Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Léon who?

Keuka Lake Vineyards’ 2010 Estate Bottled Léon Millot (Finger Lakes) was voted Best Red Wine at the recent NY Wine and Food Classic Competition held in Watkins Glen, NY.

How do I know this?

Because it seems that everyone is talking about it in the Finger Lakes.

Why is everyone talking about it?

Because, well, as much as wine industry people like to tout the continuing revolution when it comes to the establishment of Old World grape varieties in this New World of ours, especially in the Northeastern part of our New World, there seems to still be room for inter-species hybrids, but only when they are evaluated in a blind tasting.

It shouldn’t be the case, but blind tastings always seem to shock us. When you have no idea what you are tasting you are apt to like things that you say you don’t like and the other way round. That’s because tasting wine is as infallible as we are, and I want to meet the person who isn’t fallible. With wine, even the pros among us can be fooled by our perceptions.

I was told by those who tasted the winning red wine that it tastes nothing like a Léon Millot should; suffice to say that what that likely means is that people refuse to believe that a wine can step out of the class that others have assigned to it: generally, red inter-species hybrid wines are not supposed to be so good.

Anyway, Léon Millot was created in Alsace, France, in 1911 by crossing a hybrid of two North American species (Vitis riparia and Vitis rupestris) with an Old World, German variety within the Vitis vinifera species. The resulting grape variety was named after a French winemaker and nurseryman. (The same crossing trials produced Marechal Foch, a grape named after an important French martial during the armistice negotiation of WWI.)

The variety is suitable for cold, moist climate cultivation as it ripens early and is supposedly highly resistant to fungal diseases, and this particular vineyard plot in the Finger Lakes was planted about 60 years ago by Charles Fournier, who was from Champagne and came to Gold Seal in the late 1940s to be managing winemaker.

Mr. Fournier not only knew what he was doing, he teamed with Konstantin Frank to produce the first successful commercial Vitis vinifera wines in the region, in 1962.

The official take on Léon Millot is that it gives off an aroma that some identify as “foxy,” a common descriptor for wines produced from North American species. For that reason, probably, the grape variety was initially banned for commercial winemaking in the European Union. That ban has been lifted for grape varieties that include a portion of vinifera pedigree, but very small amounts of Léon Millot are grown in Switzerland and in Alsace. Canada has plantings of the grape, too.

So, I sampled this recently voted Best Red Wine a few days ago.

The wine did not smell like a native grape to me. In fact, it had a subtle and sophisticated aroma, slightly milky, which might mean the malolactic fermentation is coming through loud and clear for my schnozz.

The wine's color is deep and close to purple, like a bishop's cloak.

The taste, well... Remember that I was not tasting blind, so my perception may have gotten in the way, but I found the subtlety in aroma did not follow through on the palate. In fact, the wine seemed to me too forward and edgy for a red, which is what I usually dislike about most red wines from inter-species hybrid grapes--they seem too rough and earthy.

While we are on the subject of awards, top honor in the New York Wine and Food Classic, the Governor’s Cup, was awarded to a Long Island winery, Martha Clara Vineyards, for its 2010 Riesling.

I understand that the wine was produced with Finger Lakes grapes, which proves once again that great wine is produced in the vineyard.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Plan for the Future Online

Over the past eight or so years, I’ve had occasion to write online for others. While one experience proved fruitful, after a fashion, the other experiences have left me cold to the so-called social media revolution.

In a few situations, my writing went directly to an existing or developing Web site, and while I was paid for my effort, credits did not come my way, which was ok with me. In fact, those experiences are not the ones that leave me cold to the potential of social media. It’s the blogs that give me a jaundiced view and, as in one case, providing snippet writing for one of those AOL “information” sites that are akin to fast food: the site editors demand adjectives and nouns as verbs (sugar and salt) to make everything go down pleasurably and to hide the minimal to no information (nutrition) inside; that gig lasted only briefly, and, thankfully, my name was not attached to the entries. I understand that after Arianna Huffington merged her site with AOL, the direction of that particular site was changed.

Blogging-for-hire gigs ran for me the gamut from useless to discouraging.

The first blogging I did for someone else was intended as a favor—until I discovered that the site owner was planning to use the free writing to help move his online career forward without so much as even a promise to take care of the “volunteers” later on.

The second blogging was for a new site that started out with a mission in which I played a role, and was paid for my part. Within just a few months, however, the mission had changed and my blog was moved out with the old mission.

The third blogging went on for almost a year albeit, chasing payment each month made it seem like two years. But over time, I noticed the site’s overall bent had changed and that all the bloggers that had started with me were gone (what would be next?).

When I started to write for a living, many of the present blog owners were still shitting in their diapers. I say this not to boast, certainly not to point out our age differences, but to point out that while so many of these start-up geniuses were being told in school that they are special and that they cannot lose, many of us were in the trenches having to prove our “specialness” and the battles that we lost built scar tissue as well as experience—we were forced to learn something.

In business, whether print or online magazines, ideas are cheap when they are not accompanied by due diligence and a good business plan. The many start-up and crashed-down online sites that I’ve seen over the years plainly illustrate that their owners and originators spent most of their time thinking about the idea without understanding how to implement it.

To bring this particular diatribe of mine to a wine analogy, starting an online business is no different from starting a winery. In either case, the first consideration of the business plan is to identify who will buy your product and why, and if you can’t illuminate others concerning your target market within a few concise paragraphs, you probably have a weak future before you.

Oh, sure, some people blindly stumble into horseshit, as we used to say in Brooklyn, referring to the notion that stepping in the dung would bring good luck. But trusting in the cosmic belief that “I am special, as is my idea” will work for only a small portion of us. The rest of us will go the way of a previous era’s advanced product, the Ford Edsel, or more closely related, television, which four generations ago made promises that it broke about three generations ago. That’s fine, except when our failure causes us to break promises and to treat others like commodities rather than as valuable, talented assets to help move our ideas forward.

To put this blog entry into concise perspective: it’s about time that the many people who presently apply hyperbole to social media grow up and come back with a real plan—and a market for it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
August 2011. All rights reserved.

Lifting a blog entry without the author's permission (and without recompense) is a copyright infringement--period.