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July 28, 2010


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Makes sense Lenn. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

I think this practice is not uncommon in wineries outside of California and may be particularly common in these trendy urban wineries.

That said, I agree with your sentiment: "bottled on Nantucket" (or NYC), like "Bottled in Canada" is a lame and deceiving labeling practice. The deception is akin to selling vegetarian dishes that use lard and butter in the recipe... (a very rough analogy, I know).

A lot of surplus juice goes to these kinds of producers. I suspect that the top quality grapes in any vineyard go to the most renowned négociants or the house label. So a NY winery sourcing from out-of-state is shooting itself in the foot twice - particularly if they are buying fruit from a high-profile AVA. That undermines the reputation of the region where the wine is made (as opposed to grown).

with the readership that i know NYCR must have, this probably wasn't the most comfortable commentary to post. your frankness on the subject of local food is deeply appreciated.

Even the Finger Lakes wine doesn't qualify for the 100 miles. The Finger Lakes are 250 miles from City Winery. They would have to be sourcing fruit and wine from Long Island, CT or possibly NJ to keep it within 100 miles.

How far does one take it for local, though? We use NY oak barrels, but also use French and Hungarian. I find myself wondering about our use of packaging - glass is North American (midwest or PA), labels from NY, tin/aluminum capsules and corks from Europe.

The point is that even local wine will have non local components and where does our concern stop (or stem from)? We make every attempt to source locally, but can't for things like capsules and cork, which are not made in NY. Being Devil's advocate, if city winery is producing the wine at the winery using grapes brought by rail, that could be less of an environmental impact than a Niagara County winery trucking grapes from Long Island.

In a state that produces only 7500 tons of vinifera grapes it is difficult to find good quality fruit when compared to other states like California (4 million tons) or Washington (400K tons or so). Perhaps they could not find fruit in sufficient quantity initially?

Duncan's points are excellent and well thought out, but we need to focus on what this is - something other than what was advertised. It is misleading, period, regardless the backstory.

Seth: We're never too shy around here. I was moved to write this post, so I wrote it. It's that simple.

Duncan: I know I can always count on you for a contrarian view, and while I can see your point, I think you're overthinking it a bit. Cork is not wine. Glass is not wine. What is IN the bottle is the wine -- and that's just not local in this case. There are plenty of wineries in NY (and other east coast regions) who are making wines from California juice. That's their business model. But when they call it "local" I take issue. If City Winery weren't promoting this as a "local" wine dinner, I wouldn't have called them out for the lack of NY wines.

Jim: I think that misleading is a good word for it. I'm not going to say that they are being dishonest, but they are certainly bending the meaning of "local"

Lenn, you make a good point that I guess nothing about the wine is local and it was advertised as such. In that sense, I would certainly be very disappointed if I attended the dinner expecting local wine.

I will continue to overthink winemaking and issues of carbon footprint, though. It's just the way I am. many wine bottles are shipped from China or Europe, which makes little actual sense considering their weight and size. Ditto for barrels. oh...there I go again.....

Great article and very thought provoking.

Absolutely agree with you Lenn. This is shameful. I just returned from Wine Camp on the North Fork of Long Island and I was amazed at the quality of the wines. They were much more balanced and therefore "food friendly" then anything I tasted in Napa or Sonoma. To make matters worse, New York is the 4th largest producer in the country but now ranks 11th in sales. Clearly there is excellent, local fruit, being sent somewhere else to be sold and enjoyed.

Doug Croll, CSW
Aka Tolerant Taster

uh, they're placing Cali wines on their list because that's where the really good to great wine is. Nothing really against NY Vino, but the best one can hope for is a good wine, not really good or great, just good.

I'm sure you guys want them to drink exclusively local wine, but seriously? That's simply a great way to NOT get folks in or repeat biz.

I just crossed off my visit to City Winery later this year...

Steve -

Given that this post was about false advertising, your comments are not entirely germane, but I'll give a brief response anyway.

Heart and Hands 2007 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir
Ravines 2005 Meritage
Hermann J. Wiemer 2008 Magdalena Dry Riesling

I recognize that the first one is a matter of taste, but I prefer my pinots to be subtle. If I want an explosion of fruit and alcohol, I'll drink a California Zin.
If you contest that California can produce a better riesling than the Finger Lakes, I'm truly puzzled, but to each his own.

If they grew cool climate Rieslings in Cali, say santa Barbara, Russian River or even up near Humboldt, then yes, they'd be just as good or better. The reason? Zero measurable precip during the summer months. You guys back east receive too much aqua during the summer months, more than France. I agree that cali wines tend to be over the top, fruit bomb bs without acid and too much oak, but when done right, you can not compare wines from regions where it rains in the summer and wines from regions where the grapes are allowed to ripen slowly with out the fear of sugaring down or flat out rot.

It has nothing to do with technology or better winemaking, it has to do with their aired dry summers and mild cool winters. Sorry bud, it's a farming thing.

But they do make nice ice wines in the finger lake region.


I think you're over-simplifying viticulture a bit. It goes well beyond rain during the summer -- the biggest issue there is disease pressure, not quality anyway.

If you're looking for slow ripening, the east coast is where you need to look. Year in and year out, grapes ripen slowly here.

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