This week's Q&A is our first from someone in the western New York wine region. Today, we chat with grape grower Wendy Dunst.
From 1999 to 2001, she and her husband Rick converted a Concord vineyard to a three acre wine grape vineyard in the heart of the Lake Erie region in Sheridan, NY.
Operating under the name Piranha Vineyards, Wendy and Rick grow pinot gris, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and carménère. They are also
accidental growers of pinot noir due to a mix-up in the nursery, growing just enough to fill a single barrel.
Wendy has been known to “work for
wine” in the tasting room at the winery located conveniently across the
street from her house, Liberty Vineyards & Winery, which also buys much of the Piranha fruit.
When she's not pursuing all things wine related, Wendy works as an admissions officer and recruiter for SUNY Fredonia Graduate
And now, our standard set of questions:
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?
My folks were wine drinkers, so there was always something interesting to try around the house. Even as a teenager, I loved dry red wines. I couldn’t tell you exactly which wine I drank first, but I know it was a Sangiovese. There was also plenty of Blue Nun around, but I didn’t touch THAT stuff!
What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
Fox Run Vineyards 2000 Pinot Noir. I was just learning about the New York wine industry and thought that, if pinot noir THAT good could be made in New York state, I wanted to be part of it. Sadly, I haven’t yet had another Finger Lakes pinot noir that has entranced me as much as that 2000 vintage.
Which of the current wines made from your fruit is your favorite and why?
Hard to pick a favorite as I change my mind from time to time. It’s a toss-up between the Liberty Vineyards 2008 Syrah and their 2008 Pinot Noir.
What has surprised you most about being a member of the western NY wine community?
The amount of knowledge one must have to simply grow the grapes, much less the skill involved in making them into wonderful wines. I’m constantly learning new things -- and that makes me happy. I truly cherish the connections with like-minded people, and especially traveling with people more knowledgeable than I.
Other than wines made from your fruit, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
I love Finger Lakes wines, and have been enjoying Wiemer’s and Red Newt's rosé and Ventosa's Tocai Friulini when I can get them. I’m a big fan of wines that accurately represent the grape in the glass. Channing Daughters wines always seem to fit this requirement and I especially enjoy their pinot grigio and Mosaico wines. I’ve enjoyed Conundrum in the past, but recent vintages have been less tasty than earlier vintages. Vineland (in Ontario) is another favorite. Their whites are very clean and well made. I love red wine, too, but drink mostly stuff made from our grapes. Oh, and I adore great zinfandel but can barely ever find one to get passionate about.
Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?
I rarely drink Chardonnay with seafood, simply because I’m not a fan of most Chardonnay. Other than that, I find most traditional pairings to work well. I mostly love discovering new pairings, especially combinations you don’t think will play nicely together. It’s always a treat to discover something new.
Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
The ultimate wine-drinking experience is very laid back for me. It involves adventurous friends, a variety of wine and food, eating outside -- preferably near water -- and plenty of time to taste and share. I love harvest dinners or other parties where all the participants are interested in sharing their wine experiences and I love blind tastings. I love traveling to other regions and tasting with local experts.