By Finger Lakes Correspondent Jason Feulner
The other day I posted an entry here about three new wineries in the Finger Lakes. After a 10-day Maine summer adventure during which I barely had access to the Internet, I come home to discover, from the ever-informative Finger Lakes Weekend Wino, that there are two more new wineries!
The Weekend Wino reviews these new efforts here. Like the other three new wineries, both Imagine Moore winery and Keuka Lake Winery seem to be focusing their winemaking toward vinifera, which is a great sign. The owners have really interesting backgrounds, which adds to the ever-growing story of the Finger Lakes as an emerging wine region.
The official count one sees rolling around the literature and Internet sites last tallied the Finger Lakes at 92 wineries. As these new wineries gain exposure, build websites, and join various trails and what not, I'm sure the tally will have to be revised and will be rapidly approaching 100 very soon.
Is this expansion a good or bad thing? On one hand, I'm excited about the direction that these new wineries are taking. Far too many Finger Lakes wineries continue to produce sweet wines that rely heavily on inferior grapes. These new wineries want to make wine from vinifera and high-quality hybrids, which is going to help the image of the region tremendously and hopefully create some good wine.
On the other hand, it's getting more and more difficult to keep track of what's going on. I corresponded with someone the other day about a Finger Lakes visit and referred to over 30 wineries as part of our conversation. I feel like I'm fairly well informed, and yet I had to apologize that my ability to travel and taste or buy and taste has not exposed me to some wineries in the last 24 months or even longer!
The logistics of forming a good Finger Lakes impression is getting increasingly complex. With so many winery choices, two different casual tasters might have experiences that are worlds apart. Sure, a wine region like Napa Valley has hundreds of wineries, but the Finger Lakes is no Napa Valley in terms of its reputation or consistency. As a region that is still finding its focus, its strengths, and its limitations, the Finger Lakes has to attract and educate new consumers about what it can offer the wider world of wine.
How much bigger can the store shelf get? What will compel someone to give the Finger Lakes a second look if a couple of bottles, randomly chosen, failed to impress? How can a traveler visit the area and not feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options?
These are all growing pains, to be sure. While I hope that the market will continue to shape and define the region in a positive way, the wine business can be a strange and fickle one. What I am sure of now is that the manner in which the region is promoted, with one broad brush, does little to help the discriminating consumer figure out where to start. If expansion continues at this rate, more critical guides to the area will surely be needed.