Wines winning Double Gold and Gold designations at the competition were judged by marketing professionals, packaging experts, and staff at Waterloo. Gold and silver medals were awarded after wine packages were evaluated for innovative use of packaging design, including label, container, and closure. Shelf appeal and overall presentation also were  considered.

Packaging awards were given in eight categories: chardonnay, merlot, riesling, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, ice wines, fruit wines, and sparkling wines.

The award winning wines will be featured at the Finger Lakes International Wine Auction Dinner to benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times, scheduled for September 30 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Rochester.

The New York award winners:

Chardonnay: Chateau LaFayette Reneau, gold, Chardonnay 2015; and Fawnridge Winery, silver, Chardonnay 2014

Fruit wine: Sandhill Crane, gold, Vineyards Raspberry; and Ackerman Winery, silver, Cherry
Riesling: Wagner Vineyards, gold, Riesling Dry 2015; and Barnstormer Winery, silver, Riesling Dry 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon: Witchery, gold, 2014 Cab Sauv; and RD Winery, silver, SP1600 Cab Sav
Merlot: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, gold, 2013 Merlot; and Falcor Wine Cellars LLC, silver, 2013 Napa Merlot

Cabernet Franc: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, gold, 2013 Cab Franc; and Pollak Vineyards, silver, 2014 Cab Franc Reserve

Ice wine: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, gold, Vidal Blanc Ice 2014; and Idol Ridge, silver, Reserve Vidal Ice2014

Sparkling: Cellar Door, gold, Vendange; and Schulze Vineyards & Winery, silver, Tiny Bubbles
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Wölffer Estate is growing younger with age

Joey Wolffer. (photo: Bridget Elkin)
From Edible East End
Even though Joey Wolffer had the most picturesque Hamptons childhood, cantering through rolling Sagaponack meadows and lounging on white sandy beaches, she was not entirely convinced that the family business was in her destiny. Until recently. But when she was just about ready to sell off her portion of Wölffer Estate to her brother, her mother and husband sat her down and asked her to really consider the decision.

“I really thought about it,” said Ms. Wolffer, “and I realized I was fearful of losing that part of our identity and legacy. I am a first generation American and I don’t want to give up this chance to pass this down to my children.”

So, she decided to join with her brother Marc, sixteen years her senior, to take over the family business. Since then, she hasn’t looked back. And Wölffer has never been the same.
You might notice, when cracking open a flowery pink Summer in a Bottle or finding your seat on the breezy patio of Wölffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor, that this is not the dark, rich oak of Wölffer past. And now, with the new renovation of the Tasting Room and a second Wölffer Kitchen opening in Amagansett, the young and fresh identity of Wolffer 2.0 is sealed.

“Once we decided we were going to take over, we knew the brand was moving in a different direction,” said Ms. Wolffer. “We knew it was more modern, younger.”
Go here for the full story.
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Rising costs make LI vineyards a challenging passion

Owner David Shanks at Surrey Lane Vineyard. (photo: Randee Dadonna)
From Newsday
Profit margins at Long Island wineries have always been thinner than a grape skin, but a labor shortage, rising property taxes and costs that keep the price of a bottle of local wine relatively high have made running a vineyard a challenging passion.

Ownership of Long Island’s more than 50 vineyards and wineries is in a slow transition, as the first-generation pioneers who worked hardscrabble potato fields into lush green vineyards on both East End forks pass their love of the industry on to their children or sell to new owners.

In most cases, the offspring of those owners have taken on the long hours and labor-intensive work of managing the 3,000 acres of vineyards, learning the region and navigating the challenges of operations, marketing and weather. The region produces around 500,000 cases of wine a year.

“It’s the biggest misconception that if you own a vineyard, you’re rolling in it,” said Giovanni Borghese, co-owner of Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue, who puts in seven-day workweeks since taking over from his parents, Marco and Ann Marie Borghese, who died days apart in 2014.

New buyers are entering the region, most notably with the recent sale of Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse in Mattituck. The property was sold for $2.1 million, according to Kevin Webster, chairman of the board of assessors for Southold Town, to former Wall Street financier Randy Frankel and his wife, Barbara. Like many before them, the outsiders face a learning curve.
Go here for the full story.
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Friday, July 7, 2017

Adirondack Wine & Food Fest breaks records in 3rd year

Organizers of food and drink festivals around the state can learn a bit from the people behind the fledgling Adirondack Wine & Food Festival. Not only do they provide a steady stream of helpful pre-event news releases, they actually follow up to let the public know how things turned in all sorts of categories out rather than literally folding their tents and disappearing.

Here is an event analysis provided by Sasha Pardy, one of the movers and shakers behind the event and co-owner of the Adirondack Winery. Because it is so unusually detailed, I'm taking the unusual step -- for me -- of providing the entire document as distributed:

LAKE GEORGE -- Adirondack Festivals LLC is proud to announce that nearly 6,000 tickets were purchased to the 3rd annual Adirondack Wine & Food Festival, held June 24th & 25th at Charles R Wood Festival Commons in Lake George.

“I am excited to say that our third annual event had our highest ticket sales and attendance numbers to date. We sold nearly 6,000 tickets to the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival and had more than 5,700 people in attendance at the event over the two days. We also broke all past attendance records at the Festival Commons.” said Adirondack Festivals owner Sasha Pardy. The 2016 festival had set the previous record for the space, with about 5,200 tickets sold and 5,000 people in attendance.

“We are particularly proud of this achievement, as our 2016 festival was designated as an official 'Taste New York' event and we received a $65,000 grant from Governor Cuomo’s New York Craft Beverage Initiative, on top of some local funding, to help promote the festival. We were concerned that although we were granted $35,000 in funding from Lake George Village, Town and Warren County this year, that without the state fundin, we might not be able to reach the 6,000 tickets goal we had set out for this year. Thankfully, we could reach our goals on a much tighter marketing budget,” explained Pardy, adding “I think it shows the impact positive attendee feedback and word of mouth can have and that we made the right marketing choices with our budget this year.”

“The weather helped us, too,” said festival coordinator Stephanie Howard. “The event is held rain or shine, and the bulk of tickets are typically purchased in the two weeks leading up to the event, as people start to watch the weather. While the forecast for Saturday looked great, attendees may have hesitated on Sunday, as the forecast called for a 50% chance of thunderstorms, but luckily the storms didn’t come until our vendors were packed up and out of the space on Sunday.”

About 64% of people attended Saturday (over 3,600) and 36% attended on Sunday (over 2,100). The vendor list included 24 wineries, four breweries, eight distilleries, three cideries, 26 artisan food vendors, nine food trucks, one local restaurant, six specialty vendors, some sponsor booths, and a weekend full of culinary demonstrations provided by the SUNY Adirondack culinary students. Attendees used their commemorative festival wine glass to sample the hundreds of handcrafted products vendors were showcasing, then had the opportunity to purchase their favorite products to take home with them in a farmer’s market style 'try before your buy' format.

“We had a much better handle on what the Festival Commons could handle capacity-wise this year,” said Pardy. Last year, concerned with hitting capacity on Saturday, Saturday ticket sales were cut off on Friday. “This year, with nearly 90 vendors on the grounds, attendees were spread across more booths, cutting down on lines, so we could sell at-the-door tickets all weekend long, giving everyone a chance to experience all the festival had to offer,” explained Pardy.

Improvements made for this year’s event included adding about 20 more vendors; offering more craft beverage and food option, which cut down attendee lines and increased variety; arranging for several parking lots for attendees and vendors; more covered “take a break” tents offering shade and seating, including popular Adirondack Chair hangout spots provided by Forest Hills Trading Company; a water misting tent to cool down; a dedicated kids’ activity tent provided by Fun Spot; and, water provided by Lake George Premium Brand for two-day ticket holders and designated drivers.

“We just completed our attendee survey and the reviews are very positive, with 96% of attendees saying they will attend again if they are able. It looks like we solved the most important issues of years’ past,” said Pardy. “Our vendors worked very hard to prepare for and serve attendees; and every vendor we’ve talked to so far has given us great feedback about event attendance, our level of organization, and their sales for the weekend and they plan to join us again next year."

"Our festival gives them exposure to an audience they may never encounter elsewhere,” said Howard, adding that vendors come from all over New York State, with a few from neighboring states. To encourage support of these local small producers, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival offers a “Purchase Drop-Off & Pick-Up Tent” where attendees could drop off for storage the purchases they make throughout the day to be picked up when they left the festival.  “This service gets rave reviews and is extremely well utilized,” she added.

As the designated beneficiary of the festival, the SUNY Adirondack Foundation provided volunteer staff during festival weekend and will receive a portion of the event’s ticket sales. Additionally, SUNY Adirondack raised funds through sales of raffle tickets, water bottles, festival T-shirts and baked goods throughout the weekend. The SUNY Adirondack Culinary Arts Program led the busy Culinary Tent all weekend long offering several cooking demonstrations performed by students and alumni each day.

“Our festival brings an important demographic to the Lake George region. Our attendees are primarily females with buying power and include younger age demographics than most Lake George events. This festival draws not only local attendees, but people from all over the country that stay multiple nights,” said Pardy. “The results of our attendee survey show that this festival is important to local tourism economy. We are proud to report that 49% of our attendees stayed one to 14 nights in the region, with the majority staying two nights. And, with 91% of attendees reporting that they either planned their trip specifically for, or chose their dates based on, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival, we estimate the festival generated 3,380 room nights for the Lake George region.  "Additionally, our attendees have a bit more spending money than the average tourists, with 53% of attendees reporting household incomes of at least $75,000 a year,” said Pardy.

Local businesses saw the benefits of the Wine & Food Fest as well, with 90% of attendees reporting they ate at a local restaurant and 75% shopped and visited local attractions. “From our data, we can confidently, estimate the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival generated a $1 million economic impact to our region,” added Pardy. The 4th annual Adirondack Wine & Food Festival is scheduled for June 23rd & 24th, 2018, and will once again be held at Charles R. Wood Festival Commons. 2018 tickets will go on sale in Fall 2017.

• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Latest Upstate fermentation tank cavalcade avoids water

New production facility at Lakewood Vineyards. (photo provided)
WATKINS GLEN -- For the second time in two months, Upstate New Yorkers will be asked to raise a glass to a set of large new fermentation tanks making a publicized journey to a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages. But, this trek is a little different from the celebrated trip along the Erie Canal taken in May by a set of huge tanks bound for the Genesee Brewery in Rochester.

This time, the tanks are headed to Lakewood Vineyards, a winery on Route 14 on the west side of Seneca Lake just north of Watkins Glen. They will make the journey by truck down Route 14, instead of on the barges that carried the Genny beer tanks on the canal. The Lakewood trip is a little more than 30 miles, compared to the 225-mile canal route from Waterford in Saratoga County to Rochester.

To Chris Stamp, president and winemaker at Lakewood, the most important difference is this: His new tanks were built at Vance Metal Fabricators in Geneva, at the northern end of Seneca Lake. The Genesee beer tanks, on the other hand, were made in China, and had to travel around the world to New York City and then up the Hudson River before embarking on the canal.

"We try, as much as we can, to support and be part of the local economy," said Stamp, whose family opened the winery on what had been a grape farm in 1988. Lakewood is in the midst of an expansion project that began several years ago, and this year it produced a record 90,000 gallons of wine, Stamp said. The three new 2,500-gallon fermentation tanks made a at Vance will join about 30 others, and may help Lakewood top 100,000 gallons of wine in the coming year, assuming a good harvest. 
 Go here for the full story.
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Incessant rains endanger Western NY grape crop

Typical storm front bears down on Western New York. (National Weather Service)
• From Spectrum News
Rain, rain and more rain. That was the story of April and May across much of Western New York. What concerned winery and vineyard owners even more was the wet and cool weather when the grapes were blossoming, which were a perfect storm for disease.

Farmers stepped up their efforts, spraying fungicides and other products more often to ward off illnesses.

"We had rain of biblical proportions, and that really wasn't too much of an exaggeration," said Donald DeMaison, president of Long Cliff Vineyards and Winery Inc.

"Grapes get less flavorful. They get watered down, basically, diluted," said Cate Banks, executive director of the Niagara Wine Trail USA. "A lot of vineyard owners and staff are really breathing a sigh of relief that now things are turning around."

But the wet weather hasn't just been a problem for the vines themselves. They've also seen decreased foot traffic because of Lake Ontario flooding, decreasing the amount of tourism. Winery owners say they've started to make up for those losses in other ways, by offering promotions or expanding their businesses.

While they're waiting to see the fruits of that labor, they say as long as the weather holds with more sun and less rain, they are cautiously optimistic about increased foot traffic and having an average season for grape-growing.

• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Travel guide names Orange County winery No. 1 in NYS

Karen and Frank Graessle (photo provided)
It may not have the pubic face of many of its 300+ fellow New York State wineries, but an Orange County facility has been named No. 1 in the state and No. 14 in the country by Travel + Leisure magazine among best wineries to visit.

Clearview Vineyard stood out from most of the nation's 8,700 commercial wineries in the publication's rankings of "Top Vineyards Across the U.S." The businses, located at 35 Clearview Lane, off Route 94/17A between the villages of Florida and Warwick, was founded in 2007 with a planting of 900 vines on just under two acres. Owners Frank and Karen Graessle opened a very modest winery in 2010 in a two-and-a-half car garage, offering tastings on a  canopy-covered wooden platform.

Growth came quickly, with construction in 2013 of a 3,800 square-foot facility with a large covered porch, opening of a tasting room the same year, and membership in the Shawangunk Wine Trail.

The Graessles now grow eight varieties of grapes and purchase several others to produce a portfolio of seven red and five white wines.This year, they added local beer, ale and hard cider on tap in the tasting room.The facility also offers The Blackboard Café serving finger foods to go with the beverages.

Clearview Vineyard, located about an hour and 45 minute drive from downtown Albany, is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. April to mid-December, with food and live music on weekends.
WARWICK — There are more than 8,700 wineries in the United States and the well-respected Travel and Leisure Magazine just named Warwick's Clearview Vineyard as first in New York and No. 14 in the United States.

The June 2 online article was titled, "Top Vineyards Across the US."

The vineyard is located at 35 Clearview Lane just off Route 94/17A between the villages of Florida and Warwick.

It all began in 2007 with a planting of 900 vines on just under two acres. Then, in 2010, owners Frank and Karen Graessle opened a winery on their property in a two and a half car garage and offered wine tasting on a wood platform with a canopy.

Three years later they built a 3,800 square-foot facility with a large covered porch. The wine tasting room opened in June 2013 and Clearview Vineyard joined the Shawangunk Wine Trail at the same time.

Since that time the winery has won more than a dozen major awards.

Today, Clearview Vineyard produces 12 dry wines, seven reds and five whites.

They grow eight varieties in their vineyard and buy several varieties of grapes from the North Fork of Long Island. And this year marks a milestone, with the addition of local beer, ale and hard cider on tap.

The Blackboard Café also serves a number of great finger food dishes, such as a cheese and fruit board, a sliced baguette with mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato and basil and a charcuterie platter.

There are four sets of corn hole games to play and the vineyard is open to all with a picturesque 15-mile view from the top. It's well worth the climb.

Clearview Vineyard is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 5 p.m. April to mid-December, with food and live music on weekends.

Go to for additional information and directions.

• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Monday, July 3, 2017

State's newest winery open for business on Lake Ontario

Opening day at White Caps Winery. (photo provided)
New York State's newest winery officially opened for business on Saturday in Jefferson County.

Owner Gail Miller of White Caps Winery, located on Point Salubrious of Lake Ontario  just northwest of Watertown, says she already has her sights set on expanding her vineyard now that five years of work have resulted in the new farm winery.

Miller, a lifelong farm dweller, said she sees the winery as a logical outgrowth of the area.

"It's just got a wonderful history of supporting tourism, supporting our guests that come for the summer as well as the locals. So it just seems a natural for this environment," Miller said. "We have a great wine trail and plenty of other great wineries around me, so it's a great opportunity for people to roam about and try different wines and different vineyards."

Miller's initial portfolio consists of quartet of red (Pinot Noir, Red Neck Yacht Club, Red Sails, Sunset) and a trio of white (Golden Crescent, On the Rocks, Seyval Blanc) table wines.

White Caps is located at 11544 County Road 125, Chaumont, in the Lowville area. Phone: (315) 649-2400.

Grape cluster shows location of new winery. (Google maps)

• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail