By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Tuscany is a dream vacation, but be warned: even with appointments, you often will only meet a tour guide, rather than the winemakers who craft Brunello.
Napa can be an ideal getaway, but if you don't know someone who knows someone, you might be stuck in the tasting room.
The Finger Lakes is not only a mind-clearing destination, but stop by one of the wineries some time and you might be asked to put on gloves and assist the winemaker.
This is only barely an exaggeration. If you're within a tank of gas from the Finger Lakes (or Long Island, or the Hudson Valley, or the Niagara Escarpment), you have the opportunity to get to know winemakers on a personal level. When you pour their wines, you might very well have participated in its making. You might know the story of the land on which the grapes grew. You might have witnessed the winemaker decide to let the grapes hang another week; maybe you tasted in the barrel room while hearing a winemaker's philosophy on how to bring the very best into the bottle.
Wine is food, and food is simply the result of hard-working agriculture. It is not elitist nor pretentious. It does not favor the wealthy. It does not segregate.
Yes, wine can be co-opted by those who seek to make it nothing more than a trophy. But for those who have taken the time to converse with the growers and the owners and the winemakers, it is only a trophy that signifies pride in one's place.
If there is a disappointment for consumers in the Finger Lakes, it is that too few wineries offer regular tours. This is slowly changing. But a simple phone call almost always yields an opportunity to meet the people making the wine. And that phone call might even be answered by the winemaker or owner. This is the nature of a small, quality-driven region. There simply isn't cash-flow for a large staff and lavish events.
So on Thanksgiving, if you happen to open a Finger Lakes wine, ask yourself if you're familiar with the story of that wine. If you're not, find some time to travel the short distance and find out. If you are, share it with your friends and family. This is how wine is de-mystified. And living here, within easy reach of the tank rooms and vineyards that are typically off-limits in larger wine regions, is something for which we can be truly thankful.