WBC15: Chasing history on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Earlier this month, as some 300 wine writers and industry folk convened in Corning, NY for the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, we were greeted by an overwhelmingly friendly, hometown, local wine culture of the Finger Lakes.IMG_9301

The people of Corning, and the surrounding towns which make their business from the wine industry of the Finger Lakes clearly showed a great pride in the uniqueness of the local wines, and how they stand out among the rest of the U.S. as well as the world.

Before the official conference began, I joined the pre-conference tour of Seneca Lake, which provided a deep dive in to the specifics of the largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes, and the wine industry on it’s shores.

As my friend Melanie and I (@dallaswinechick) first drove in to the area from Philadelphia, I was struck by the pastoral beauty, and calm of the gently sloping hillsides and glacial lakes, carved by the last ice age to reach the Hudson Valley.

While this region has been home to winemaking for much longer, in 1986 the Seneca Lake Wine Trail was formed to encourage visitors to the area to experience all the region could offer.  Today, the largest lake also provides the largest, and most diverse wine trail in New York – 30 wineries, a distillery, breweries, and cider producers all line it’s shores.

The deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake is 632 feet and it’s shores provide a perfect locale for wine grapes.  On our first day, as we set out from Corning to Geneva, we bounced along the small towns and shoreline communities learning about the history and tasting several wines.

First up, we visit the Villa Bellangelo Winery in Geneva, NY.  Villa Bellangelo is on the western shore of Lake Seneca, and specializes in cool climate varietals, with a razor sharp focus on what the Finger Lakes is famous for – Riesling.  Here, we were treated to several older vintages, tasting the progression of both the winery, and the wine, as it traveled through time.  IMG_9299

Along with Bellangelo, King’s Garden Vineyards was pouring a 10 year vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Ironically located in Lodi (New York), King’s Garden Vineyards makes a bit of everything, upsetting the traditionally apple cart of the Finger Lakes a bit, by veering off in to Chardonnay and Cabernet, versus Riesling and other aromatic whites.  I particularly enjoyed the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the unique tasting of two 2010s, one that had been in bottle for a few months, and one that was just bottled – giving it extended oak aging.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Finger Lakes actually has some great Cabernet Sauvignon, and the ageability of these wines is remarkable.

After enjoying the afternoon at Bellanagela, we headed to Ventosa Vineyards, where the Finger Lakes Women in Wine greeted us with a powerhouse team of female winemakers & winery owners, and one awesome chef.

IMG_9375Before dinner, we tasting through some local ciders to refresh our palates, and heard from these leaders in the region on their contributions to the Finger Lakes wine business.  Each woman had a unique perspective on her journey to the wine business, and each one had unique barriers and stories.  From Marti Macinski of Standing Stone Vineyards, who went in IMG_9335to the business with no formal education or training, to Jenna LaVita, Ventosa’s winemaker.

From law student to sudden winemaker, she inherited the role unexpectedly when she was working harvest.  Finally, Liz Leidenfrost, winemaker of Leidenfrost Vineyards, discussed her progression in to wine, her burlesque career, and former life as a budding classical musician.  With her rockabilly style and take no prisoners attitude, she entered the family business intent on shaking it up and making a change for the better.

 

This panel of women are making waves in the Finger Lakes, and each one offered a unique perspective on the region, on winemaking, and on breaking the glass ceiling.  A sunset dinner over the lake was the perfect ending to a magical introduction to the region.

After an overnight stay in Geneva, we were off to Day 2 of our excursion on the shores of Seneca Lake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9:55 am:   Dropoff at Anthony Road Wine Company at 1020 Anthony Rd, Penn Yan, NY 14527

Noon:       Pickup at Anthony Road Wine Company

12:15 pm: Dropoff at Fox Run Vineyards at 670 New York 14, Penn Yan, NY 14527

3:15 pm:   Pickup at Fox Run Vineyards

4:30 pm:   Dropoff at Radisson Hotel Corning at the same location where some attendees were originally picked up.

 

 

 

Annual Wine Bloggers Conference – Advice from the trenches

Yikes!  The 9th annual Wine Bloggers Conference is next week!  Somehow this year went by way too fast.

Harvest is in full swing here in Northern California, kids are going back to school, work is buzzing, and  – 250 wine writers, industry reps, PR plebes, and other will converge on Corning, NY next week.

As one of a handful of people that have been to every conference (shout out to Craig Camp, Janelle & Joe Becerra, Liza Swift and Jon Steinberg), I have learned a lot since the first conference in Santa Rosa in 2008.

What does this mean to you?  As newbies and experienced conference attenders alike, there are always some rules of engagement that you should remember, and some advice that us veterans have learned about how to approach the conference.

Some of my key observations and advice on how to best enjoy the conference are outlined below.  Obviously, to each their own but if you want to earn the respect of your fellow bloggers and industry attendees, these tips are essential – and common sense.

  • Bring business cards.  Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard.
  • Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers.  The Finger Lakes can be very warm and quite humid, but cools off at night.  Jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, something nice for dinner.  Currently the weather says mid 80s all week, but there is a high probability that there will be R A I N mid week, so bring an umbrella!  For us Californians, this wet stuff is exciting indeed.  Most of all,  be comfy!
  • Be professional.  While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name.  We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general.  Please don’t’ be that person.
  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday at lunch at the Expo to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible. Be sure to stop by the WBC Scholarship table and learn about what we do and how you can help.
  • Mix and mingle – the first mingling event is Thursday night, at Riverfront Park.  Wines from Keuka Lake will be featured along with nibbles if you’re hungry.
  • Don’t be shy – reach out and touch someone.  Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself.  We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!  All of you introverts, use Twitter!  #wbc15 is your best friend.  Buy some badge bling from the Scholarship table and say hi to your fellow winos!
  • Attend the keynotes.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.  While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.  It’s important to take sanity breaks since these are three days of busy events.
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!  There are always many after hours events and parties.  While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it.  Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
  • Don’t have any party invites?  Don’t worry!  Stay tuned to the #WBC15 twitter stream, talk to people, and mingle.  You’ll get plenty!
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.

Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:

  • Keynote, of course!  I cannot underestimate the importance of these opening sessions, as they set the tone for the day and really give you a peek in to how other professionals, wine writers, and tech luminaries view blogging.  This year, Karen McNeil will be opening the conference
  • Intro to the Finger Lakes – a great way to get an overview of the region before we start tasting!
  • Live Wine Blogging: Red and White – Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed Dating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs.  You can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later.  I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.  This year, all live blogging wines are from the Finger Lakes!
  • Friday evening excursions to wine country – this is one of the best experiences at WBC.  Small groups are sent on mystery buses to various area wineries, where you get a deep dive in to the wine, winemaking philosophy, styles, and terroir of several area wineries.  The fun is that you don’t know where you’re going tile you get there!  No cheating now 😉
  • Women in the Wine World – Several successful women in wine will talk about their success and struggles
  • The Spectrum of Dry Riesling – As the Finger Lakes is well known for this varietal, I’m looking forward to tasting a wide selection and learning more about each style.
  • Panel of Successful Wine Bloggers I am moderating this sessions which will dive in to conversations with several successful bloggers, and what success means to them.  Bring your questions and join the discussion!
  • After parties to be determined
  • who knows what else!

I will see you next week!