|Damiani Brut Sparkling|
It all stared on a bus, as some adventures do.... Damiani's newest winemaker Phil Arras`10 popped the first cork, and poured freely. It was a terrific way to travel the 25 miles from Corning to Burdett, NY, on the east side/Banana Belt of Senaca Lake. As we listened to the history of the wine and area, and toasted the impending expansion of Phil's family (awaiting baby #2...would he get the call while on the bus???) The celebration of all things Finger Lakes began. We drove through Watkins Glen, and talked about the Gorge, the Raceway, waterfalls and the inventive protests of the local food and wine community's Protest Banquet against the storage of LP gas under Seneca Lake. The more I heard, the more I admired the area and its people.
To my surprise, we pulled into the drive way of Finger Lakes Distilling. New York is having a love affair with artisanal spirits, and this was to be my first visit to a New York State distillery. It is uncovering hidden gems like Seneca Lake is the best part of the Wine Bloggers Conference. I never would have visited the distillery on my own. Yet there I was loving every minute of it. Waiting for us on the bar were displays of New York Sour (featuring McKenzie Rye Whiskey and Damiani MC2) and a delicious drink with gin and apple brandy (this drink is lost to memory, as after all the sparkling wine and Rye Whiskey, there was NO way that I would be taking accurate notes.... And this was just the beginning of the evening!
We toured the distillery with Brian McKenzie, former Vice President of an upstate New York bank, and Thomas Earl McKenzie, a winemaker, brewer and distiller from Monroeville, Alabama. They are not related, but share a historic Scottish whiskey distilling last name. Having spent some quality time in Scotland tasting whiskey, it felt great to hear the stories and taste the product of the New World. At that moment, as Brian talked about meeting his wife in High school, working as a bank VP, meeting Thomas Earl in 2007 and starting the distillery, I was a very proud and slightly drunk American. Peace, Love and Finger Lakes!
End Part One. Stay Tuned for a 12 wine, 3 course tasting menu, a yoga loving vineyard owner and waterfall slate as a serving dish.... You can't get more local than that!