT…
I’m sure some of you out there will disagree with me, and still more could (rightly) point out that Finger Lakes wines remain too pricey – especially in the Riesling department (and most especially when compared to some of their more floral and elegant Germanic counterparts in those similar price ranges); however, I’d argue blue-faced-style that the region is pumping out its best wine ever, with an increasing percentage of it becoming world-class.
Anyway – hat’s off to my friend Evan for his accomplishment, and hat’s off to the Finger Lakes wine producers for hitting their stride and reaching the point where a passionate book like Evan’s could be viably written about them.
p.s. – On a similar (shil-lish) book note, a recent release to which I contributed a few short (no height jokes, please!) pages – titled “Every Wine Tells A Story” – is now available for order on Amazon.com and so I’d like to give the editor (London-based sommelier and consultant Tara Devon O’Leary) a hand for getting Amazon to pick it up and encourage you to take a look at it as well.
18 thoughts on “Thoughts on "Summer In A Glass" And Finger Lakes Wine Finding Its (Red And White) Mojo”
Joe – Thanks for the honest appraisal. I think you take a wise approach! No doubt I took the human route over the technical in this book, and I hope it reaches more people that way. Not because I want to sell more books – well, I mean, I do, of course – but because I think wine itself reaches more people when we can deconstruct this technical wizardry and remind people it's a human story.
My pleasure, Evan – totally agree, there’s more to wine than recommendations, vintage reports & profiles, and books like yours remind us of that. Cheers!
Oh! And it's eligible for free super saver shipping! Just kidding. Beach book season is coming up so I'll add it to my list.
Carinne – this is definitely a good beach read, especially in how the individual chapters are structured. But remember, I am biased! :)
Joe – thanks for the post on Evan's book. I look forward to reading it. I'm a big fan of the work of Evan and the rest of the New York Cork Report's contributors.
I do want to disagree with your comment about the Finger Lakes rieslings being pricey. I think Washington rieslings are the only ones which consistently come in much cheaper than Finger Lakes rieslings. If you've checked out the wineisseriousbusiness blog on any regular basis, the majority of Oregon rieslings Chas and Dan taste are at least as expensive as Finger Lakes rieslings. With the collapse of the buck in recent years, I have a hard time finding German rieslings that are reasonable. And that's unfortunate because German riesling is great. Of course, I am hampered in my access to German wines having to work through the PA state system. I know – don't get you started on the PA system.
Greatly enjoy your blog. thanks Dana
Thanks, Dana. I should clarify the comment about FLX Rieslings being expensive – what I should say is that they are sometimes overpriced. What I mean by that is, for similar money ($15, 18-range) you can get German Rieslings that are more elegant. This is a general, sweeping statement and so is rife to be picked apart by specific examples that are exceptions. Of course, one could also argue that FLX wines aren't trying to be German (and they'd be right!) so why make the comparison? I make the comparison because I think many wine consumers will make the comparison, as German Riesling is the global standard-bearer for the variety (for better or worse). I personally think the FLX Rieslings in the same pricepoints as the German stuff – especially those that are over $20/bottle – need to produce wines that are harmonious and well-integrated and need to do that more consistently.BUT… let's not lose sight of the main message here, which is that FLX Riesling is **pretty much right there** now and in the best cases is producing *world-class* wine. That is really saying something because the barometer for world-class Riesling is set pretty friggin' high! The less-expensive end of that market will eventually follow the “premier cru” type level and the rising tide will raise all of the boats just as it does nearly everywhere else in the wine world.Cheers!
Joe, I'm always happy to hear and read great news about the Finger Lakes, my native land.
Great job, dude. I also agree, and hope, that the FLX wine can (and will) be world class. My main message for FLX is FOCUS. Stay away from trying to produce 25 varietals and stay with what work: Riesling, Cab Franc, and maybe some Pinot Noir.
As a book person (and Bookstore manager), I am very interested in checking out Evan's book. Can't wait to read it.
This was a great blog post. I will probably be checking back to this website more often.
Dorie – I will probably be here when you do. ;-)
Hey WinoTripper –
You make good points about narrowing the focus to what works. That's still a process in the Finger Lakes; there is now no doubt that Riesling succeeds there, and each producer has to determine how else to fill out the portfolio. What's especially cool to me is that a lot of the experimentation taking place is happening in small lots, allowing producers to follow hunches without greatly impacting the bottom line. Red Tail Ridge is giving Teroldego a shot; Standing Stone and McGregor make wine from Saperavi. Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road thinks Zweigelt could prosper. But again, those experiments will be done quietly, over time, and if there are successes, it will take some more years to determine that.
Fun place to be. Let me know if I can do anything regarding the book for you. Hope you dig it.
WT & Evan – I know Evan and I have discussed that very point of focus before right here in the comments. It's an issue that plagues pretty much every East Coast (and many West Coast!) wine regions.
When I ask producers why they make (terrible) varietal wines that don't seem to do well at all in those regions, the answer is almost always "customers expect those wines." This NEVER made any sense to me, since it amounts to a 'bait & switch' because the wines are not good so most customers are going to feel cheated anywhay and might never even try the varieties and styles that are good and *do* work as a result!
Thanks for the non-review. I'm looking forward to reading Evan's book, and to trying more Fingers Lakes wine! Sadly, though, our selection of Finger Lakes in Quebec is really pitiable. Are they more widely available in the US, even outside of New York?
Hi Lesley – thanks! The answer is “sort of.” It depends on the state, and I live in a controlled state which is run much like the LCBO is in Canada. So I feel your pain! Having said that, it seems on the East Coast that FLX wines are well-represented or I should say are better-represented here than on the West Coast. Just my comment from personal observation and without any store shelf space data behind it. :)
Just realized that I didn't actually *link* to Evan's work (of which I am a big fan) over at NYCR! So – here's the link, peeps!
Hi , thanks for the informations about this book. I would like to order that book next month, i need to know the price.
Mihai – not sure the availability in the UK (I think that’s where you are commenting from?) but price is available on Amazon. Cheers.
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