By Evan Dawson, Managing Editor
There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about this story, and yet the very fact that it happened at all is important. It is important to the Finger Lakes, and Long Island, and New York state in general.
It's rather simple, really: A couple in Richmond, Virginia walked into a wine shop called The Wine Cellar and asked for a Finger Lakes riesling. In particular, owner John Witherspoon -- a blogger himself, a good friend of ours and a recent participant during TasteCamp 2010 -- says they wanted wine from the Anthony Road Wine Company on Seneca Lake.
"They had just had an Anthony Road wine, through friends and family," John explains. "This was their first time having it, and they were asking about the TBA that Anthony Road made, and how impressive it was that a New York winery made one."
No one knows how often this kind of thing happens across the country every day, or every week, or every month. How often does a couple stop by an Atlanta wine shop, asking for a Long Island merlot? How often does a wine lover catch wind of a New York pinot and pop into his local store in Kansas City?
Speaking of pinot, Witherspoon says the reputation of pinot from New York seems to be improving. "This couple had heard that pinot noirs were doing well from the Finger Lakes, but they hadn't had any yet," John says.
Fascinating. You can't help but wonder how each consumer is reached. Regardless, this is the great challenge for New York wine, and these anecdotes paint an optimistic, if narrow, picture. No, it's not like customers are storming their local wine shops in Texas and Maine, demanding the oeuvre of New York wine in one massive purchase. But if consumers are inspired enough to go looking for New York wines, that's a promising sign, small as it may be.
"New York wines are generally less well known," Witherspoon says, adding that historically these wines have been a "hard sell." He finds that an educated wine shop owner can have some success with them: "They are definitely worth carrying."
And with better distribution, shop owners like John Witherspoon will have an easier time helping their customers connect with the wines that have stirred an ember in their curiosity. It's the first step to starting a fire.