Wednesday, December 23, 2015

167 Years after Seneca Falls*: Women in Wine #FLXWineWomen #WBC15

"Bold. Fearless. Original" - It was pure joy when I saw my name next to those words (At last, SOMEBODY gets me) - but the words weren't about me- they were about the burgeoning group of women who are setting the tone for the culture of food & wine in the Finger Lakes.

It isn't about fashion (one winemaker  - just in from the vines wore her pruning shears and rubber boots to the event); it isn't about "who's who". It's about taste - that sense that has power over our cravings, the sense that can drive us to fill our bellies and sate our hunger; and it's about  a sense of place, and belonging - all of the women who spoke - through their words, wines, ciders and foods who belong to the region and now who belong to our collective memories as inspirations and friends.

Martha (Marti) Macinski, Standing Stone Vineyard's winemaker/co-owner (and blogger) welcomed us and began the evening by sharing her story - a lawyer and IBM executive decide to buy a vineyard..... Much adventure and a motorcycle ensue... along with a business and farm that needs to be nurtured, grown and marketed.  Cost analysis shows that the lawyer will give up her job and tend to the vineyard. That was a wise cost analysis - although her legal clients must miss her, the wine world gained a champion who shares, celebrates and enriches life around her.She is like the ice wine that she produces - rare, sweet, with good acidity and tempered by nature.

Jenna LaVita, Ventosa Vineyard's winemaker spoke to us about her journey  - from college idealist to farmer/winemaker/brewery co-owner. All before she turned 30. Listening to Jenna's energy as she told her story - my tired old brain chuckling as she spoke of her post college (`08) adventures and experiences - the future has many good thing in store for this woman, and I can't wait to check back in with her as the years go by.  She is like the wine she makes - some pure varietal: from Lemburger, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc - dry,aged in oak - (3 years!)  to the Vino Bianco - a blend of their (Tocai Friulano, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling) - bringing together old world knowledge and technique with new world enthusiasm, drive and talent.

Erica Paolicelli, Partner and General Manager of Three Bothers Winery& Estates  observed that "the
#FLXwine industry wouldn't be the same without strong, creative, amazing women"; Erica dominates in a business that has a testosterone laden name. Three brothers is a mini empire of  three wineries and a micro brewery, Erica juggles the duties of making the business run with her partners and can be found buying for the gift shop, organizing the marketing or promoting the company's wines, ciders, beers, sodas and spirits. WOW.  That's a lot.

Liz Leidenfrost is a second generation vintner at Leidenfrost Vineyards who is comfortable in the tasting room, the barrel room or on the stage.  As soon as I watched Liz take the podium, she had my attention, and I realized that if this were 1890's Paris, Liz would be sipping absinthe with Lautrec, telling cabaret stories, and waxing on the romanticism of music, wine and body art. With some scientific history thrown in (Leidenfrost Effect) to add veritas to the conversation. Meanwhile, when she isn't performing with Whiskey Tango Sideshow as "Liz the Bombshell", she is working the vineyard discussing their diverse portfolio of wines, ranging from a classic Blanc de Blancs to a fortified "Caberet" wine.  This high energy, iconoclastic approach is what makes this region fascinating - it is a microcosm of talent, taste and there is a delightful surprise at every turn.

Although Autumn Stoscheck didn't take to the podium (she was busy pouring cider to the thirsty, thirsty bloggers who surrounded her table)  A co-founder of  Eve's Cidery in Van Etten, NY, Autum's story rounds out the "Just Do It" attitude that resonated throughout the evening. (I was lucky enough to sit next to her during dinner) She talked about driving to New Hampshire to learn about making cider.  That drive paid off - Eve's Cidery is one of the best producers of Hard Cider in the United States. I can attest - my glass(es) were sublime, and Autumn Stoscheck is another woman who is making her mark in the food and drink industry (And making #FLXwine look great along the way).

A Walk in the Vines (ostensibly to pick for brix

After the talks, we took an hour to walk and talk informally in the vines as the staff set up the balcony fro dinner.  It was good to see a vineyard in August.  Grapes were in full growth, some starting to ripen, and I totally understood why people choose to get married at Vineyards... Could there be a more romantic place on earth than in the vines overlooking water??

Now for the FOOD!

Heather Tompkins, executive chef and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar in Geneva, NY (my Yelp review) and OPUS:Finger Lake Wine Country Catering was the head chef for the evening.  Her locally sourced menu complimented the wines of the evening.

It is no surprise that Heather, a CIA trained chef is at the top of her game at home in Geneva.  Her menu showed sophistication and a sense of place - perfectly highlighting #FLXwine. The best part was there were foods that I recognized straight from the Geneva Farmer's Market. What a great introduction to the area!

First Course:

Candy Beet-Melon-Arugala Salad with Red Jacket Cheribundi-Curry Vinaigrette, Stony Brook Pumpkin Oil, First Light Goat Cheese and Stony Brook Pumpkin Seeds (I met the people from Stony Brook at the Geneva Farmers Market.  Their brined and roasted pumpkin seeds are AMAZING -I bought 4 bags)

Paired with:  Three Brothers Winery and Estates Pinot Noir Rosé `14 and Leidenfrost Vineyards Blanc de Blancs ($25)

Second Course:

Sweet Corn-Muranda Cheese, Cheddar Studded Risotto Cake with Summer Tomato and Fennel Coulis and Jalapeño-Orange Mascarpone

Paired with:  Ventosa Vineyards Pinot Noir `12 and Standing Stone Vineyards Gewürztraminer `13

What can I say about a course I inhaled? I sipped light refreshing rose for the first few bites, and then had effervescent bubbles to chase down the risotto cake that lasted maybe three bites....   There were complex flavors that shifted my appetite into high gear, and I polished it all off  with three or four bites and a satisfied gulp! (Note to self: SLOW DOWN)

Third Course: 

Grilled Petit Finger Lakes Farms Filet Mignon and Scallop with Wilted Baby Kale, Piggery Bacon Vinaigrette, Cayuga Blue, and Pickled Red Onion (this dish alone made me wonder how I can move to Ithaca and be a part of this amazing food & wine scene)

Paired with: Three Brothers Winery and Estates 0 Degree of Riesling and Ventosa Vineyards Cabernet Franc `11

While my love of Cabernet Franc is well documented. It was a new experience to pair both a white and a red with each course.  It worked.  The Reisling was well balanced, and crisp - complimenting the scallop perfectly.  As for the Cabernet Franc?!? It made me love blue cheese. Was the perfect compliment to the cheese and buttery goodness that was the filet - and the Wilted Kale with bacon - well, that's just good for you - and smokey, amazing goodness at that!


Red Jacket Peaches and Ginger Galette with Seneca Salted Caramel and Shaved Seneca Salt Bark
Dark Chocolate

Paired with:  Leidenfrost Vineyards Cabaret (Port Style) and Standing Stone Vineyards Gewürztraminer Ice `14

What can I say?  It was perfect.  And table gossip led me down the path to start asking questions about the Seneca Lake Gas Storage Controversy! (More on that later...)

It was a stimulating, inspiring evening, and I do reflect back on that night as being the first time that I have considered relocating simply because of the food/wine and people who work in the industry! (and I have now been to countless wine dinners in the eight years that I have been blogging)

*Seneca Falls Convention -  "a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman" July 19–20, 1848

executive chef and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar - See more at:
executive chef and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar - See more at:
executive chef and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar - See more at:
executive chef and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar - See more at:
executive chef and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar - See more at:

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