Wine Press FINAL 10-14-10

April 16, 2011


           It was Honors Week in wine country, with lots of people getting much-deserved recognition for their contributions to the grape and wine community, along with some New York wines winning big in France and on the air. Between people and product, there's lots to celebrate.




          Jim Trezise

Unity Banquet Filled with Thank You's

           Every spring we pause to come together and recognize people who in various ways have made major contributions to the New York grape and wine community.  The "Unity Banquet" name and theme reflects the overriding importance of unity to our industry's success, as well as the top award we presented on Wednesday evening at Belhurst in Geneva. 

           But there are many others as well, and it is always uplifting to feel the excitement and sense the gratitude of all who attend, including the award recipients who are often suprised.  Here are this year's honorees.

            UNITY AWARD: PETE SALTONSTALL.  This award is for "major achievements in promoting unity in the New York grape and wine industry", and certainly no one is more deserving than the co-owner of King Ferry Winery (Treleaven wines) on the east side of Cayuga Lake north of Ithaca. 

            Pete served on the New York Wine & Grape Foundation Board of Directors for about a decade, including three years as Chairman, guiding the organization through challenging times and constantly emphasizing the importance of everyone working together.  He also courageously volunteered to serve as the "poster boy", with John Martini of Anthony Road Winery, in the long but ultimately successful legal and legislative battle to allow direct interstate shipment of wine, a campaign with great risks for his winery.  And he has made major contributions to the grape-related research programs at Cornell University. 

             In all of those endeavors he has been joined by his wife and business partner Tacie Saltonstall.

             INDUSTRY AWARD: PATRICK HOOKER. For a couple decades, Pat Hooker has been contributing to the grape and wine industry in various ways, primarily while at New York Farm Bureau and then as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture & Markets.  In accepting the award, he noted that he had actually been present as a junior Farm Bureau staffer in 1985 when the law was passed creating the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. He gradually rose to Director of Government Affairs at Farm Bureau, a position which requires thorough knowledge about the many complex issues involving agriculture.  That, in turn, served him well when former Governor Eliot Spitzer appointed him Comissioner, a position he held until this January.  Happily, Pat remains in State government in a key position involving agricultural economic development.

              GROWER AWARD: JIM JOY.  Jim is the Field Services Specialist for National Grape Cooperative in the Lake Erie and Finger Lakes regions, working closely with growers whose crops go into Welch's grape juice and similar products.  He is also a Director of the New York State Wine Grape Growers, and a reliable participant on trips to Albany involving public policy. A graduate of the superb LEAD-NY agricultural leadership development program, he convinced several others in the grape community to enroll as well, including Linda Purdy and Greg Tones who just graduated last night.

             RESEARCH AWARD: DR. GREG LOEB. The work of entomologist (bug specialist) Greg Loeb has always been important to grape growers, but certainly never more than now, as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug invades the vineyards of the northeast.  Greg's work at Cornell has involved insect ecology, Integrated Pest Management, biological control, plant-insect interactions, and many other areas designed to protect vineyards and grape crops.

             WINERY AWARD: RED NEWT CELLARS. David and Debra Whiting are true pioneers in local wines and foods, with Red Newt Cellars & Bistro now a magnet for locavores and locapours.  After making wine for others several years ago, Dave decided to create his own brand which features small quantities of hand-crafted wine made from local growers' grapes.  Deb is a self-taught chef passionately devoted to fresh, local foods who has long been President of the local-focused Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty organization.  Her culinary creations, along with Red Newt wines, are popular attractions at the annual New York Farm Day celebration in Washington, DC.

             RESTAURANT AWARD: SUZANNE FINE REGIONAL CUISINE. "Excellence in promoting New York wine as part of a fine dining experience" is the basis for this award, and the relatively new, small restaurant on the east side of Seneca Lake certainly qualifies.  As with Red Newt Bistro just down the road, Suzanne Stack focuses on fresh, local ingredients and a broad array of Finger Lakes wines within a broader list which has repeatedly received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

            RETAILER AWARD: NEIL KRATZER, THE WINE ROOM. A hobby that became a passion that became a business is the best way to describe Neil Kratzer's evolution into being an innovative retailer with a focus on New York wines.  When his corporate career ended in 1999 after moving to Buffalo, Neil apprenticed in various wine stores, rising in responsibility along the way until he opened The Wine Room in 2006.  It's a relatively small store in the Village of Williamsville, an eastern Buffalo suburb of about 5,000 people, and the focus is on high quality wines at a value price.  Neil carries an extensive selection of New York wines, and features them prominently.

            DISTRIBUTOR AWARD: UPSTATE WINE COMPANY. Kevin Faehndrich of Ithaca is carving out a timely niche: distributing upstate New York wines in New York City.  The Big Apple is the world's most competitive wine market, and few upstate wineries have the staff to work the streets.  In addition, most large, traditional distributors aren't interested in representing New York wines in New York City, so this is a perfect fit.  The company concentrates on "outstanding local wines that focus on environmental responsibility."

            CONSUMER AWARD: THOMAS PELLECHIA. This award is for "enthusiastic support of the New York wine industry", which describes avid wine consumer, former winery owner, and wine writer Thomas Pellechia.  In addition to writing regularly about wine for various publications, Thomas has written three books: "Wine: An 8,000 Year History of the Wine Trade"; "Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting & Running a Winery"; and "Garlic, Wine & Olive Oil."


            We congratulate all the recipients, and once again thank them for all they do for us.



 Tom Davenport LEADS

           Last night was another special dinner: the graduation of LEAD-NY Class 13 in Ithaca, and a special presentation to a former LEAD graduate, Tom Davenport, as the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.

              I had the honor of presenting an overview of Tom's long and distinguished career, which he spent at National Grape Cooperative, but also as a member of a couple dozen industry organizations involved with research.  In most cases, his role went beyond simple membership to a leadership position, often as Chairman. 

               Most recently, he served for two years as Chairman of the National Grape and Wine Initiative (NGWI), a strategic planning group with members from throughout the country focused on developing common priorities.  As an NGWI Board member, I was constantly impressed with his ability to facilitate discussion without dominating, move the agenda, and create an atmosphere of consensus in decision-making.  Tom is retired now, so he and his wife Judy are spending more time together, mostly traveling, but last night was a great reminder of how special people make things happen and make our industry great.

             That's what LEAD-NY is all about.  It is essentially a two-year training and education program in agricultural leadership which truly transforms the lives of those who go through it.  Last night, 29 new graduates accepted their diplomas and our best wishes for their future--and ours.

C'est Magnifique!

          Riesling du Monde is an annual wine judging held in Strasbourg, France which focuses only on Riesling wines from around the world.  New York wines have done well in the past, but this year set a new Gold standard.

            Medaille d'Or (Gold medals) went to Anthony Road Winery 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling; Belhurst Winery 2009 Finger Lakes Semi-Dry Riesling; and Fox Run Vineyards 2008 Finger Lakes Riesling Reserve.  Silver medals (equivalent to Gold in many competitions) went to Keuka Lake Vineyard 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling Evergreen Lek Vineyard; and Red Tail Ridge 2009 Finger Lakes Semi-Dry Riesling. 

             It's interesting that, except for the Keuka Lake wine, all four winners are from the northwestern end of Seneca Lake, within 10 miles of each other, and within 3 miles for Fox Run, Red Tail Ridge, and Anthony Road.  Obviously, something good is going on there!  These were the only American wines to win any medals.  We are happy to make entries more affordable, and to consolidate wine shipment, through our NYWGF wine competitions program.  

The Envelope, Please...

            Now that the Finger Lakes Riesling episode of the VineTalk public television series has aired (in lots of places nationwide), I can tell you that the two favorite wines were the Thirsty Owl 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling for the studio audience; and the Chateau LaFayette Reneau 2009 Finger Lakes Semi-Dry Riesling among the celebrities.

               VineTalk is a great new series designed to make wine fun and approachable by having A-list celebrities taste and talk under the tutelage of wine experts Ray Isle (Food & Wine Magazine) and Stephanie Caraway (Sommelier), who in the Riesling episode do a superb job of explaining the virtues of such a versatile wine.  Each episode includes a type of wine and a region famous for it: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was first, followed by Finger Lakes Riesling, so we're clearly in good company!

                You can now learn lots more about VineTalk, and even watch some clips, by going to  They also do a great job showing the wines that were in the tastings, and describing the regions they represent.  Stay tuned on your local PBS station.

"Wine is the divine juice of September."


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