Invasion of the Wine Judges
We caught up with the group at Hunt Country, after they had finished lunch at Waterloo Container. Waterloo is one of our major sponsors (for which we offer a tremendous “thank you.”) and is the major supplier for glassware and packing solutions to wineries of the Finger Lakes and elsewhere in the U.S. Aside from providing lunch and discussing the ins and outs of wine packaging, they also sponsored a best packaging contest at the end of the competition. Company executives, their partners, and several wine judges were given the opportunity to vote on the best wine packages, which consisted of the glass, the label, the closure, and many other fine points of wine packaging aesthetics.
Arriving at Hunt Country, the judges were greeted by owners Art and Joyce Hunt and offered samples of Ice Wine, Pinot Gris,and Cabernet Franc. Art and Joyce were pioneers on Keuka Lake, have created quite a nitch with Ice Wine (a rarity in the Finger Lakes despite our cold temperatures), Valvin Muscat, Seyval, and other offerings, and oversee a lovely multi-generational winery outside of Branchport.
Fittingly, the judge tour ended where the Finger Lakes revolution began, at Dr. Konstantin Frank. While the Dr. Frank stories could and do fill books, the short version is that Konstantin was the first grower and winemaker to make European (vinifera) grapes work in the forbidding (for vinifera) environment here. Only part of the problem was cold. Beyond cold was phylloxera, mildew, and a host of other problems about which we need not digress. Suffice it to say, though, Konstantin persevered, and after releasing its first vintage in 1962, the winery is entering its fourth generation, sparing consumers from way too much Pink Catawba, which formed the foundation of bad college parties in the 60s and 70s.
The lineup at Dr. Frank consisted of Célebre (a sparking wine made from Pinot Meunier) Rkatsetilli (an Eastern European grape of which Dr. Frank is one of only a handful of U.S. producers), Riesling, and Saperavi. The latter is also rare in the U.S.. not only because it is not widely planted (although it has been part of the McGregor Black Russian blend for a few decades), but also because it was only recently that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed it as a recognized varietal on wine labels. This would be an example of your taxpayer dollars at work.