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August 18, 2010

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It seems like a surprising pick considering the overall number of quality still wines being made.

It's ironic that the competition's goal I assume is to promote a region and there seems to be only one guarantee with that promotion...that is that the winning wine will sell out.

How does one judge a sparkling riesling? What do you compare it to for varietal correctness? How many other sparkling rieslings were there in the competition? What other sparklers was it poured with? Do they judges go back and taste the best in class wines to determine the winner?

Although I'm sure it's a great wine it's funny that after decades of wine making in NY it's a sparkling sweet wine that wins the Governer's Cup.


"Although I'm sure it's a great wine it's funny that after decades of wine making in NY it's a sparkling sweet wine that wins the Governer's Cup."

Bryan,

I have no idea why that is the case, as I have never been invited to judge at this particular competition and so I don't know exactly how they do the final judging for top honors. In fact, the way that I know some competitions work, I've come to truly dislike the process for "Best of" awards, but there's no need to go into that here because, as I've said, I have no idea how they do it for the "Classic."

I do, however, share your dismay. It seems so unlikely that such a wine is the top of what comes out of the state's many dedicated, talent winemakers--not that Ian isn't talented, just that this wine's profile seems weird for it to gain such a lofty place (maybe after I taste it, I'll feel differently).

The one thing that I do know about wine competitions: it seems that so many times, sweeter wines take over the judges' palates. I'm beginning to believe that large competitions ought to be held over two or three days, to truly separate the wine classifications and styles. But that costs money.

There is no rule which would say that just a dry wine (or sparkling wine) is supposed to be a good product. At the end of the day the balance of a product makes the difference. And who among us wouldn't enjoy at times a nice, well balanced off-dry wine or sparkling wine? I am happy for Ian at Swedish Hill and the folks at Sheldrake Point for getting the honor. It showes in both cases their consistency for quality in the bottle.

We should be happy that a group of very qualified judges has an mind, wide open to respect and honor a different product in our glass. The Finger Lakes have so much more to offer then "just" a drier style Riesling......let's explore it!!!! Ian, I am happy for you!!

Kudos to the team at Swedish Hill on a job well done!

I began my professional winemaking career working on a sparkling Riesling with Hermann Wiemer in 1982. Its no surprise - the Finger Lakes has always made some outstanding sparkling vino.

Years ago some people complained when hybrid wines won the award....so perhaps we are making progress... ;-)

Congratulations again and I look forward to getting hold of a bottle. I wish more upstate wines were available down here on the Island as I enjoy exploring other local creations.

I'm with Johannes on this one. Just because dry/sweet is the shibboleth that tasting room staff use to determine if someone is wine savvy doesn't mean that all sweet wines are inferior products. I know you like it bone-dry, Evan, but it's not for everybody.

What was the RS on the ARWC Semi-dry, last year's Governor's Cup winner?

AND... how many times have we heard (and said on this very site!) that the Finger Lakes should be making MORE sparkling?

Tom, et al. I have no beef with a wine winning a competition, sweet or otherwise, but I do have reservations about the methodology of many competitions that many times favors sweeter wines simply by way of palate fatigue.

One particular problem, to me, is with the way wines are judged for the final, top honor--pitting every style and type of wine against one another. At that point, it's no longer about the wine and its achievement, but more about subjective preference.

Of course, if the award is not intended to select the outstanding achievement, I have no complaint.

Is there anywhere I can view the full results of the competition yet? I can find the list of Best Ofs, but I'm curious to see how my notes compare to the judges' thoughts/awards.

Good wine is good wine - I don't care if it's Pinot Noir or Noiret, sweet or dry (a sweet riesling isn't exactly a black spot on the industry, and when did sparkling wine become a joke?).

In fact, I'd much rather see a true-to-region, well-made, it-is-what-it-is wine that is appropriate to its climate, like a refreshing Seyval, low-alcohol cab franc, or snappy sparkling wine, than see Finger Lakes wineries (or any NY wineries) attempt styles common to warmer climates. I can't count how many thin, over-oaked FL cabs and pinots I've had in the past few years.

Of course we can make great vinifera and great still wines, and we should. But diversity is crucial to the future of any wine region, and why shouldn't consumers get the chance to find out more about a great wine from a winery that's not one of the biggest names in the state?

From my humble experience, "palate fatique" in New York State comes from feeling like your tongue's been scraped by acidity. It made me want a soft warm-climate red, not a sweet wine.

Tom, you wrote: "I know you like it bone-dry, Evan, but it's not for everybody."

I do indeed like a good bone-dry riesling, but most of the time I think a bone-dry riesling is off balance. And I have a long track record of boosting sweeter rieslings; witness recent writings on Rooster Hill's semi-sweet, Wiemer Late Harvest, and ARWC TBA. What would lead you to make a statement like the one above? Nowhere in this piece do I malign the idea of a sweet wine. The opening line is to indicate it's not what people would expect to see winning the Cup, right or wrong, and what follows is a discussion on the wine itself and the impact of its selection.

Julia, I promise you that in large competitions, heavily oaked reds stand out for their sweetness, and higher RS whites stand out for the same reason. It's a very common occurrence.

There's also a lot of high-minded "if it's good wine then it's good wine" stuff going on. No one disagrees with that, but that simple stance is not exactly pragmatic when it comes to regional marketing. We're talking about two different things.

I just want to be clear that I think that wine has every right to win the prize. My dismay is more to do with a competition that promotes NY wines would make such a big deal of a "Best Wine" when there's so many styles being made in NY.

I'm pleased to see that my friends at Schulze Vineyards won "Best Niagara" as I see every year how serious they are about picking their estate Niagara grapes at the right time and immediately pressing them for cool, long ferments.

Does this mean that a Niagara should be in the running for "best"? I'm not sure how you judge a Niagara vs a Cab but I know it's probably the best Niagara wine made in the country.

I believe more than ever that wine competitions do nothing but make individual wine scores and reviews seem objective.

I guess the judges were not instructed to pick the wine that would be most pragmatic to regional marketing but instead what they thought was the best wine in the competition overall.

Good call, Tom and Bryan.

There have been a lot of important questions as to how this competition is judged; I work with one of the judges so I'll try to get some more info on the logistics and report back.

Tom - Your comment would have more bite if the competition weren't already so political. The goal is advancing the region. Everything about it is set up that way, and no one seeks to hide out. If they were out to select the best wine, it wouldn't have parameters in case production.

Evan,

Your last paragraph brings up the question: is the wine competition about achievement or about marketing?

Double Gold is the top achievement, as it confirms unanimous Gold status. I find it hard to accept that there is a higher category than that on the basis of achievement.

Still, the words are "wine competition" not "wine achievement." And therein, I believe, is the answer.

Thomas - As I just said to Tom, this competition is set up to advance the region. Tons of medals, way too many categories, and the anointing of a best wine without much explanation for what exactly they're looking for. I'm not saying I agree with it; I'm saying it's reality.

"Tons of medals, way too many categories, and the anointing of a best wine without much explanation for what exactly they're looking for."

Sounds like the contents of those emails that I get every Saturday morning. :)

I am looking forward to tasting the obviously very good Swedish Hill Riesling Cuvee. I am not surprised that the judges liked a well made Riesling sparkling wine. I was once talking to a former winner of the Governor's Cup, who told me the judging at that time was not entirely blind. Does anyone know if that is or ever was the case?

Evan,
As someone that is on the "street" in several different markets from MA to DC I completely agree with your comment
"Tons of medals, way too many categories, and the anointing of a best wine without much explanation for what exactly they're looking for".

These competitions have virtually no influence on sales nor the image of the region.

The categories and judging are just too broad and appear on the surface to look to appease everyone. A bit like when all the teams in little league get a trophy.

Rick -

True, with the exception of the Governor's Cup, which gets a massive boost in sales. Most other categories tend not to move wine, based on many conversations I've had.

I wonder if Tom Mansell or other know of any solid research indicating whether wine medals move wine in the tasting room.

To Steve Shaw, I don't know about this competition, but the Best of Show system is usually one where all Double Gold (or Gold, if there are no Doubles) compete with one another, generally blind, regardless of class and style. That's a recipe for majority preference rather than achievement merit.

Evan, our messages got stepped over by comments in between--I understand what you are saying.

In my view, when wine competitions became overt marketing machines, too many wines being judged and too many competitions muddied the message. I am of the opinion that classifications such as Governor's Cup winner detract from the achievement of all those other Double Gold wines.

Congratulations to Ian and his team on crafting yet another trophy winning wine. We are glad to have such a talented winemaker in the region!

The Non-Vintage Conundrum:
Given the limited number of cases of this wine and its non-vintage status, I'm surprised that a discussion of what happens what they run out of the original 364 cases of this "Governor's Cup" wine has not taken place. After all, there is nothing to stop a winery from producing whatever the market will bear - 2,500 cases, 5,000 cases, 10,000 cases... and labeling it as the same NV wine. The fact that this is a NV opens the door for it to ALWAYS be the "Governor's Cup" wine.

The problem herein lies with the consumer. Many consumers WANT to have the same wine the judges tasted that received such high praise. However, if the winery chooses to make more of it (for release, say, mid-Sept), it would clearly not be the same wine that had graced the judges palate.

I'm sure the same could be said for the scoring of NV sparklers in the major trade publications. Some publications go on release date. Typically, a retailer will just take the highest score and post the shelf talker.

This is not to say that a Non-Vintage sparkler is not a high quality wine. NVs allow for consistency across vintages, and allow for more affordable sparkling wines to be produced and enjoyed by consumers. However, when these wines are scored and judged in competitions, it does bring up some interesting topics for debate and discussion.

Some quick thoughts and reactions to this news, this post and the comments it has illicted...

First of all, no, I don't think this is the best wine in New York. But, we are left to assume that it showed as such during the course of the competition.

Secondly, I've always been slightly disturbed by the lack of transparency when it comes to this particular competition. There just isn't a lot of information available about it, how it's run, etc. Rumors of it not being completely blind have been whispered for some time now.

Thirdly, are we maybe acting as though this competition is far more prestigious than it actually is? Governor's Cup and Winery of the Year winners aside, does anyone really care? What's another bronze medal for your white blend when you can get those from any number of endless competitions?

Forth, let's not kid ourselves -- the best Noiret in the world still has a ceiling far lower than that of the great grape varieties of the world. So this "a great wine is a great wine" isn't exactly true. And before this spirals into a "Lenn and Evan hate hybrids" discussion -- it's not true, so don't go there.

Lastly, congratulations to Ian and the team at Swedish Hill. The fact that Ian can make nearly 100 different wines across three wineries and win the Governor's Cup 2 out of 3 years is quite an accomplishment.

I'm also glad to hear that the winner was made with locally sourced fruit.

Do I wish that a dry red from downstate or a dry riesling from the Finger Lakes won? I guess, but we can't laud the judges for picking the Anthony Road 08 Semi last year and then attack them for picking this this year -- at least we can't if the tasting was conducted the same way.

Tom, your comments have never struck me as cynical in the past, not at all. But the idea that just in case a winery doesn't possess the scruples to not misrepresent their award winning Non-Vintage wine, we should eliminate all of them from competition? Too cynical I think.

I remember when I was new in the business, late 80s or so, I was working in a wine shop and a Tuscan producer of Chianti actually said to me, "You like the '77? Great, I can make as much as you want." You know what he meant right? Well, I didn't buy the wine.

If a winery is prepared to misrepresent a Non-Vintage to their customers they are ready to misrepresent ANYTHING to their customers. Frankly, the fear of a misrepresented NV is overstated and highly unlikely, just my opinion.

That said, could you even imagine an award winning wine where the appellation was mispresented? Totally possible. Unlikely, but possible.

In Europe they do not fuss so much about wine as they grow up in a culture where wine is served at the table and they probably neighbor a grape growing region. Wine is seen as a beverage to enhance the meal.

Here we have somewhat of a different attitude reflecting our never ending quest for(unattainable)perfection. And when it comes to wine it is a relatively new phenomenon. Therefore we have developed a whole bunch of guidelines to help the uninitiated. We try to make a scientific endeavour out of wine tasting developing rating systems which are supposed to provide a numerical ( as if there was such precision) evaluation of a wine with all sorts of scales the most favored being the 100 points scale which start at 75!

When I have wine at dinner I do not use a rating system or a scale. I tend to reflect on how well the wine goes with the food. Is it enhancing the food or is it taking away from it. And if the wine is extraordinary how does it differ from my expectations.

The point of all this is that sometimes it is useful to pull back and reflect on our discourse. There is no such thing as the best of anything. Like there is no best car, or best tomato or best carrot or best computer without some context by which to have that evaluation. Similarly there are today an increasing number of very good wines and it is the consumer's good fortune that there is so much to choose from. If I were to drink 10 different wines a day for the rest of my life I will have tasted but a fraction of all available wines. The same is true for self proclaimed or otherwise annointed wine judges. They could not possibly have tasted more than a fraction of the wines of the world. When they judge a wine, we have to ponder, are they telling us about the wine or about their own taste for wine. For those of us who have the self confidence to enjoy our various wines we are not necessarily impressed by wine judges or competitions. And those of us who are curious will attempt to taste more wines we do not know than keep going back to the same wine. And those who are more conservative will keep buying the same wine over and over again because they have found what satisfies them and do not need to further experiment.

Dan Kleck, a winemaker from the early North Fork generation, once told me that if you want to have a wine cellar on the cheap, start a wine competition. You get 2 or 3 of each wine taste 1 or 2 and save the 3rd one and get paid for the whole exercise. A bit cynical perhaps but packed with wisdom.

Evan Dawson asks “Is this the best wine in New York State?” A more conservative, and apt, title would be “Is this the best wine in the New York State contest”? The answer to the first question might well be no; to the second, yes. (Can we all stipulate that “best” is, at best, subjective?)

The configuration and outcome of the New York Wine and Food Classic is shaped by the state wine industry itself. If superior producers like, say, Channing Daughters, Lenz and Shinn, all on the North Fork of Long Island, choose not to participate --- I do not question their reasons --- the contest will be deprived of potential “best of category,” “best of class” and, conceivably, Governor’s Cup winners.

In short, the annual contest can only be as strong as its strongest content.

Lenn does reality and responsible journalism a disservice when he writes: “I've always been slightly disturbed by the lack of transparency when it comes to this particular competition. There just isn't a lot of information available about it, how it's run, etc. Rumors of it not being completely blind have been whispered for some time now.”

In tracking this competition for nearly 25 years, I have found full-scale transparency on the part of the sponsor, the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. Every one of countless questions I have asked have been, I believe, forthrightly answered to my arm’s-length satisfaction by James Trezise, the foundation’s president, and by staff members who have been delegated responsibility for administering the contest.

Lenn, have you yourself personally phoned the foundation and asked? And asked? And asked? And pressed for more information on this detail, and that detail, and the next detail? Has your phone and e-mail time with the foundation added up to hours and hours?

I stiffen when I read “rumors...have been whispered.” That’s mini-McCarthyism. If you have heard that the contest has not been “completely blind,” you ought to ask the foundation if that has ever been the case. Tell us the answer. And if you distrust what you have been told, then identify the source or sources of the allegation if you can and cite, as best you can, supportive chapter and verse.

Observing how scrupulously the contest has been run (I cannot be and never have been a judge, though I have sat in on it privately and as a nonvoter), and having long dealt with the principals who run it, I find it difficult to imagine a single instance in which the principle of blindness has been breached.

Evan’s observation that “the goal” of the contest” is advancing the region” and that “everything about it is set up that way” strikes me as ill-founded if I am accurate in construing his phrase “the region” to mean “Finger Lakes.” In fact, the contest’s intended, comprehensive goal is to promote the wines of New York State, wall to wall.

Evan, where in the mechanics of the contest do you find built-in bias on behalf of the region? I think it cannot be read in the outcome, in which the Finger Lakes region inevitably far outscores the other regions. Given the number of its producers --- roughly double the more-or-less 50 on Long Island --- that’s statistically unavoidable.

As for Evan’s concern about “way too many categories,” both yes and no have strong arguments. Since the foundation has been partly state financed, there is an obligation to represent the state’s whole canvas. That means focusing not merely on vinifera --- the international lingua franca of fine wine --- but also on hybrids (French-American and domestic) and on native grapes, which, in my view, may be appreciated as New York State vins de pays strengths.

When Evan writes that “if the same judges gathered next week to taste the same wines, they'd almost certainly pick different winners in every single category” he is absolutely on the money. In this respect, wine contests are sports events. If theoretically the same Yankee lineup could face the same Red Sox pitcher on two successive days, they could club him 10-0 on Monday and get belted 10-0 on Tuesday; go figure; that’s life.

There is nothing demeaning about the the Governor’s Cup triumph of a nonvintage medium-dry sparkling riesling. After all, winzersekt in Germany and dosaged Champagne can be, as we all know, top-drawer.

Incidentally, I love a medal-winning Niagara and Diamond, and am charmed by Cayuga Whites, and now and then by French-American hybrids. And even by honey wine -- though obviously one man’s mead may be another man’s poison.

Mr. Trezise and the entire NYWGF organization has shown very little interest in the NYCR -- its stories, its programs and it's people -- over the years. Numerous emails have gone un-returned (emails from multiple NYCR staffers, not just me btw) and at least one staffer has played extended games of phone tag with their office.

We've published several stories about this particular event -- stories that ask questions, make suggestions, etc. There isn't anything new here, really. If the organizers continue to keep their heads in the sand, ignoring calls from across the state for reform, we have every right to keep making comments, do we not?

Of course, I've been openly critical of the organization and Jim in the past, so I can understand why they aren't enthusiastic, but I don't feel that we've crossed any lines or deserve to be ignored.

As for the whispers of non-blindness -- that came from another comment above yours as well as from winery owners and winemakers who I've spoken to. I cannot name them and won't. Let's not get into that again.

By the way, I know that you don't visit Long Island wine country very often, but Channing Daughters isn't on the North Fork, though some of the vineyards they buy fruit from are.

Your point is a VERY good one however...this wine cannot be the 'best' wine in New York. Too many top wineries ignore the event.

Needless to say I know full well, as the extended record shows, that Channing Daughters is on the South Fork. I had intended to write East End, not North Fork, but the Old Debbil hisself intervened, as he has done before. I must pray more often, starting next month.

I understand both points of view. From the outside, it seems to me, that Finger Lakes wineries dominiate the landscape. On the other hand, I also know that niether the Hudson Valley's nor the Long Island's wineries compete as fully as a percentage as do the Finger Lake wineries.

Still, I think the competition is well run. I think we need to have more people compete. I think the organization needs to court the other regions a little more.

Maybe the competition might move each year, giving some of the other regions a chance to host the event, or portions of the event? The need to do more to establish the event as a full scale, NY state event.

Regardless, like the lottery, "you gotta be in it to win it."

Carlo (and others),

One is moved to ask: why don't the majority of wineries outside the Finger Lakes submit their wines to the "Classic?"

Anyone have insight to share on that question?

My information surely is outdated, butt he long ago excuse I heard from many in the LI industry is that the hybrid/native wines make the competition a relative joke. Unfortunately, as Howard says, the mandate of he Foundation demands that all NY wines have equal access to the promotions and the competition that the organization hosts.

Also, like Howard, I, too, have enjoyed a few natives (especially Diamond) and many hybrids--so that is a non-issue. The issue, for me, is the way competition judging is usually performed and also the purpose of the event--again, I agree with Howard: this is not objective stuff we are talking about.

Howard--when did we start agreeing so much???

Over the years, the contest has been held in various venues, including Manhattan and Long Island, and in a strikingly interesting experiment, as I recall, it was once held at the former Copia, in Napa, as a means of trying to draw significant attention in California to New York State wines.

When you look into the 1,001 details involved in piecing the event together it is easy to understand why the Wine and Grape Foundation finds it efficient and economical to hold it in the Finger Lakes region.

Having tracked the contest from year to year, I know that strong efforts have been made to maximize all wineries' participation. In the end, their disinclination to help broaden the international public's sense of the New York wine horizon is self-defeating. Yes, indeed, "you gotta be in it to win it." And you gotta stay in it, if only as a goad to your own ambitions.

The state's budgetary problems currently inhibit the New York Wine and Grape Foundation's ability to finance this expensive event in high-cost cities. I once was glued to the view that the contest should be held only in New York City, for media purposes and for symbolism. But the rise of the new media, as exemplified by the New York Cork Report, and their access to the same pre- and post-contest information available to the so-called old media suggests to me that the importance of place in the contest has dwindled.

But, still, I can also imagine that if financing and logistics made it feasible to hold the contest in, say, the urbane Ted Conklin's excellent, wine-oriented American Hotel, in Sag Harbor, it would be unthinkable -- or simply discourtesy -- for any Long Island producer to stay out of it. The unquantifiable subjectivity factor -- call it, mystically, Long Island's ambiance, the very air -- would surely heighten judges' latent awareness of the region's strengths and thus generate more gold and double-gold medals for the locals.

If my memory serves, back in the 80s and early 90s the Foundation-sponsored competition was held in NYCity a few times, gaining little attention from the giant media outlets, as it was only New York wine...

Let's face it--the sheer volume of them across the country has to have weakened the power of wine competitions in general. Certainly, their blatant marketing focus renders most competitions a kind of self-abuse, if you get my drift.

And just to make a point: I have been judging annually in the NY State Fair Competition: LI is woefully under-represented there, too.

I don't think that where the competition is held has much to do with who participates and who doesn't. Long Island wineries send their wines all over the country for competitions.

And honestly, I'm not sure having it in NYC at great expense will generate that much more attention. What would/could generate more attention is putting information about the event on the NYWGF's own website, blitzing press with the same info (and results) and leveraging new media far better than the NYWGF ever has.

As for all of the seemingly unnecessary categories, while it is true that things like Diamond, Cayuga, etc. might be worthy of their own categories, the decision of what grapes get their own categories SEEMS rather arbitrary and Finger Lakes biased.

Why Diamond but not Baco Noir?

Why Vignoles and not Sauvignon Blanc?

Why multiple Rieslings but not Tocai (which is made in each of the state's three primary regions now)?

Maybe there are very good reasons for the decisions, but without transparency into those reasons, it can certainly appear as though varieties grown mostly or only in the Finger Lakes are favored.

Lenn,

"Why Diamond but not Baco Noir?

Why Vignoles and not Sauvignon Blanc?

Why multiple Rieslings but not Tocai (which is made in each of the state's three primary regions now)?"

Again, I don't know about this particular competition, but the simple answer is that the categories are generally assigned after the submissions, when it's known how many and what type of wines are in the competition.

You need to get inside a competition and see how it works. That would answer many of your questions. I suggest that you volunteer to work at one of them.

Re, LI wines and competitions: I'll probably get slammed for saying this, but many years ago I was told by some in the LI wine business that the LI Wine Council made a decision to send a message that distinctly separated that wine industry from the rest of NY's wine identity. In some ways, it was a successful tactic; in others, not so much.

Thomas: You could very well be right...but that still doesn't answer the "multiple riesling" question.

Yes, riesling comes in several styles (mainly around RS) but doesn't cabernet franc come in different styles as well? Barrel or no? How much new? Etc?

I think that's yet another thing that makes this competition (and the NYWGF) SEEM angled towards the Finger Lakes.

I don't remember seeing unoaked vs. oaked chardonnay as categories very often, but did see it this year. That's encouraging.

Lenn,

Good point, re, Riesling categories, and I suspect that
since the majority of wineries that enter are in the Finger Lakes, the majority of wines entered may therefore wind up being Riesling in its many styles.

The answer to your question likely is a matter of logistics and not conspiracy.

What you might benefit from doing is to survey LI winery people to find out why they don't generally participate. Maybe use that information I posted about the Wine Council's strategy of separation.

I remember ten years ago, when researching wine shops in Manhattan while selecting a location for mine, I was in one store seeking the NY wine section, which I could not find. I asked the manager for the NY wine section and he walked me to the back of the store, and to the bottom shelves. He pointed at a few wines from the Finger Lakes and said, "the NY wines were right there." Then, he moved his arm to the left and up two shelves and said, "the Long Island wines are there."

I asked him when it was that LI seceded from NYState.

Incidentally, I share your frustration regarding unanswered email sent to the Foundation. It's been a problem I've faced for years, although I do receive the weekly PR email that seems to have become merely a litany of awards that wineries rack up form the zillions of competitions that float the world over these days.

Maybe Howard is on a special media list...

For Tom Pellechia: I do not seek to be and do not believe myself to be on any special media list. I get the same weekly newsletter, the Wine Press, that others get, and find it informative. I follow other publications that deal, on and off, with New York State wine.

When a question about this or that matter arises, I send an e-mail note to the Wine and Grape Foundation or phone it. The questions are routinely answered and in a timely way. Over the years I have heard no complaints from any wine writers about the way the media are treated.

For Lenn, who doubtless will be reading this, I say: Routinely e-mail and call the foundation. Make clearly known what's on your mind. Ask for a timely reply.

In short, do what every journalism professor recommends be done systematically in the pursuit of information. It's as simple as all that.


Howard,

As in all things, everyone has his or her personal perspective. I suppose it's a matter of selective interest, and I don't fault any organization for deciding who is important to it and who isn't. Still, as a writer, I can complain about the lack of response to me, and so I do, to the point where I have stopped trying. And, I do know other people who complain about a lack of response.

Incidentally, I assume you meant me, but I don't know anyone by the name Tom Pellechia. I do know a Thomas...

Thomas: If I do survey LI wineries...I'm much more likely to keep that information to myself. Why should I do the research and legwork that the NYWGF should be doing?

Then again, it's clear that I care more about state-wide participation than they do. ;)

Howard: You insist on regularly pointing out that I'm not a graduate of "journalism" school or don't follow the same "journalistic" procedures you do. That may be true (not that you're aware of my education per se) but in today's media world, if emails go un-answered and opportunity is lost. It's that simple. This isn't my career -- it's a hobby. I don't have the time to chase people down after an email or two.

And let's please not act as though "Wine Press" is informative -- unless you're THAT interested in what meaningless medals mostly Finger Lakes wineries have won at various competitions.

I'd humbly suggest that there is more (and more useful) New York wine information published in a week here on the NYWGF than is published in that newsletter in a month.

The NY W & G F has an impossible mission having to serve every one. Its funding is not sufficient to serve anyone well.
Its funding is from the state and it has to be spent or is lost. No one wants to return money to the state. If money is left over then a program is born. Over the years many such programs which are nice to have were born. Most of them are not strategic.

The Foundation however does not seem to want to cancel these "nice to have" programs and do one thing well, but chooses to continue to try to be all things to all people. It is a choice that was made and it is unfortunate.

The alternative can be to choose one top priority item, such as design a professionally ran program to improve the image of NY Wine. Then dedicate all the funding to that program and do nothing else. With the little funding that is left nothing gets done, let alone gets done well.

One reform I would recommend is for the Foundation to stop funding the trails. The trails should fund themselves in the absence of a large budget from the state. The Foundation should use its funds to do what no single trail can do by itself and that is bolster the image of the Wines of NY.
Another reform is education. This is one area that the Foundation has done a good job with. But Cornell is also doing a good job and it is Cornell's mission. So why not turn over education completely to Cornell and use the funds for working on what is ailing us and that is the image of NY Wine.

However I do not have much hope. In the press release of the last competition, the category Best Merlot was omitted. This happens to be one of the principal grapes grown on LI. Subsequently the press release was corrected. There was no mention in the edited version that there was this omission/correction. And I am not aware that it was re sent to the original addressees. Essentially the net effect is that most recipients, unless they called the Foundation about it, never knew that there was a best Merlot winner, which happens to be Paumanok. There was an opportunity to fix this unfortunate omission in the Wine Press. But it was again ignored.

Contrast this with every possible obscure mention that any FL Reisling gets in the Wine Press.
Contrast that also with the amazing 4th paragraph in the press release:
" A “Specialty Wine Champion” award was added in 2008 to recognize consistent quality among the increasing number of wines made from fruits other than grapes, or honey. The 2010 winner was ELF’s Farm Winery and Cider Mill with 1 Double Gold and 2 Silver awards. A new “Best New York Spirit” award went to Finger Lakes Distilling Seneca Drums Gin."

This gets mentioned ahead of any vinifera wine. Is this indicative of the Foundation's priorities?

In our world we do not stand still. If we do not move forward we are loosing ground. If the Foundation cannot be at its sharpest in promoting us then we can ask if perhaps it is hurting our image by such mediocrity as in this instance.

Our industry has changed over the years. The time may have come to reform the Foundation and redirect it. I think the budget cut may cause that to happen.

Charles,

I can't argue with much of what you say.

I'm thinking of what the late Walter Taylor told me when state funding for the Foundation was implemented: you take government money and you are beholden to politicians.

Politics ruins everything it touches, and that goes for the inside politics of an industry as well.

Charles, I also questioned the decision not to give more attention to vinifera wine in the press release, especially since the Associated Press used that text as the basis for its story about the competition. The text of that release had wide readership, and a chance to vaunt New York's world-class wines passed by. The inclusion of a paragraph about the state's strong vinifera wines--whether before the fruit wine paragraph or in place of it-- would have been beneficial for the region. Howard's paragraph about riesling for Decanter.com is one example of a newsworthy possibility, and many others doubtlessly existed.
Mr. Goldberg seems to be of the opinion that the New York Cork Report staff would have no trouble getting answers from the NYWGF if they just asked. As evidence to support this view, he writes, "When a question about this or that matter arises, I send an e-mail note to the Wine and Grape Foundation or phone it. The questions are routinely answered and in a timely way." Beyond what was written here on the subject, I know nothing about the responsiveness of the NYWGF, but I found it odd that anyone would consider an organization media-friendly because it answered the inquiries of a New York Times editor. Clearly, the Cork Report staff has not been met with such openness.
Lenn's observation that an unanswered e-mail is a lost opportunity is an important one. Several of the comments note that the NYWGF faces budget constraints. That is all the more reason why it should work with others who care about New York wine. Bloggers can be helpful. The many newspapers facing financial difficulties have not responded by shunning bloggers, but by partnering with them to expand coverage, as the Times has done in its hyperlocal programs. Bloggers can certainly help the NYWGF in its mission, and an obvious partner exists. There's an award-winning blog, passionate about New York wine and its promotion, that a large number of respected winemakers regularly read and comment upon. Whether or not that blog has been critical of NYWGF at times is irrelevant. Not to engage this significant media player is a dereliction of the NYWGF's mission. The pertinent question is not how many times the New York Cork Report has attempted to contact NYWGF. The question is, "why is NYWGF not doing more to work with the New York Cork Report"? Off the top of my head, I can think of two possible reasons: a lack of regard for new media in general, or hostility toward the NYCR because of its past criticism. Either way, NYWGF is making a mistake. This blog can help the region's wine industry, and that should override whatever quibbles have prevented NYWGF from responding.

Charles: You and I have discussed these marketing/budget/focus issues with regard to NYWGF (and trails as well) in person so you know that my feelings and beliefs as a marketing professional (as well as a believer in NY wines) aligns closely with yours. Unfortunately, the powers that be aren't listening.

Ryan: You are very kind. Thank you for the sentiment, truly. I've been surprised at the complete and utter lack of interest the NYWGF has shown in this blog (though I suspect they do read it regularly) and, most surprisingly, in TasteCamp -- which we've organized two years in a row without a single offer of help or support from the NYWGF.

At this point, I find it humorous. All of the trails have been helpful over the years to varying degrees. But the "parent" organization has not. I don't think it's a NYWGF vs. NYCR thing. I think it's more personal than that, frankly.

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