Monthly Archives: May 2013

Finger Lakes Wine Month

flwine_month_logo_finalI know I am a bit late to the party, but at least I made it. May has been designated Finger Lakes Wine Month and is promoted as such by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, a winemaker organization in the New York Finger Lakes region. The Alliance is hosting a lot of different events, from tastings in wineries and restaurants to video interviews with winemakers and virtual tastings held on Twitter.

I had my first Finger Lakes wine ever (sic!) in late April. I was not very familiar with the region, just had heard that as a Riesling drinker (some might say ‘nut’) I should look into this wine region. It can be tricky to find its wines in Michigan, though, where Rieslings from Traverse City and the Leelanau Peninsula dominate wine racks. So I took my chances when a friend from Buffalo, NY was visiting us for a weekend and asked whether he could bring some wines to try – and he did. I still have not opened these wines for various reasons, but we went out the first night of his visit to a local wine bar and when I checked the wine list, I saw a Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling on it. I immediately ordered it because I had heard the winery name before. I liked the wine quite a bit, red apple flavors were dominating the palate. Nothing exceptional, but a good and tasty wine…it definitely made me want to try more Rieslings from the area.

But what is that area anyway? The Finger Lakes region became an officially recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1982 and consists of approximately 4,451 hectares (11,000 acres) that are operated by around 100 wineries. The main glacial lakes that make up the area are Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. These (and other lakes) stretch from North to South just South of Lake Ontario which explains their name: Finger Lakes. Apparently, the first vines were planted in 1829. The Finger Lakes really seem to have taken off when the above mentioned Dr. Konstantin Frank (a Ukrainian immigrant with a PhD in plant science) started experimenting with roots and grapes varieties there for Cornell University in the 1950s and 60s. His work proved to be the first that enabled wine makers in the North Eastern United States to grow European grape varieties, in a climate and area that had been deemed off limits for these grapes.

What is interesting about the region is that the lakes lie at different heights, with land surrounding Canandaigua Lake reaching up to 2,000′ in height, with the land between the lakes further to the East successively reaching lower heights of  1,500′, 1,300′ and 800′. So this should actually make for different micro climates and therefore perfectly situated for single vineyard wines.

The region’s dominating grape varieties by acres under vine are mostly North American usual suspects: Concord (1,814 acres), Catawba (811 acres) and Niagara (667 acres). However, the Finger Lakes region’s second most planted variety is Riesling with 828 acres under vine. The climate should be favorable to Riesling and other varieties grown in colder climates like Germany. Actually, if you look at data gathered by Cornell University in the summer of 2012 (which also provides the other numbers), there are many obscure German or Austrian varieties planted in the area: from Zweigelt to Siegerrebe to Geisenheim to Dornfelder.

The Finger Lakes have been pushing their Riesling credentials, and from what one can read, rightly so. Its slate soils and cooler temperatures seem to give their Riesling grapes all the ingredients a winemaker needs to make good Riesling: slow ripening conditions to develop sugar and acidity and mineralic soil…

I am looking forward to participating in the Finger Lakes Wine Month virtual tasting on May 25, 2013 which will be held on Twitter (#Flxwine) and Facebook between 6pm and 10pm. This will be my first virtual tasting and I am really excited to be a part of it. I’ll write up my experience in another post. Or better yet: Come join if you are on Twitter.

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A few random facts from behind the facade…

I don’t know about you, other bloggers out there, but there are a couple of things that I find make this whole endeavor so much fun beside the writing and interacting.  I have now been blogging for over a year (I am not much into anniversaries, so I just ignored the fact for a while) and there are just some things I want to share. I am curious what cracks you up. And for those readers that don’t blog, this might provide some interesting insight…

For example, when I look at my stats page which shows me my daily, weekly and monthly views, I do get a kick out of the map and list of countries that tells me where my visitors have come from. Over the last year, the vast majority have come from the US (about four times as many as from the next country), followed by Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia and South Korea. What is the most fun, though, is spotting visitors from tiny countries, or countries that I care about: like my one visitor (ever) from Botswana, Fiji or the Virgin Islands, or the two visitors from Zimbabwe. The map that is shown is colored according to number of visits. And there is a white corridor that stretches from North Korea through China, through Central Asia, pretty much all of Northern, Central and Western Africa to the South American republics and territories North of Brazil and Colombia. Except for a number of hits from Nigeria and a few in Sierra Leone, Kenya and Cameroon, Africa is practically blank (except for Southern Africa)…which makes me sad.

My visitors Map May 2012 until May 2013

My visitors Map May 2012 until May 2013

It also shows me the most frequent recent commenters (in order of appearance: Stefano, Tracy, Megan, Anatoli, Jeff and Julian, in case you were wondering!) and the most commented on posts (again from most down: About, The Wine Century Club, Sunday Read: Almaroja Pirita 2007 ArribesSunday read: Why you should be drinking cheap wine and Trader Joe’s Espiral Vinho Verde).

Another cool feature of the support tools is that it tells me which blog post has been visited the most. This has to be taken with a grain of salt because by far the most hits are to my front page (five times the following page’s hits), which contains the latest three articles. The counter cannot distinguish which posts are visited on that page, so it just tells me “Homepage”. But behind that, this picture emerges (again, all time records):

  1. Trader Joe’s Espiral Vinho Verde – my idea of summer wine
  2. I’m back with a note on U.S. customs duties for wine
  3.  About
  4. 2009 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva
  5. 2009 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

The first single vineyard Riesling article comes in at spot 19 (sic!), the 2011 St. Urbanshof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett. At least some of my winery profiles rank at 8, 13, 14 and 16. That is kind of a bummer, because I was really hoping to be pushing Rieslings more, but it is also a reflection of what people search for in search engines and what leads them to my site. And people do search for wines that are widely available…and these Rieslings are still filling a niche. And I blog about wineries in Germany that have not dominated the market or wine news.

And that brings me to the best (at least funniest) feature for me: I am also told what search terms lead people to my site. Over the last weeks, for example, I have seen the number of hits from search engines spike that contained the words “wine”, “us customs” and ” air travel”. When I searched some of these terms in Google, my blog came up in third position on page one, behind two much older posts. I guess this explains why that article made it to number two in my ranking of most popular post.

The most popular search terms, however, have been these (with variations of the terms):

  1. vinho verde trader joe’s
  2. cantina zaccagnini montepulciano d’abruzzo 2009
  3. the winegetter (YAY!!)
  4. salice salentino riserva 2009
  5. how many bottles of wine can i bring to the us

Now, those are not very funny. So what is the funniest about these? It is the singular search hits I get. In one case, a friend of mine played a trick on me and reached my blog via these search terms: “winegetter amazing german man riesling blog”. Naturally I was all excited and plastered these news all over my Facebook site until Nina confided in me it was one of our friends…and there are other hits I just cannot explain to myself: how do you get to my site with the search word “mllongo”, and what does that even mean? Or “where can i buy michigan mcintosh apples”, hell do I know? Or ‘why are cotes du rhone so earthy”. Great question, but I am definitely not the one who could explain that…

But sometimes, my posts also hit the nail on the head, like today, when someone searched for “martini bianco with lemon on ice images”. If you remember, my post on Martini Bianco contained a photo of exactly that drink that I had taken…dang, and now I want one really badly.

I still love the front end of my blog, and it is what keeps me writing. But I do enjoy those behind the scene facts I am given. Add in the growing number of visitors in general, and I feel like I am on a pretty good trajectory.

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Sunday Read: Re: Wine Tasting is Bullshit

The other day, I came across the blog post I am linking to at the end of this article. I had not seen the post that triggered this response, but it made me read the initial post as well. You can find the initial post here, in which a Robert T. Gonzalez explains why, in his opinion, wine tasting is BS. I guess the title ensured that the hits on his blog increased a lot…hell, I even helped him if you clicked the link.

Here is Gonzalez’ premise (roughly and subjectively summarized): Wine tasting produces different results according to the taster, tasters are stupid, and wine critics know that tasting is BS.

I read Gonzalez’ article and just thought: Yeah, pretty much everyone knows these issues. But that is not what it is about. Tasting is not about reaching scientific results. And we all know what we do has to be taken with a grain of salt (or residual sugar, in my case!). The article was self-righteous and sensational, when there was really nothing to be self-righteous about or sensational about the issue…I just found it petulant.

And then I read The Gray Report’s response to Gonzalez’ rant. It is thoughtful and measured. And he said something that made sense to me: Gonzalez’ critique applies to all critics, be they movie, theatre, food or literary critics. If you believe there is a place for that art form, then Gonzalez’ article seems banal and mewh, or blurgh. But when you think there is no place for it, that critique is just a sucking parasite, then I guess Gonzalez’ article made you nod a lot…

I am with The Gray Report and that is why I want you to read his response! Well written, witty, but clear to the point. Just right for a Sunday Read. Happy Sunday!!

The Gray Report: Re: Wine Tasting is Bullshit

Gonzalez’ initial post can be found following this link, in case you want to form your own opinion.

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