Book Now

The Influence of European Winemakers on the Finger Lakes Wine Region

In recent years, the Finger Lakes has garnered acclaim as “one of the greatest Riesling regions of the world” and “America’s premier cool-climate wine region.” Some of that success has been shaped by a handful of European Winemakers who have blended the best of old-world traditions, training, and experience with new-world innovation, a willingness to experiment and to share ideas, and the flexibility to adjust to any given situation. On April 11th, Explore Steuben and Finger Lakes Countrysides are premiering on YouTube the new documentary video exploring The Influence of European Winemakers on the Finger Lakes Wine Region.

In 1829, a reverend intent on making sacramental wine planted the first vines in the Finger Lakes region in the small town of Hammondsport. Eventually, several of his parishioners were inspired to grow grapes. By the end of the 19th century, there were over 25,000 acres of vineyards around Keuka Lake. At first, the sweet native grapes were primarily sold in NYC and other markets as table grapes, but eventually the area gained a reputation for its sparkling wines. However, by the time Prohibition ended in the 1930s, only six wineries remained.

While winemaking in the Finger Lakes is still in its infancy, at just over 160 years-old, in recent years the region has garnered significant acclaim as “the prime wine region of the Eastern U.S.” and “America’s preeminent East Coast wine region.”

You could say the upward trajectory began when Charles Fournier, chief winemaker at the renowned Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in Reims, France, was brought to the Finger Lakes following Prohibition to oversee the sparkling wine production at the Urbana Wine Company (later known as Gold Seal). Fournier introduced several notable French-American hybrid grape varieties to the region and provided Ukrainian immigrant Dr. Konstantin Frank the opportunity to ignite the Vinifera Revolution, forever changing winemaking in the northeastern United States. Today, while Dr. Frank’s descendants and the winery that bears his name continue to set the standard by which all other Finger Lakes wineries are judged, a few other wineries founded by winemakers originally brought to the region to make wine for Dr. Frank’s, continue to elevate the quality of wine being produced and the experiences visitors can enjoy.

French winemaker Morten Hallgren has spent the past two decades making exceptional wines at Ravines Wine Cellars. Called a “pioneer of the Dry Riesling” for which the Finger Lakes region has been gaining acclaim. French winemaker Sébastien LeSeurre, who worked at Dr. Frank’s before starting Domaine LeSeurre winery with his wife and fellow French winemaker, Céline, on the east side of Keuka Lake, focuses on crafting terroir-driven, food friendly wines. Right next door you’ll find the 2022 New York State “Winery of the Year,” Weis Vineyards, which was founded by German winemaker Hans Peter Weis after spending a decade working for Dr. Frank’s. Weis was also recently named one of Wine Business Monthly’s “Hot Brands” for 2023. Over on Seneca Lake, another German winemaker and grower, Johannes Reinhardt, who worked at Dr. Frank’s when Hallgren was there, founded Kemmeter Winery over a decade ago his wife Imelda. German winemaker Hermann Wiemer, another vinifera pioneer, was actually the first winemaker at Bully Hill Vineyards, but eventually his desire to work with Vinifera grapes led him to start his own winery on Seneca Lake. When Hermann retired from winemaking, he left his winery and his legacy in the capable hands of Oskar Bynke and Fred Merwarth.

Read the rest of the original article on I LOVE NY.

Main Street Drivers provides customized experiences in the Finger Lakes for wine enthusiasts of all levels. If you are traveling to the area, check out the details on our affordable Finger Lakes Wine Tours.

18 Tips To Know Before Visiting A Winery For The First Time

Visiting a winery is a fun, social way to learn about a wine region and try wines from your favorite producers, including winery-exclusive selections only available on-site. The experience can be intimidating for first-time tasters unfamiliar with winery protocols. Some wineries are casual and laid-back, while others are exclusive and luxurious. However, remember that all wineries begin with the same foundation: a dedication to crafting something delicious by combining art, science, agriculture, and alcohol. You should feel that passion during your day of tasting. The best way to ensure the experience is pleasurable is by planning.

As a sommelier and wine writer, I have spent the past two decades visiting wineries worldwide. Taking note of my experiences led us to create this guide with everything you need to know when visiting a winery. By following these suggestions, you will be ready to swirl, sniff, and sip your way through a day of winery visits. Happy tasting.

Make a reservation

There was a time in our not-too-distant past when you could easily walk into a winery tasting room without a reservation and taste through a selection of current-release wines. This was often done inexpensively, and sometimes with the winery’s owner. Sadly, those days are gone. Though you can still find some wineries open to guests without a reservation, for the most part, advance bookings are either required or highly recommended.

Closures during the coronavirus pandemic forced many wineries to rethink their business model, introducing specialized seated tastings that cater to smaller numbers of guests. Requiring a prior reservation also helps winery staff prepare for the amount of visitors they are expecting on any given day. This practice translates to a better wine tasting session for you, as proper staffing ensures you have the best experience possible.

We suggest you research the wineries in the area you would like to visit. Review the experiences offered and find the tasting that fits your style, which may include a vineyard tour, cave tasting, or wine and food pairing. Being prepared is always best, especially if you’re bringing a larger group.

Schedule plenty of time at each winery

As you begin to plan your wine tasting itinerary, figure out how many wineries you want to visit. We recommend limiting the number to three or four visits per day so as not to feel rushed to get to the next appointment.

Most tastings will last around an hour to an hour and a half, depending upon your group size and the type of experience you book. As you plan, you will want to schedule time for lunch, or book a tasting that includes a wine and food pairing. Remember to calculate how long it will take to drive from one stop to the next.

Punctuality for your appointments is also important. A winery’s schedule can be tight, especially on weekends. Arrive at your appointments on time, and call to notify the winery if you are running late.

Designate or hire a driver

Whether you designate a driver or hire a car service, ensuring that you do not drink and drive is essential for any wine tasting tour. Luckily, driver services are readily available in most wine regions. Finding the right one is just a Google search away.

Many wine-country transportation firms also offer concierge services to help plan your itinerary and book reservations, which can be useful for anyone unfamiliar with the region’s wineries. However, if you have preferences, it is entirely appropriate to ask the concierge to include those wineries, or make bookings yourself.

If you choose to designate a driver from your group who will attend tasting experiences, like visiting a vineyard or taking a wine-cave tour, make sure to ask if there are charges for guests who won’t be tasting. It also may be tempting to use a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft. We don’t recommend relying on this service. Their availability is limited, which is problematic when you’re trying to get to your next appointment.

Be prepared for the costs

Similarly to how tasting at a winery without an appointment is largely gone, tastings that are free or with a nominal fee are rare. Today, most wineries charge a fee to taste with them, and those fees are soaring, especially in popular wine regions like Napa and Sonoma. According to the SVB 2023 Direct-to-Consumer Wine Survey, the average cost of a standard wine tasting in Napa Valley is now $81, while in 2012 Napa’s average tasting fee was $22. Fees in wine regions like Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, and Willamette Valley can also be high.

Preparing for the cost will ensure that you enjoy the winery experience thoroughly. Booking your appointments beforehand will allow you to familiarize yourself with the wine prices and tasting fees. Some wineries may waive the fee for the tasting if you buy a few bottles, but this practice is less common today than in years past. And don’t be afraid to share a tasting with your partner, both to save money and pace yourself.

Dress comfortably

Comfort is vital to enjoying a winery visit. Leave your favorite evening stilettos at home. There is no place for high heels in wine country. Sure, you want to look stylish, but this is not a formal night out. Instead, opt for chic wine-country-casual clothing. We recommend comfortable shoes, like flats, boots, or sandals, lending ease when walking on winery tours. If you plan on doing a vineyard tour, closed-toe shoes are best.

Loose, comfortable clothing — like sundresses for women, and shorts or khakis with a collared shirt for men — are appropriate for daytime tastings. A cross-body bag will hold all of your daily essentials. And remember to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for outdoor winery tours. Bring along a jacket as well for indoor cave tastings, as wine cellars are chilly. Lastly, we recommend wearing darker colors, in case accidental spills occur.

Don’t wear fragrances or perfumed lotion

As you dress for your day of wine tasting, skip the spritz of perfume or cologne, as fragrances interfere with the sensory experience of a wine tasting. One of the most significant components of enjoying a glass of wine is the aroma and the bouquet. The subtle nuances found in these wine components offer information about what is in the glass.

The aroma can help you identify the different types of grapes used and the vineyard terroir. At the same time, the bouquet lends details on the winemaking techniques and the aging process, like the type of oak used to barrel-age the wine and the fermentation practices employed. Wearing a fragrance can mask these characteristics. Strong fragrances will also compromise the tasting experience of other winery guests, reflecting poor wine tasting etiquette.

Understand the winery’s policy regarding kids

Wineries are businesses that aim to sell you wine. Their goal to achieve this has led many wineries to create family-friendly experiences, including play areas for kids, tasting opportunities that include picnic areas, and vineyard tours. While many wineries are kid-friendly, some are not. Make sure you understand the winery’s policy before arriving with your children.

Bringing a child to a winery can be tricky, as not everyone attending a tasting will want to be around kids. If your children accompany you to a winery, keep a close eye on them. We suggest bringing along games or books to keep them entertained, and have them keep their voices down to ensure they don’t interrupt other guests.

And remember, guests enjoy alcoholic beverages at a winery. Though the atmosphere is different from a bar, it is still a place serving alcohol. Keep this in mind if you decide to bring children along.

Eat something light and pace yourself

A day of wine tasting is a delightful, educational, social occasion. It is also a day of drinking. Even if you spit, you will likely ingest some wine. We suggest that you don’t go wine tasting on an empty stomach. Prepare by eating something light beforehand. However, avoid heavily flavored or spicy foods before tasting, as they can remain on your palate, like garlic, peppers, or coffee. Avoid smoking before tasting, as the tobacco will linger on your palate and in your clothes.

Throughout your day, it is also important to pace yourself. A day of wine tasting is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to overdo it by getting buzzed at your first stop. Sip slowly, taking the time to enjoy the experience and evaluate the wines. And drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

Taste from light to heavy

A typical wine tasting will include a set number of wines laid out in order of how the winery would like for you to taste them. However, some establishments will offer the ability to customize the tasting with your preferred selections. With either option, it is best to taste starting from the lower-alcohol, lightest-bodied offerings to the heaviest, fullest-bodied wines.

The alcohol in the wine contributes to the weight. If you were to begin the tasting with a high-alcohol, full-bodied red wine, it would overwhelm your palate, causing you to miss the nuances found in lighter, lower-alcohol wines. Start the tasting with white wines before moving into robust reds. If you only taste white wines, begin with crisp, refreshing selections like a riesling before moving to rich, well-rounded chardonnay. For red-wine tasters, start with a high-acid, medium-bodied red like barbera or pinot noir before trying a bold, high-alcohol zinfandel.

Know the steps of tasting

With your wines laid out in a proper order, you are ready to begin your tasting. However, you may be wondering what to do. There are several steps to wine tasting, each of which will engage your senses. The first step is to observe the color and appearance of the wine by holding the glass by the stem up to the light, or against a piece of white paper. For a white wine, is it light yellow or more golden? For a red, is it the color of rubies or more inky and black? Is the wine cloudy or clear?

The second step is to smell the wine, keeping your mouth closed and breathing in the aromas deeply. What type of fruits or spices can you smell? Then, swirl the wine carefully in the glass and smell the wine again. Did any new aromas emerge? These steps are the right way to smell wine at a tasting, priming the palate for the flavors it can expect to find in the glass.

Next, sip the wine and savor its flavors. Evaluate what you like or dislike about the wine. It is also wholly appropriate to spit out the wine at a wine tasting to ensure you don’t become inebriated. Your tasting attendant will provide a vessel to use for this.

What to look for in a glass of wine

First and foremost, the only thing that matters when tasting a wine is if you like it. There are no right or wrong answers, as much of the experience is sensorial. Finding a wine that you find favorable and would like to know more about is most important.

Opening your palate and mind to exploring the variations within a grape variety will make your time more fun. Try to identify characteristics in the wine. Identifying flavors is not meant to be stressful, only to enhance your experience.

For example, once you try a wine, observe if it is dry or sweet. Does it taste tangy, like a sour lemon, or fruity, like an apple or pear? Does the wine taste spicy, smoky, or earthy? Is it filled with flavors of toast, chocolate, or vanilla? Does the wine feel heavy or high in alcohol? Which of these characteristics appeals to you? Answering these questions will help ascertain the style of wines you prefer.

Cleanse your palate

During your wine tasting, the attendant will likely share information about each of the wines, including various winemaking techniques, aromas, and flavors found within the wine. Give yourself the best chance at identifying these characteristics by making sure to always cleanse your palate between sips of each different wine.

The palate cleanser should be clean and refreshing, leaving no aftertaste so as to allow complete revelation of the next wine’s full flavor. Take a sip of room-temperature water, or eat a bite of cheese or a cracker between each selection. Water neutralizes the palate, cheese will help absorb tannins, and starchy bread and crackers will balance the palate by absorbing the previous wine’s flavors. By doing this, you can identify and enjoy each wine’s subtle characteristics.

Try something new

A typical wine flight, or set of wine pours measuring 2 or 3 ounces each, will be offered at each winery you visit. This flight often includes the winery’s current releases, library vintage selections, or other unique offerings. Each of these selections may consist of grape varieties that are new to you, or outside of the typical types of wines you drink.

Though you may be the type of person who refuses to drink a glass of chardonnay or only drinks pinot noir, a wine tasting is an opportunity to branch away from what you usually drink to taste something you otherwise wouldn’t. There is no rule saying you have to finish each of the wines poured for you. Go into the experience with an open mind, giving each selection a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Read the rest of these great tips in the original article on Tasting Table.

Main Street Drivers also provides customized tours (and that important “hire a driver” tip!) for enthusiasts of all levels in many wine regions throughout the country, including tours of our featured location this month for Walla Walla Wineries.



The Best Gifts for Wine Lovers

The Wine Lover’s Gift Guide

As a writer who works for a wine importer and moonlights pouring bottles at a natural wine bar in Brooklyn (hello, freelance life), I try dozens of wines a week, and often several in a single day. I know what grapes and producers I like, and I buy bottles for myself with reckless abandon (read: with my tips). While I love when friends bring over a special bottle for us to share around the holidays, I already have plenty to go around. Or at least I would, if I could ever find a wine key in my crowded kitchen.

It never occurs to me to buy all the accoutrements that would greatly enhance my wine drinking: my glassware is a chaotic amalgam of shapes and sizes, mostly pocketed—er, collected—from my favorite wine bars, and given that I don’t have enough room in my fridge to store my bottles, I’m guilty of occasionally cooling down my wine with ice. I last did this while working a wine harvest in Alsace, France, and when the winemaker caught me, I swore I’d never commit the crime again.

And yet, I still haven’t bought myself a set of wine stones.

Most wine lovers I know are the same way, splurging on bottles instead of proper storage or other practical wine accessories. If you love someone who loves wine, know that the best gifts are things they won’t buy for themselves: Top-notch stemware, books that go deep on pioneering producers, and a centerpiece-worthy decanter are great places to start. For those deeply moved by the giving spirit, a subscription to The Vines—a luxury wine club that whisks members away on intimate, far-flung wine adventures for a casual $25,000 initiation fee—would surely be appreciated by your oenophile pals. I you’re looking for new friends, come by Frog Wine Bar to say hi. Until then, read on to see some of the best gifts for wine lovers you can buy this year.

A Nerdy Wine Book

Having worked on a few vineyards, I can confidently say that wine tastes better when you know the person who makes it. Longtime Food & Wine editor Ray Isle has spent the past several years doing exactly that. His debut book, The World in a Wineglass, paints intimate portraits of sustainably minded winemakers from around the world, spanning pioneers of natural wine in Austria to longtime family-run vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s a tome that will introduce you to your new favorite wines, which of course pair beautifully with the book.

A Luxe Wine Key

The wine lover in your life probably already has a corkscrew or two, but as someone who loses one in their tote bag on a weekly basis, I promise there’s no such thing as having too many wine openers. This wine key—which differs from a bulky, tedious two-armed corkscrew—is compact, elegant, and crafted from durable stainless steel and laminated wood. It’s made by the iconic French brand Château Laguiole and comes with a chic leather holster for convenient carrying.

A Curated Wine Bundle

Part subscription service, part retailer, The Waves is like having your own natural wine concierge. If you’re unsure which bottles to gift a friend, they’ll make sure it’s not just the thought that counts, but the taste too. Founded by award-winning somms, the site offers expertly curated bundles of wines that are free from chemicals and additives. My favorite three-pack is The Wild Bunch, which includes a pét-nat, an orange wine, and a chilled red—a.k.a. the holy trinity of fun, easy-drinking wines. For a gift that keeps on giving, consider springing for The Waves’ two-, six-, or 12-bottle monthly subscription.

A Gadget That Keeps Open Wine Fresh for Weeks

If you’re looking to open a bottle of wine but don’t think you’ll finish it, I’d say (a) invite me over or (b) invest in a Coravin. This revolutionary device keeps wines tasting fresh for up to four weeks, meaning you can serve yourself by the glass or even host an at-home tasting with a flight of your favorite wines (again, invite me over!). It’s super straightforward to use: Simply replace the cork or cap with the included Pivot Stopper. When you’re ready to revisit the bottle, insert the Pivot Device, tip the bottle, press the button, and marvel at how good the wine tastes weeks later.

A Customized Wine Tote

If your friend is always the one lugging wine to the party or park picnic, the least you can do is thank them with a tote that will make their life easier. This monogrammed canvas bag fits up to four bottles and helps to keep them from knocking about thanks to the interior lining. You can personalize the monogram as well as the strap color.

A Custom Wine Label

Corny? Yes. Charming? Also yes. A custom wine label is whatever you want it to be: an earnest celebration of an engagement, a cheeky snapshot of your lover, or a silly selfie of you and your BFF after one too many bottles.

A Wine Fridge

I may not have an age-worthy collection of Bordeaux wines, but I do have a child-sized fridge in my Brooklyn apartment, and playing Tetris with all my groceries and wine bottles was a headache. Springing for a wine cooler has offered me so much space to store my wines, and the split zone makes it easy to set the top and bottom section to different temperatures to suit a variety of wines. Since my kitchen is compact, I use the top of the cooler as extra counter space, decorating it with potted plants and books. Plus, if I ever get desperate or run out of wine (one in the same, I suppose), I could always use it for shoe storage, à la Carrie Bradshaw.

Some Nice Wine Glasses

When it comes to gifting glassware, there are two options: a branded glass from your friend’s favorite wine bar or this set of elegant tulip glasses from Riedel. Forgo bulbous or ultra-delicate stemware, which takes up too much space and often feels too precious to use. Instead, go for a pretty and practical option that can be used for both red and white wines. I like these because they’re dishwasher-safe and feel sturdy enough to use with frequency. They’re sleek but not pretentious.

An Artsy Decanter

Decanters do a great job of separating out sediment from wines while also looking sexy on a dining room table. I like the coiled design of this borosilicate glass one from Wine Enthusiast, which looks like a middle school science experiment gone right. Even friends who don’t enjoy wine will get a kick out of watching grape juice twirl through the double spirals, which serve to decant the wine while oxygenating it, resulting in fuller flavors and aromas.

Read the rest of the original article with links to buy each gift on Bon Appetit.

Another excellent gift idea is a personal wine tour! Main Street Drivers provides customized tours for wine enthusiasts of all levels in many wine regions throughout the country, including amazing and affordable Finger Lakes Wine Tours.


The Walla Walla Wine Guide: It’s not just fun to say

For fans of wine, the Walla Walla region offers one of the most stimulating scenes in the country. The Eastern Washington city is best known as the birthplace of Adam West, the original Batman. But if the next 10 years function anything like the previous 10, Walla Walla and wine will be forever intertwined.

One of the town’s many charms is its full embrace of the industry and Washington state wine. Downtown is historic, walkable, and teeming with tasting rooms and production facilities. It’s a perfect home base for a long weekend devoted to getting out into some of the surrounding foothills to taste by day and returning to the city for a memorable dinner or bar drop-in at night.

The Walla Walla Valley spans Washington and Oregon and is comprised of a large and eponymous wine appellation, as well as the subregion of  The Rocks District, which sits on the Oregon side of the border in Milton-Freewater. A few hours’ ride away is Oregon’s most famous wine region, the Willamette Valley. Farming has long existed there, but before grapes, it was the land of wheat, onions, and orchard fruit. Now, it’s an established spot turning out incredible Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, among others.

In town, there are some great stops, like Passatempo Taverna for pasta and a strong local wine list or Walla Walla Steak Company for a nice cut (and great beer at the adjacent Crossbuck Brewing). Seven Hills Winery is one of the area’s oldest and occupies a beautifully restored building in the heart of the city. The Browne Family Tasting Room is also a suggested stop, featuring its own lineup and often the work of a lot of talented small-production producers in the area. For lodging, there are few spots better than the architectural gem that is The Marcus Whitman hotel.

There are some impressive winery names in the region, some so in-form that they’re waiting-list-only enterprises. But it’s worth combing bottle shops for releases from Cayuse or the syrah masters at Delmas. The sommelier-owned-and-operated Gramercy Cellars is doing great work and there are new spots worth exploring, like Echolands

Getting into the thick of surrounding wine country requires little more than a short drive. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Palouse with the distant peaks of the scenic Umatilla National Forest for company, it’s as pretty as it is palate-satisfying. Here are some places to check out if you find yourself in Walla Walla, Washington.

Force Majeure

With an incredibly sleek facility in The Rocks and some bang-up wines to match, Force Majeure is a great appointment-only visit. The winery launched in 2004 and has since gained a big following in the region. These days, you’ll find a bit of sparkling wine in the tasting room, shadowed by some incredible French-inspired blends and standalone varietals that showcase a number of great appellations. These wines encapsulate the beauty of big, bursting flavors anchored by balance.

Of particular note is the Walla Walla Estate Syrah, teeming with mushroom and umami notes and a splendid mouthfeel. The cabernets are not to be missed and the label even gets some fruit from the acclaimed SJR Vineyard in The Rocks District. Force Majeure is home to not only some of the best wines in the Walla Walla Valley, but the best hospitality as well.

The Walls Vineyards

At The Walls, you’ll find clean decor, a welcoming staff, and a tasting room that feels more like a well-appointed lounge. If you’re hungry, grab a bite (the ham and cheese baguette is perfect) and enjoy the wine-friendly bites with your tasting. And be sure to wander around, as there’s a great patio section fit with a wood-fired oven along with a production space where all the winemaking action goes down. Currently, you’ll find Grenache, Chardonnay, Cab, and some blends on the impressive tasting menu.

The label artwork is beautiful and recognizable to most, as it’s the work of famed New Yorker cartoonist Joe Dator. Look out for bright white and pink wines, elegant reds, and a new side label called Pášxa (which means balsam root sunflower, a plant that used to thrive in the area), which celebrates the indigenous communities of the valley and currently includes a wonderful Mourvedre as well as an outstanding syrah. The Walls got permission from the local community to use the word on its label and the wines are made in a sustainable fashion to celebrate the land.

Abeja Winery & Inn

Located about 7 miles outside of Walla Walla, Abeja feels a world away. The verdant grounds border Mill Creek and include a pond, gardens, a gorgeous barn-turned-tasting room, a winery, vineyards, and even some lodging options. The landscape is breathtaking, especially as you gaze into the background and take in the hypnotic rolling foothills of the Palouse.

Merlot is the label’s strong suit and is worth exploring. Winemaker Dan Wampfler likes to talk about Abeja’s quest to show the purity of the varietal and one can taste as much. Look for lovely blends, along with smaller batch releases of Viognier, syrah, Chardonnay, and more. There’s a restaurant on-site, known to pull ingredients right off the property. Go for the wine but be sure to stick around and take in the stunning location.

Where to eat

Walla Walla punches well above its weight in terms of great dining options. In addition to what’s mentioned above, be sure to check out Yamas. The Greek restaurant turns out impeccably fresh dishes, from classics like dolmas, gyros, and saganaki to house gems like grilled octopus and a chicken souvlaki wrap. Go for the alifes, a platter of five house-made spreads, and be sure to inquire about the soup. The salads are fresh, the fries are some of the best we’ve tasted, and the whole meal can be washed down properly with some Greek wine (and a spot of Ouzo at the end).

The Marc restaurant at The Marcus Whitman hotel is another worthy mention. We’re excited to see how it transforms over the next several months as it wraps up its renovation. At the moment, the service is great and the house cocktails are worth exploring, not to mention the wine list. Try the heirloom tomato burrata, hangar steak frites, or local salmon, served with green bean succotash. It would not be Walla Walla without some superior onion rings and the breakfast, should you be staying the night, is hearty.

Lastly, look into Tranche Estate. The winery hosts live music often and on weekends is a great place to set up shop with a blanket and an appetite. Tranche tends to host food carts and serves its wines by the glass or bottle. Best, the setting is tranquil, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Where to stay

Hands down, the best place to stay in Walla Walla is The Marcus Whitman. The hotel is the tallest building in the city of some 35,000, sticking out with its red brick facade and beautiful tower. There’s a newer part of the hotel but the historic section serves as its core (and beating heart). The lobby is a trip back in time, the hospitality is unmatched, and the rooms feature all of the classic comforts, from robes and excellent views to room service. The staff is genuinely excited to point you to its favorite spots in town and there are even pet-friendly rooms.

If wine country is your calling, consider a stay at Abeja. The Inn is gorgeous and you’ll get the full Washington wine country experience. The Finch is another solid option, a modern motel of sorts set just outside of downtown near the beautiful campus of Whitman College.

Read the rest of the article and full list of wineries on The Manual.

When you’re ready for a wine tasting tour in the area, Main Street Drivers provides customized tours of the Walla Walla Wineries for wine enthusiasts of all levels.

Think Pink: A guide to rosé wine

Whether you’re a seasoned wine aficionado or a novice eager to explore, rosé wine offers a palette of flavors as diverse as its range of pink hues. Its popularity has surged in recent years, making it a must-have at any wine tasting or casual gathering. This article aims to be your go-to guide for everything related to this vibrant wine, from its origins to its myriad taste profiles, and even some product recommendations to get you started.

The Origin of Rosé

Rosé finds its roots in Provence, France, a region long celebrated for its wine-making expertise. Although other wine regions have since taken up the rosé mantle, the traditions and quality set by Provence remain unparalleled. The wine is typically crafted from a mix of grape varietals, including Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault, among others.

The Making of Rosé

There are mainly three methods of producing rosé wine:

  • Maceration Method: Brief contact with grape skins gives the wine its characteristic color.
  • Saignée Method: A portion of red wine juice is bled off and fermented separately to create rosé.
  • Blending Method: A mix of red and white wines, although this is less common and considered inferior by some purists.

Each method imparts unique qualities to the wine, making the world of rosé diverse and interesting.

The Many Shades of Pink

The color of rosé can vary from a light blush to a deeper hue. These shades can offer clues about the wine’s flavor profile, age, and even the method of production.

Taste Profiles: What to Expect

Rosés can range from fruity to dry, featuring notes from tart citrus to sweet berries. Serving it chilled enhances its fresh, vibrant characteristics.

Food Pairing with Rosé

Rosé’s versatility shines when it comes to food pairings:

  • Cheeses: Soft cheeses like Brie or sharper ones like Manchego.
  • Seafood: Grilled shrimp or a classic seafood paella.
  • Barbecue and Grilled Foods: Yes, rosé can hold its own even with smoky, spicy flavors.

Occasions Best Suited for Rosé

While often pegged as a summer sipper, rosé’s versatility makes it apt for:

  • Summer Picnics: Light and refreshing.
  • Romantic Dinners: Sophisticated yet not overpowering.
  • Holiday Celebrations: A crowd-pleaser that pairs well with a range of foods.

How to Store and Serve Rosé

Rosé is best stored in a cool, dark place and is typically meant to be consumed relatively young. Once opened, a bottle can last up to a week if properly resealed and stored in the refrigerator.

For product recommendations and more, read the original article on Bloom Tampa Bay.

When you’re ready for a wine tasting tour, Main Street Drivers provides customized tours for wine enthusiasts of all levels in popular wine regions throughout the US.  Check out our featured location this month for Finger Lakes Wine Tours.

Willamette Valley wine – hot tips and comings and goings

Bees have a friend in Remy Wines

Remy Wines recently received a Native Wildflower Seed Grant from Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to protecting pollinators and their habitats. They hope their grants will enhance 26,000 acres of pollinator habitat by 2025.

This means that instead of seed money, Remy Wines is receiving seeds that have been determined to be beneficial to preserving honeybee populations. All species included in the seed mix are native to Oregon, and the package has been created specifically for the habitat at Remy Wines.

New wine dinner series at Ava Gene’s

Wine director Kirk Sutherland put together a great lineup of local wineries for Ava Gene’s fall dinner series. The lineup begins with newcomer Cho Wines and ends with beloved “old guard” Cameron Winery. The dinners take place in Fora, Ava Gene’s private dining space around the corner from the restaurant.

The cost is $150 plus a 20% gratuity for a four-course dinner with seasonal dishes prepared by co-executive chefs Amelia Kirk and Ross Effinger. There will be wine pairings with each course, and don’t be surprised if the participating winemakers make a few “special bottles” magically appear.

Each week’s menu will vary based on seasonal produce and the wine producer’s pairings. The dinners begin at 7 p.m., except for Cameron Winery, which has 5:30 and 8 p.m. seatings available. Reserve your seats via the restaurant’s website.

Hang out at harvest with Division Wine Co.

Want to see what making wine really looks like? Make a reservation for Division Wine Co.’s new Harvest Hangs program. This tour captures harvest action at The Yard, Division’s new winery facility in Southeast Portland.

After an opening toast with bubbles, guests will taste active ferments, and participate in harvest activities, like punchdowns. The tour will be followed by a tasting featuring two half-glasses of wines connected to that day’s winery activity.

The tours take place every Thursday through the end of October. The cost is $20 for groups of 1-10.

Clay Pigeon returns to its garagiste roots

Many winemakers start in their garage before moving on to a big, shiny winery. Michael Claypool is the first winemaker I’ve met that is doing it in reverse.

Until recently, Claypool made his Clay Pigeon wines at Adega Northwest in Southeast Portland. When that facility decided to relocate to Hillsboro, Claypool wanted to remain close to his Portland home. So starting this fall, he is making wine where it all started for him – his garage.
Wherever they are made, Clay Pigeon wines are well worth seeking out.

The return of the prodigal winemaker

In 2020, I couldn’t believe the news that Thomas Houseman was leaving Anne Amie Vineyards in Carlton to take the winemaking position at 2 Lads Winery in Traverse City, Michigan. Who does that? We lost Kaehler, but I’m thrilled to report that we got Houseman back.

Houseman is now the general manager at Radiant Sparkling Wine Co. in McMinnville. One of the valley’s most effervescent personalities now helps ensure that Oregon’s sparkling wines get even better.

Read the rest of the original article on OregonLive.

When you’re ready for a wine tasting tour, Main Street Drivers provides customized tours for wine enthusiasts of all levels in popular wine regions throughout the US including Willamette Valley Wine Tours.

The Best Long Island Wineries to Visit Right Now

New York State is full of surprises. You know you’ve hit the rural bits of Long Island’s North Fork—and, therefore, wine country—when you see a giant inflatable strawberry jiggling in the wind, like the one outside Bayview Market & Farms in Riverhead. The hamlet of Flanders’s Big Duck, whose innards house a poultry store, serves as a similar landmark at the mouth of Long Island’s South Fork. They’re not official markers, of course, but there’s something delightful about a conspicuously oversized roadside attraction letting you know you’ve left the city far behind.

Comprising 1,400 square miles, Long Island is the nation’s largest and longest contiguous island. It consists, in large part, of sprawling suburbs and strip malls, but its East End, as it is known, is far more bucolic. Divided into the North Fork and South Fork by the Peconic Bay, this sliver of land birthed the region’s wine industry half a century ago.

Fifty years may be a heartbeat in a global wine context, but it’s a profound milestone for a region like Long Island, which is, in many ways, just hitting its stride. Wine grape farming is improving. As some vines come of age, others are being dug up and replaced with more climate-suitable clones and varieties. Meanwhile, second-generation producers—alongside new, internationally experienced winemakers—are getting their hands dirty in Long Island’s sandy loam soils.

Combine that with a multitude of new post-pandemic tasting room experiences and high-end restaurant openings, plus a summer of 50th anniversary celebrations, and there’s no better time to acquaint—or reacquaint—yourself with New York’s second-largest wine-producing region.

As Wine Enthusiast’s reviewer of wines from New York State, Long Island is near and dear to my heart. Below you’ll find my picks of some of Long Island’s top wineries, along with recent releases bound to delight even more than inflatable fruit and giant poultry.

The North Fork

Paumanok Vineyards


One of Long Island’s westernmost wineries, Paumanok Vineyards is also one of its most longstanding. Founded in 1983 by Ursula and Charles Massoud, who emigrated from Germany and Lebanon, respectively, Paumanok is now run by sons Kareem, Nabeel and Salim. A true family business, Kareem is winemaker and president, Nabeel vineyard manager and Salim the operation’s administrative manager. Charles and Ursula are still very involved in the winery’s day to day.

Paumanok’s winery and tasting room are housed in a renovated, turn-of-the-century barn clad in weatherboards. The interior is airy and calm, while the large deck provides expansive views of the vineyards, which parade over one of the few hills on the notoriously flat island. Paumanok hosts a sunset special of raw oysters, a Greek snack bar and $8 glasses every Friday in the summer. But it’s also worth snagging a seat at one of the Grand Vintage tasting dinners. Like other long-established Long Island producers, Paumanok is known for holding back stocks of their highly cellar-worthy Merlot and Bordeaux blends.

In 2018, the Massouds purchased nearby Palmer Vineyards, where they operate a second tasting room and hold various events, including live music performances and dinners featuring wood-fired pizzas made by Nabeel.


2022 Paumanok Vineyards Chenin Blanc

Fresh, fruity, lemonade-like, from the oldest Chenin vines in New York State.

2021 Paumanok Minimalist Cabernet Franc

Savory and al dente, in a lightweight style. Drink slightly chilled.

2022 Palmer Albariño

A lemony, salty, seafood-friendly island wine.

2021 Palmer Aromatico

Floral and spicy, clean and crisp, bone dry. Drink with spicy Thai or Mexican food.



Like Paumanok, Macari is a family affair. The winery began in 1995 when Joseph Macari Jr. and his father first planted vines on the 500 acres of fallow land—formerly a potato farm—that Joseph Sr. had purchased in the 1960s. Today, Joseph Jr. and his wife Alexandra still helm the ship, but daughter Gabriella and son Joseph M. are also intimately involved, the former as Director of Operations and the latter as Head of Viticulture.

Macari has long been a leader on the viticulture front, employing organic and biodynamic techniques and omitting herbicides. In 2020, Macari brought in a new winemaker, Byron Elmendorf, who has taken its operation in an exciting direction, one that sees more wild ferments, lees aging and a general uptick in experimentation and creativity.

Despite having to navigate the notoriously strict regulations surrounding food service from both New York State and Southold township (where around 75% of the North Fork’s wineries are located), Macari offers a multitude of events that feature visiting chefs like Lauren Lombardi, whose beautifully prepared and ultra fresh seasonal dishes are worth the trip alone.

In 2022, Macari renovated and re-launched its tasting room in nearby Cutchogue as Meadowlark. With a beautifully designed wine bar, events space and a range of wines, Meadowlark seems set to become one of the North Fork’s top wine and wedding destinations.


2021 Macari Cabernet Franc

Aged in concrete egg, this is bright, succulent and savory. It’s from one of the first Cab Franc producers in New York State.

2022 Meadowlark Sauvignon Blanc

This wild ferment is Sancerre-like, vibrant, textural and flinty.

2021 Meadowlark Pinot Meunier Rosé

With notes of tangerine, pomegranate and botanicals, this skinsy, briny bottling is hugely characterful.

Lieb Cellars


With broader distribution than most Long Island wines, Lieb Cellars is a label you might find in a trendy urban wine bar or cutting-edge shop in New York City. Perched less than a mile from the Long Island Sound, the winery makes remarkably saline wines that speak of their maritime surroundings. This is thanks both to the careful farming of longtime vineyard manager Ildo Vasquez, and to Lieb’s Aussie-born winemaker Russell Hearn.

As if in subtle homage to Hearn’s homeland, the tasting room at Lieb nods to an outback station with corrugated iron on the bar and walls. It’s a cozy, classy space, especially during wintertime when live music accompanies tasting flights and cheese and charcuterie boards.


2021 Lieb Pinot Blanc

Super saline and subtle, this bottling is food friendly. It’s Hearn’s favorite variety and from some of the oldest vines on LI.

2020 Lieb Teroldego-Lagrein

This bottling delivers notes of grape jelly and white pepper, with a succulent, mid-weight style. It’s made with fruit from the former Southold Farm and Winery, one of Long Island’s most interesting plantings, which Lieb now leases.

Bedell Cellars


The tasting room at Bedell Cellars has a bright and airy modern appeal that pairs with its clean, textural, food-friendly wines. This is one of Long Island’s longest-standing wineries, dating back to 1980 (with a change in ownership in 2000). It also boasts a winemaker with arguably more regional experience than any other, Richard Olsen-Harbich. With 40 years of winemaking on Long Island under his belt, Olsen-Harbich is a creative champion of the region in search of purity and site expression. All fermentations are spontaneous, or kickstarted with self-foraged botanicals to capture the essence of Long Island terroir.

Corey Creek is Bedell’s second label. The wine is made by Bedell’s assistant winemaker, Marin Brennan. At Corey Creek’s Tap Room, the vibe is more artisanal, with a chic beach hut feel and live music on the front porch overlooking the vineyards.


2022 Bedell Melon de Bourgogne

Delivers notes of seashell and lemon with chalky texture and crunchy acidity. Not a typical Muscadet, but its own Long Island expression.

2020 Bedell Malbec

Expect notes of soft spice, plump red and blue fruit, as well as salty tannins. This mid-weight style offers excellent acidity and tucked-away oak.

2022 Corey Creek White Cabernet Franc

With tropical, peach, floral and fruity notes, this bottling remains bone dry and chalky, almost austere. Food-friendly, it’s quirky but clean.

Read the rest of the original article on Wine Enthusiast.

When you’re ready for a wine tasting tour, Main Street Drivers provides customized tours for wine enthusiasts of all levels in popular wine regions throughout the US including the North Fork Wineries on Long Island!


Long Island Wine Country Toasts to 50 Years of Winemaking

Long Island’s wine country will celebrate its milestone 50th anniversary at Peconic Bay Vineyards in Cutchogue on Saturday, Aug. 19.

“This is a celebration of ourselves, to some extent,” said Kareem Massoud, winemaker for Paumanok and Palmer Vineyards and a member of Long Island Wine Country, formerly known as the Long Island Wine Council. “There will be a lot of industry insiders — winery owners, winemakers, vineyard managers, the growers as well as a lot of our hardcore supporters and best customers. It’s also a great opportunity for anyone new to Long Island wine to discover Long Island wine.”

In 1973, Alex and Louisa Hargrave planted the first wine grapes in Cutchogue. The soil, topography and climate proved to be the ideal place to harvest numerous varieties of grapes and soon farmers moved to the region to begin their own vineyards. Wine growers throughout the region have been dedicated to producing high-quality, environmentally sustainable wines and now, half a century later, Long Island boasts more than 50 different vineyards, most of which are located on the East End.

“My family has been here for 40 of the 50 years and we were able to witness the growth of the industry in real-time,” said Massoud. “We’ve seen the number of acres planted and tasting rooms grow. The quality has always been there, even early on, but in the past few years it has become very, very good.”

Attendees at the 50th-anniversary celebration will have the chance to sample the various types of wine from over 30 North and South Fork vineyards. Taste memorable wines like rosé from Croteaux Vineyards, award winning reds from Osprey’s Dominion and Coffee Pot Cellars and even canned wines from Bridge Lane Wines. Unlike other wine-centric events, wines will be sorted into styles rather than separated by individual vineyards.

“It’s not often you get to go to a unique tasting experience like this,” said Michael Falcetta, general manager of Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery and LIWC member. “We grow so many types of grapes and styles of wine and I think we are going to expose a lot of people to things they didn’t know were available on Long Island.”

At this event, guests can curate a personal tasting experience that highlights the different styles of the region. Local restaurants like North Fork Table & Inn and The Frisky Oyster, will provide locally-sourced farm products to pair with the wines.

“We are working closely with our restaurant partners to develop food pairings that are going to complement one another and showcase how food-friendly the wines are,” said Falcetta. “We want people to learn about pairings and understand how and why they work. It will be an opportunity for guests to speak face-to-face with winemakers.”

Louisa Hargrave will be in attendance, along with numerous other pioneers of the Long Island wine industry, including winemakers and vineyard managers.

This celebration will also include an auction, featuring special experiences like private cellar tours, a dinner at a Michelin 3-star restaurant and even a trip to France.

Read the rest of the original article and get tickets on Northforker.

Call Main Street Drivers if you need a professional designated driver to take you to the event, or explore all the vineyards with a personalized tour of the North Fork Wine Trail.



How to Write Wine Tasting Notes Like a Pro

When looking at a wine menu, it’s natural to feel somewhat confused. Not only are there varietals, vintages, and vineyard names to wrap your head around, but there might also be flavor descriptors that are hyper-specific and, frankly, don’t seem very appetizing. Maybe the Cabernet Sauvignon has leather on the finish, or  or that Sauvignon Blanc has an aroma that is overwhelmingly similar to cat pee.

While these characteristics may sound unappealing, they’re just a part of what makes a wine complex. And no, sommeliers don’t pull these obscure ingredients out of thin air – they thoughtfully taste and evaluate the wine in order to write tasting notes.

Understanding tasting notes is important for anyone who likes to drink wine. Essentially, they’re the key to knowing what you like and dislike about what’s in your glass, and can be critical to understanding what pairs best with the dish you’re cooking. For instance, some people prefer their white wine to be loaded with flavors of tropical fruit, like mango and papaya, while others prefer something more oaky and buttery. While some drinkers want big bold reds, others prefer something light and bright with notes of strawberries and red cherries. Once you know how to identify these characteristics, you can begin to understand how the wine’s varietals, growing conditions, and terroir affects the flavor and aroma.  As it turns out, writing your own tasting notes is easier than you might think.

During the 40th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, wine writer and television host Leslie Sbrocco walked an audience of attendees through a blind tasting during a seminar called, “YOU Write the Tasting Note.” By the end, the group collectively created tasting notes for six wines, all thanks to Sbrocco’s four steps. “See, swirl, smell, and sip,” she says. “That’s the best way to figure out if you like a wine or don’t like a wine.”

Step 1: See

Before anything else, Sbrocco encouraged the attendees to pick up their glasses and tilt them slightly over their white placemats – an ideal platform since the white does not obstruct the wine’s color. If you are tasting multiple wines, Sbrocco suggests standing up and looking down into the glass from above in order to compare the wines’ colors. “When you’re looking at the color, it tells us a lot of things,” she says. “Maybe oak treatment or age.” Wine tends to change color with age due to oxidation. “You cut an apple or pear. What happens? It oxidizes. It turns brown. So over time a wine is going to oxidize.” With white wines that means the color gets darker and more golden, and with reds, the color gets browner over time.

You can also get a sense of the wine’s body – or viscosity –  just based on how fast or slow it drips down the inside bulb of your wineglass.

Step 2: Swirl

People don’t just swirl wine because it’s fun. The act of swirling a glass of wine exposes the wine to oxygen which allows it to release more aroma and open up its flavor. As an experiment, you can try smelling and tasting a wine before and after swirling – you’ll see how much easier it is to define tasting notes with a simple swirl.

Step 3: Smell

Don’t be shy. Stick your nose into the wine glass and take a whiff. Try to take smaller, short inhales to not wear out your nose. Then, simply see what scents come to mind. It could be something floral, something peppery, or even something funky. To help attendees identify these smells, Sbrocco gave them large pieces of paper, printed with common wine descriptors like “oaky,” “aromatic,” and “fruity.”

Step 4: Sip  

It’s time to taste! Take a sip and think about the flavors that hit your tongue. How do they compare or contrast to the smell? What do they remind you of?

Read the rest of the original article and lots of other great content on Food & Wine.

When you’re ready for a wine tasting tour, Main Street Drivers provides customized tours for wine enthusiasts of all levels in popular wine regions throughout the US.  Check out our featured location in June for Willamette Valley Wine Tours.


How The Tasting Experience Differs Between Sweet And Dry Wines

Everyone has a favorite wine or two, even if your favorite flavor is “boxed.” Maybe you’re a diehard dessert wine fan, or maybe you pride yourself on drinking wine so dry it makes your cheeks pucker. Either way, wine shelves span a continuum from extra dry (aka “brut”) to dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet — and the tasting experience couldn’t be more different with each type.

It all comes down to one key factor: acidity. A highly acidic wine will make you salivate, which depletes the moisture in your mouth and impresses the feeling of “dryness.” Dry wines might make it feel like the insides of your cheeks are adhering to your cheeks or induce a cannabis-esque dry tongue. On the flip side, sweeter wines might offer a syrupy mouthfeel, draping your tongue in a sort of viscous blanket of sugar. As a visual cue, a thicker sweet wine might even coat the sides of your wine glass. Indeed, wine tasting is essentially a sexy chemistry experiment and sweetness and acidity go hand-in-hand.

The sweetness or dryness of a given wine is determined by how much sugar it holds onto during its unique fermentation process. Dryness or sweetness is also heavily influenced by a wine’s tannins, which add bitterness and create a dryer mouthfeel. On a biological level, tannins actually reduce the taste buds’ ability to perceive sugar. It all comes down to one key factor: acidity. A highly acidic wine will make you salivate, which depletes the moisture in your mouth and impresses the feeling of “dryness.” Dry wines might make it feel like the insides of your cheeks are adhering to your cheeks or induce a cannabis-esque dry tongue. On the flip side, sweeter wines might offer a syrupy mouthfeel, draping your tongue in a sort of viscous blanket of sugar. As a visual cue, a thicker sweet wine might even coat the sides of your wine glass. Indeed, wine tasting is essentially a sexy chemistry experiment and sweetness and acidity go hand-in-hand.

The sweetness or dryness of a given wine is determined by how much sugar it holds onto during its unique fermentation process. Dryness or sweetness is also heavily influenced by a wine’s tannins, which add bitterness and create a dryer mouthfeel. On a biological level, tannins actually reduce the taste buds’ ability to perceive sugar.

There are also ways to tell whether a wine is going to be dry or sweet without even tasting it.

Acidity, ABV, and sugar content: The unsung orchestrators

Picture this: You’re browsing your local wine shop, or perusing the wine list at a fancy restaurant. You know what you like, and can therefore rely on a go-to Riesling or Cabernet Sauvignon as a safe bet to please your palate… right? Not necessarily. Due to the processing-related reasons we just listed, any variety of wine has the capacity to be sweet or dry. What’s a struggling sommelier to do? How can you tell whether a wine will be dry or sweet without tasting a single drop? Enlist the guidance of a wine tech sheet. These can be found for specific types of wine and will provide stats on what’s inside, including dryness or sweetness, which is indicated by a percentage amount of residual sugars. As a rule, 1% indicates a dry wine, 2 to 4% indicates mid, and 5% or above is sweet.

Sweet varieties also often tote lower ABVs. Scientifically, this is because sugars are converted into alcohol during the fermentation process. Therefore, as alcohol content becomes higher, sugar content becomes lower. A wine with an 11% ABV or less is generally going to be pretty sweet.

Read the full article and other great wine tasting content on The Tasting Table.

When you’re ready for a wine tasting tour, Main Street Drivers provides customized tours for wine enthusiasts of all levels in popular wine regions throughout the US.  Check out our featured location this month for Willamette Valley Wine Tours.