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October 24, 2011


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If a particular establishment is very interested in integrating local wines into their menu and/or they've partnered with the producers to educate diners on expectations then it certainly can work. But with regional wines still so often unknown in their own region it doesn't make economic sense for restaurants to be so focused.

Any ideas what percentage of diners LI or FLX restaurants actually come in local for the local wines? Furthermore, how many restaurants that have them on the menu have staff that can educate diners enough at the table to turn them from something else to the local wine?


First, people need to let the FL restaurants know that they prefer FL wines and want to order them. This isn't an easy thing for most people, including myself. I have no problem telling friends that such-an-such restaurant doesn't carry FL wine, but I must admit I have never said anything at a restaurant. Check out this link to see how the Texas wine industry helps with this: http://www.gotexanwine.org/gotexanorgothirsty/index.html
Not sure if this would work here, but it has possibilities. At least the restaurant owners could have some collective data on how much interest is there. If it is minimal, then you can't fault them for ignoring the issue. If there is strong demand, they would be foolish not to carry some FL wines.

We always stay on the east side of Seneca when we visit the FLX. The eateries in the area (Red Newt, Stone Cat, Dano's, Suzanne's) have wine lists that lean heavily to local wines - if not exclusively. They tend to cover the entire FLX area rather than just Senceca. But the servers have always been extremely knowlegeable and several times have pointed us to wines from places we didn't know. In fact, we first learned about two of our favorites wineries that way. So, IMHO, the resataurants in that part of the FLX are doing a great job of supporting local wines.

(I also have to admit that we always bring a bottle or two of Zin up with us in case we feel the need to step outside the area.)

Indeed that is a fascinating question - but I think it takes too small a focus. There isn't a specific "Seneca Lake" or "Keuka Lake" appellation the way there is in some European regions. And while it would be neat to stop at, say, Dano's and only drink wine from the wineries on that side of the lake, doing so would limit the ability of the restaurants to display the full range of what the Finger Lakes can deliver.

To my mind, the problem isn't Finger Lakes restaurants not focusing on Finger Lakes wines. If they don't, they deserve to be smacked as Asimov did. The bigger problem is restaurants nearby not focusing on New York wines. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in NYC that touts itself as "local and sustainable" and didn't have a single New York wine on the menu! The reds were from California, the whites from France and Germany. How to get a restaurant like that to carry NY wines should be the focus...

Jason, Todd, Ed -

Good points. And certainly, the new world is very different from a place like Piedmont, with centuries of history and worldwide respect for its products.

I guess my issue is effort. I've always said that you can't carry wines that you can't sell. That's not susrainable. But if you're not even attempting to move local wines, and if you can't find local wines to present to your customers, then you're part of the problem.

Scott - I agree with you about hyper-local; I was simply, in the video, drawing a comparison. To be more clear: What's done in Barbaresco would be like Dano's only serving one side of Seneca Lake, and yet most restaurants in New York can't be bothered to serve very many regional wines at all!

My name is Sean Agate. I am the Executive Chef at Hotel Clarence/Vineyard 108 in Seneca Falls. As a native to the FL and a Chef in a developing food & wine region, I am compelled to drink, serve and cook with as many local wines as possible. Our list now included some wines from every winery in the FL. We have become a regional waypoint for many tourist who come to enjoy the wines here. By offering many local wines, locals and tourist alike can try before they buy. We also pair many of our dishes with local wines and incorporate wines into many of our recipes to infuse flavor profiles of particular wines into our food. As a Chef surrounded by wonderful wineries, I see the importance of working very closely with them too help promote each other and to better educate consumers about good local foods & wine.

Just returned from weekend in FLX. I agree that Red Newt, Stone Cat, and Suzanne's have nice local wines listed. But at the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa in Fairport outside Rochester only 3 FLX wines on the list. The F&B manager seemed clueless on why they had so few local wines. So I recommend the wineries to get to all the F&B people from Syracuse to Rochester as well as in the FLX proper and market their wines. Unfortunately, the same problem as in LI, where the wine directors / sommeliers tend to think globally and not local.

My name is Giulietta Racciatti and I am one of the owners of The Red Dove Tavern in Geneva. As Evan stated we were mentioned in Eric Asimov's blog & Mr. Asimov took notice that our wine list was heavier on international wines.
Our wine list is VERY small and is ever changing.
What was not mentioned (and I feel was a big oversight) is that since July of 2010 we have had LOCAL wine on draft and we are the first place in the Finger Lakes to install this system. We work with local wineries, Hermann Wiemer, Atwater, Billsboro & Red Tail Ridge and most days we have at least four of those five taps flowing with local wine.
We firmly believe that for a small restaurant with a small wine list this is a great start!
I do admit we also have many international wines by the glass as well but I believe that great wine should be in the company of great wine and it's a wonderful thing to compare a French Cabernet Franc to a Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc and see that Finger Lakes wines are of the same caliber. That's something you can do over dinner at The Red Dove.
Giulietta & Rune
The Red Dove

Giulietta -

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment here. I'm glad you added the detail about the wines on draft. I'll continue to stress the point that restaurants have to be able to sell what they offer, and everyone will find the approach that works best in their establishment. We look forward to seeing you again soon at Red Dove.

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