Visiting FLX

Visiting FLX

I have visited the Finger Lakes wine region in New York twice: once in 2021 when I was invited to a conference called FLXCursion to be on a panel called “Terroir in the Age of the Internet” and again a couple of weeks ago to attend Riesling Camp by the FLX Wine Alliance. I will start this shitty blog off by saying that I am by no means an expert on this region or in a position to write a comprehensive guide. I am, however, a big fan of Finger Lakes and am excited to share with you all why this place is everyone’s cup of tea.

There are wine writers who have been covering wine from this region with extreme enthusiasm (The enthusiasm it deserves).

Here are four that come to mind:

Maiah Johnson Dunn Writings
Lenn Thompson Substack
Jerry and Amy Smith FLX Voices
Adrian Prieto Instagram

Lake Effect meme

Ever since visiting FLX in 2021, I have wanted to go back. I saw the opportunity to apply for FLX Wine Alliance Riesling Camp and decided to go for it.

Here is a link to the participating wineries that are members of the alliance that made this opportunity possible. I am eternally grateful to them for allowing a person to attend who runs a page called Shitty Wine Memes.

I will talk about my visit to the Finger Lakes and, hopefully, this will inspire you to seek out wines from this region or visit!

 

DAY 1 - I got there a day before camp started

(This is all pre-camp exploring and not part of the Riesling Camp itinerary.)

I was picked up at the airport by my assigned Riesling Camp winery buddy Jourdan Dyer of Glenora Cellars. She gifted me the most delicious bottle of local grape juice made from a grape called Diamond. We talked about her move from wine/restaurants in Baton Rouge to working with wineries in the Finger Lakes. Her love of the region was infectious!

I then arrived at the Hotel Geneva on the Lake New York (make sure you type “New York” if you Google it because there is another Geneva on the Lake that comes up first in Ohio).

Every room was unique, and I liked that it was an independent hotel and not part of a chain. It was gorgeous, near the downtown Geneva shopping district, and a short drive from many vineyards. WARNING: Ubers/Lyfts can be scarce, and you don’t want to have to walk back through the dark, Blair Witch-looking woods.

Photo of my room at Geneva on the Lake

I sent pictures to my friend. She said it looked haunted, but it didn’t feel haunted until that night when I looked out onto the foggy Seneca Lake. It was built in 1914 as a private home, then became a monastery, and then in 1981, a small resort. Learn more here

Journey to Linden Street

This street is for beverage lovers!

You have Microclimate Wine Bar, F.L.X ProvisionsThe Speakeasy At Vinifera, a cute gift shop, and Lake Drum Brewing a short walk away.

We stopped in F.L.X Provisions for Lunch. Had a great roast beef sandwich with some butter pickles. It is a beautiful wine shop with a huge selection of New York wine. The gentleman who took care of our table was delightful. He said that working there was his retirement job and he has loved the region ever since he tasted with Konstantin of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. They had two great local wines that I had been wanting to try by the glass. Osmote Chardonnay and Usonia Blaufränkisch. I knew I was in for a lot of Riesling soon so wanted to taste some other varieties before camp started.

After lunch, had a brief visit to see friends Kelby James Russell (former winemaker at Red Newt Cellars) and Julia Rose Hoyle (winemaker at Hosmer Estate Winery) near the Lahoma Vineyard to taste and celebrate their beautiful new wines Apollo’s Praise. I love the personal touches they do for wine club members including a Zine, handwritten essays on the wines, photos, and behind-the-scenes insights.

Grape juice, Microclimate, Usonia, Apollo’s Praise, F.L.X. Provisions

Then went back to Linden Street for some wine and dinner at Microclimate. Had some yummy pork belly and some more local beverages. South Hill Cider and a glass of Nathan K. Cabernet Franc.

After a long day of airport and exploring we called it a night, but did get to peak in the Speakeasy at Vinifera which was packed and had some fun cocktail action going on. I knew I had my first big day at Riesling Camp so went right to bed.

Day 2 - Riesling Camp Begins

I slept in, woke up, and went downstairs to meet my fellow campers, and what an amazing group it was. Our enthusiastic and lovely camp leaders Kyle Anne Pallischeck and Sarah Tuttle gave us the rundown on the region including a quick history, the number of wineries, the grapes planted, information on the lakes, and more. You can find a lot of these resources here on the FLX Wine Alliance website.

Then after that was Riesling Speed Dating, where campers got to meet and have face time with participating wineries and taste their Rieslings. Below is a picture of our Riesling Speed Dating card. Everyone had a star sticker to indicate the table they started at. I was excited to be starting with a familiar face and friend, Colleen Hardy, from one of my favorite wineries in the region Living Roots. Then every 5 minutes we would move clockwise to a new table. Everything from pét-nat Riesling, bone dry Riesling, off-dry Riesling, late-harvest ice Riesling, textural, leesy Rieslings, "Auslese" style Rieslings. I could go on listing Riesling styles like Bubba listing ways to make shrimp in Forrest Gump.

Riesling Speed Dating Card

Dinner that evening was at Veraisons Restaurant located at Glenora Wine Cellars. There we got to spend more time with the wineries we met during speed dating and revisit the wines we had tasted. Along with a Riesling-focused menu by Chef Jeremy Brown.

The view from this restaurant was serene. Stepping outside on the deck, overlooking the vineyards, feeling the lake breeze, and watching the fog come in was awesome. Birds and nature sounds. It was a nice change of pace from South Florida traffic. Glenora was the first winery in 1977 on Seneca Lake. Over the decades, they have hosted tons of marriages, social gatherings, concerts, and local events. Loved meeting Glenora’s kind and talented winemakers Emily Doi and Edward Miller. At the end of our Riesling Camp dinner, they brought out a little cake for my birthday which made me sink into my chair in embarrassment, but also feel super special lol. After dinner, it was time to roll back to the hotel and have a nightcap with fellow campers in the Hospitality Suite where tons of bottles were shared and geeked out on.

Hospitality Suite Line Up

Day 3 - Cosplaying as an aspiring winemaker

On this day, they told us put on our little winemaker boots because we were going to Cornell AgriTech and going on a vineyard walk.

“In the past 100 years, Cornell AgriTech has released 59 juice, table and wine grape varieties adapted to cool climates. Our experts are at the forefront of evolving disease and pest conditions in New York state and perform innovative research to help growers overcome challenges in order to produce the healthiest grapes possible”

We arrived at Cornell Agritech for a benchmark Riesling tasting. This tasting was led by Bruce Murray of Boundary Breaks and Dave Breeden of Sheldrake Point. We tasted popular Riesling styles from around the world before making our Riesling blends and a big mess in the lab.

The line up was:
Pewsey Vale Riesling from Eden Valley Australia,
Selbach Oster Riesling from Mosel,
Schlosskelleri Gobelsburg Riesling from Kamptal, Austria
Trimbach Riesling from Alsace, France
Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley, Washington

I enjoyed it because we weren’t discussing the wines like a bunch of memorization-obsessed sommeliers, speeding through grid word salad. Instead, slowing it down and hearing the winemaker’s perspective, discussing Residual Sugar (RS g/l), Tartaric Acid (TA g/l), pH, Alcohol % (ABV), and how decisions affect the taste of each wine. My favorite part of this panel was when some of the wines were missing tech specs, Bruce and Dave had them sent to the lab in the room next door at Cornell AgriTech to get the numbers, along with a more accurate alcohol reading, in minutes!

Spelling A C I D with the blending bottles, Bruce Murray and Dave Breeden, Jett Kolarik, Deniece Bourne, Laura Algieri, Blending Note Sheet, Lab Pic

Now it was off to a lab where I found myself in front of things I hadn’t interacted with since high school chemistry: pipettes, beakers, and graduated cylinders. Suddenly, the word "meniscus" jumped into my mind, and I was searching for my safety goggles. Luckily were guided by the calming and knowledgeable presence of Chris Stamp from Lakewood Vineyards, Craig Hosbach of Fox Run Vineyards, and Sue Passmore of Buttonwood Grove Winery. Wine bottles marked with nothing but the letters A through Q, along with a notepad with the RS, TA, pH, and Alc% of each bottle, were laid out. Each was a Riesling barrel sample donated from one of the participating wineries. We blended them to our liking, bottled them with a floor corker, and set our wines aside to be judged by our peers the following day.

I must mention the box lunch from Wegmans because people from this region are cult-like-obsessed with Wegmans. There is an intense, and unsettling amount of excitement when anyone says the name W E G M A N S.

After lunch, we split into two groups “ACID HEADS to the left and SWEET TARTS to the right!” One group took a Vineyard Walk and Tasting at Thirsty Owl Wine Company and the other went to Hillick & Hobbs Estate where we would discuss the region’s unique growing conditions of cool-climate viticulture with winery owners and viticulturists along with exciting talks about drainage tile and trellis systems.

I was off to Hillick and Hobbs with the Sweet Tarts.

Lynne Fahy, John Wagner, Peter Weis, Old Riesling Vine

We were joined by:

Lynne Fahy of Hillick & Hobbs Estate tasting their 2022 Estate Dry Riesling

John Wagner of Wagner Estate Vineyards (The Cool Wagner of Wine) tasting their 2022 Caywood East Vineyard Riesling

and Peter Weis of Weis Vineyards tasting 2022 Terroir Limestone Riesling

Tasting these quality, dry Rieslings with the winemakers, while enjoying the view of the vines and Seneca Lake, was a truly memorable moment. If you are looking for Dry Rieslings, a modern facility, and a picturesque view of Seneca Lake stop by the Hillick & Hobbs Estate tasting room. Riesling is all they do!
You may be familiar with the name Paul Hobbs an American winemaker and vintner, widely recognized for his contributions to the wine industry both domestically and internationally.

After walking up and down the slope of the vineyard we got back on the bus to go to Idol Ridge Winery for a panel called “Versatility of Riesling.”
Side note: If you are interested in visiting an amazing gift shop you must stop here! This was the most fun, quirky selection of wine gifts I had ever seen. Also, there are not one but TWO taxidermy bears perched above you.

Idol Ridge is part of the Martin Family of Wineries and Distilleries which includes the following:

Idol Ridge Winery opened its doors at the end of November 2013. from their website:
Sitting up on a ridge south of Lodi, it has one of the best panoramic views along the entire coastline of the lake. The focus of wines at Montezuma has always been fruit and honey wines. Idol Ridge Winery is home to a line of wines using European vinifera grape varieties along with some premium Cornell hybrids.”
Head winemaker Phil Plummer is passionate about making unique, expressive wines. He discussed his experimentation with meads, hybrid grapes, making lower intervention wines, and using native fermentations.

Idol Ridge Lodge, Pictured left to right Dave Breeden, Phil Plummer, Colleen Hardy, Craig Hosbach, and Edward Miller

Below are the wines we tasted for the versatility of Riesling panel. It was moderated by the lovely Mary-Kate Badalamenti who does a little bit of everything at Boundary Breaks.

Versatility of Riesling List

I enjoyed hearing their thoughts on Riesling in the region and listening to each of them describe the styles of Riesling they make and why.
From aromatic and affordable Riesling bubbles by Sheldrake Point
to low ABV méthode ancestrale Riesling by Idol Ridge
to bone dry, wild ferment Riesling by Living Roots Wine & Co.
to extended lees, barrel-fermented Riesling by Fox Run Vineyards
to more classic stainless-style dry Riesling by Glenora
and finished with an ice wine treat by Sheldrake Point
Point made!
The versatility of Riesling is strong in the Finger Lakes. There is a style of Riesling for every kind of white/sparkling wine enjoyer made in the Finger Lakes.

Each person on the panel had a unique point of view but what I loved the most was how supportive they were of each other and their community. This was a common theme that I noticed when talking to wineries and locals. If someone needs to borrow something or needs assistance there is someone there to help.

Entrance Sign at Kindred Fare

After a quick refresh, it was time for dinner at one of my favorite spots to eat in FLX. I had been there in 2021 during FLXCursion and was thrilled to see it on the itinerary. It’s called Kindred FareThis is a must-stop if you are visiting the region. The food is fantastic with many dishes locally sourced and using seasonal ingredients. It’s in an unassuming mini-mall and right when you walk in BOOM! ambiance, great service, cocktails, and a stellar wine list highlighting many nearby wineries. Below is the Riesling Camp wine list featuring aromatic white wines of the region!

Aromatic Whites at Kindred Fare Wine List

After all the white wine that day we decided to do a little Cab Franc side-by-side tasting. There is a lot of versatility in the Cabernet Franc of this region. If you are a fan of the grape first head straight over to 

, then make sure to try some of the stellar expressions of this grape from FLX. A few examples are below.

 

Six Eighty Cellars, Buttonwood Grove, Boundary Breaks, Living Roots, Heron Hill, and Fox Run

Day 4 - Bubbles, boats, rosé, and reds!

One thing I haven’t yapped about yet is bubbles.
The cool climate of the Finger Lakes is perfect for the production of sparkling wines. It is another huge part of why I love the region.

One of my favorite producers of sparkling wine that I visited back in 2021 is Red Tail Ridge. Winemaker Nancy Irelan and her team make a variety of unique sparkling wines. Traditional method vintage Riesling sekt, solera-style brut nature, pét-nats, and more. The tasting room is gorgeous and a must-stop for bubble enthusiasts.
Another unique favorite from the region is Osmote, This Is Red Pet Nat, made from the DeChaunac grape. This Lambrusco-like sparkler is 10% ABV and features a label with a tire with a Joe Dirt haircut. What’s not to love?

Red Tail Ridge Tasting Room Left Osmote This is Red Pet Nat Right

On the last day of Riesling camp, we drove to Keuka Lake, and WOW! Keuka Lake is gorgeous! No shade to other lakes. I know the lakes get competitive. We arrived at Dr. Konstanin Frank Winery greeted by 4th generation Meaghan Frank, and her father Fred Frank. Also there was the winemaker from Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, Jesse Alexander.
Dr. Konstantin in 1957 planted the first vinifera vines in the Eastern United States. We entered the building that had a large 1886 sign on top. The facility was actually, “built in 1886 by Philip Argus, a German immigrant, the building was once the Western New York Wine Company” We were greeted with some tasty Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli Extra Brut and headed down into the cellar. Cool, cozy, and surrounded by riddling racks. Exactly where I wanted to be. Down there we sipped on some Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2019 Methode Champenoise Sparkling Riesling and Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 2019 Blanc de Blanc made from Estate Chardonnay. Meaghan spoke about their sparkling wine production process and showed us lees in a sparkling bottle. We then walked over to where wines are bottled and labeled. Everyone got a chance to disgorge and label their own bottle. Sparkling winemaker at Frank, Eric Bauman supervised and then showed us their disgorging-dosing machine in action.

Bottle disgorged, Dr. Konstantin Frank and Lamoreaux Landing bubbles, tasting room entrace, bottle lees, disgorging, Heron Hill Tasting Room

It was time to go back on the bus and head over to Heron Hill Winery on Keuka Lake. Here we judged our camper-made Riesling blends. We were guided by Jess Johnson of Wagner Vineyards, Ian Barry of Six Eighty Cellars, and Jordan Harris of Heron Hill. It was interesting to hear their approach to blending wine in the cellar and their thoughts on wine judging. Tasting 24 Rieslings in a row isn’t the best thing for the tooth enamel, but it was interesting comparing all the blends and pretending to be a wine judge. Shout out to Jon for creating the winning blend!

After some very serious wine judging it was time for lunch at Living Roots Wine & Co. beautiful new tasting room overlooking Keuka Lake. There I spotted an awesome shirt that said “Looking Keuka” but unfortunately, it was only for babies and children. I was excited to taste some wines made from Hybrid grapes in the region.

Selection of wines made with Hybrid Grapes in Finger Lakes

We were greeted with the Living Roots NV Sparkling Sessions Rosé. This was a blend of Marquette, Elvira, and Cayuga white. A super refreshing slightly sweet, juicy blend that was exactly what I needed after all the Rieslings. It paired so well with the Mediterranean-style spread from Chef Tyler LaCroix.
We also tasted Thirsty Owl Wine Company 2022 Diamond. Yes! A lovely, aromatic white grape called Diamond.
Some crisp, zesty, Glenora Wine Cellars Seyval Blanc, and Idol Ridge 2019 Reserve Noiret. Noiret is a cold hardy peppery grape. I hate comparing to other grapes but Syrah lovers assemble! It had some rotundone going on for sure.

Hybrid Grape Wines from Finger Lakes

After settling in and being mesmerized by the incredible view from the Living Roots Tasting room of Keuka Lake splitting in two different directions. It was time for a business discussion panel
moderated by Alex Jankowski of Wagner Vineyards.

On the panel was Jourdan Dyer of Glenora Cellars
Olivia Brandow or Idol Ridge Winery
Colleen Hardy of Living Roots
and Jon Cupp of Thirsty Owl Wine Company

Panel left to right - Jon Cupp, Jourdan Dyer, Olivia Brandow, Colleen Hardy, and Alex Jankowski

This was a great discussion that meandered into many topics, such as alternative packaging, generational differences among wine drinkers, distribution, organic farming, hybrid grapes, and agricultural practices. The Finger Lakes region taps into many growing segments of the wine market with its sparkling wines, lower ABV wines, and unique grapes and styles. It's shocking to me how little Finger Lakes wines are distributed in the USA. Especially the lack of representation on lists in New York City. I hope that if you are reading this as a restaurant buyer, distributor, importer, or just a lover of tasty wine, you will revisit this region and explore all it has to offer!

Captain Bill’s Charter Boat Seneca Legacy, Selection of Red Newt Wines, Riesling Camp group photo

Now it was time to get on a boat. Captain Bill’s Charter Boat that was called the Seneca Legacy. This was a whole different vibe and style of boating than I am familiar with being in South FL. Instead of hot weather, bikinis, coronas, and rum, there were cold winds, big coats, and library Rieslings! Seeing Seneca lake by boat was stunning.

We were joined by Christina Zapel of Red Newt Cellars

2014 Lahoma Vineyards Riesling
2014 Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling

Peter Weis of Weis Vineyards

2019 Terroir Slate Riesling
2018 Riesling Ice Wine

And Lynne Fahy of Hillick and Hobbs

2019 Estate Dry Riesling
and 2020 Estate Dry Riesling

I didn’t have to chase waterfalls because they were right there on the side of Seneca Lake. Waterfalls, salt production, and wineries.

It was time for our final dinner at Riesling Camp FLX Reds and Dry Rosés Dinner at Fox Run Vineyards. Fox Run is family-owned and has been making estate wines since 1989. The dinner was in the beautiful, restored barn that could seat a large group. The Chef was Brud Holland.

Final Dinner of Riesling Camp at Fox Run Vineyards

The menu’s use of local fisheries, dairy farms, cheese, produce, butchers, and wineries blew me away. Never in my life had I witnessed a dinner so supportive surrounding family-owned businesses. It was extraordinary. I started to daydream of a utopia where people could eat from small local farms, drink local wine, and converse over dinner with the community. On this night it was real. The value, diversity, and quality of the rosé and red wine in the region are unmatched. I stand by my statement that there is a style of wine for everyone in the Finger Lakes. Images on the wine list and menu below:

Photo of Menu and Wine List from dinner at Fox Run Vineyards

Sadly after the dinner, night caps, and photos the Riesling Camp part of this trip was over.

Day 5 - Wiemer and Wieners

My flight was the next day at 5 pm, so had some time to explore a bit before heading home. Went with a couple of camp buds to Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard. “Founded in 1979, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard is a pioneer of viticulture and winemaking in the Finger Lakes.” They are the region’s first vineyard to receive a Demeter Biodynamic Certification for their 33-acre HJW Vineyard. It was a beautiful tasting room. We were greeted by Maris Garden, Jenny Menges, and Neil Bradley who guided us through some flights. All were extremely welcoming, passionate, and knowledgeable about the estate’s wines, history, and vineyard practices. We tasted some Rieslings, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. Older and newer vintages. It was a treat to compare the wines and take a quick tour of their impressive facility. This is another great stop if you are looking for great wines and hospitality. The last stop of the trip was a quick hot dog and beer at FLX Wienery then it was off to the airport.

Hermann J. Wiemer tasting room and facility, FLX Weinery Beer/Hot Dog

Conclusion

FLX is for wine explorers. What stood out to me about the Finger Lakes is the strong sense of community and collaboration among winemakers. They share resources, support each other, and work together to enhance the region's reputation. The camaraderie among local winemakers and the welcoming nature of the local businesses, make it a great place to visit.

With exceptional wines, stunning lake views, and unforgettable experiences, there's something here for everyone. I hope my shitty blog inspires you to visit or taste wine from this wine region. I want to see these wines distributed more across the USA with more representation on wine lists.

Please reach out to any of the wineries listed in this blog post and tell them Shitty sent you. lol

I did not want to leave

Comment any of your favorite stops or wines from the Finger Lakes region! I know I missed a lot.
If you have any edits please email me at info@shittywinememes.com

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Thank you for reading!
Cheers,
Shitty

Friendly FLX Spidey Man

 

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