Wineries prepare for annual festival

Jul 07, 2015 at 10:37 pm by Observer-Review

Wineries prepare for annual festival ADVERTISEMENT

Wineries prepare for annual festival

FINGER LAKES--The annual three-day Finger Lakes Wine Festival returns to the area this Friday through Sunday, July 10 through 12. With more than 80 wineries this year, the festival draws thousands to the Watkins Glen International (WGI) Racetrack to sample wines, listen to live music and attend culinary cooking demonstrations. Starting with the Launch of the Lakes toga party Friday at 5 p.m., the festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Preparation for the festival may be behind the scenes, but it is a significant process that involves many staffers for area wineries. Many wine producers have been attending the event for years and are preparing their staff to distribute again this weekend.
Jonathan Froehlich of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards said their staff starts making arrangements a month in advance of the event, beginning with a plan for gathering and staging the wine and supplies. He mentioned they spend all day Thursday and Friday, leading up to the event, setting up and decorating, adding they have one large tent with eight tasting stations and a smaller one where they sample their estate grown, vintage wines made from Vinifera grapes. Hazlitt has been attending the event since the first wine festival in 1997.
Froehlich said the total combined staff sent to the festival across the three days amounts to 49 people, with roughly 65 cases used for tasting/sampling in 2014, compared to 53 in 2013. He added roughly 394 cases were sold in 2014, which was up from 306 in 2013.
"We bring almost all of our wine products," Froehlich said. "This year there will be 24 varieties total, 13 of those being Vinifera wines. In 2014 Cider Tree was the most popular product in the main tent, followed by Red Cat. The 2012 Riesling was the top selling Vinifera wine."
Bev Stamp of Lakewood Vineyards said they prepare for the festival by creating lists of things they need to bring with them, including less thought of items like bottle openers and carton cutters.
"We are better than we used to be," Stamp added.
She said the event has good exposure for all the attending wineries, adding they have been attending the yearly festival since it first began in Seneca Falls in 1997. Liz Stamp mentioned they poured a total of 16 cases of wine last year, selling some 88 cases. Liz said they bring between eight and nine of their most popular wines from previous years, adding they tend to be the semi-dry white blend, the sweet red, sweet white and port wines. Liz also added they tend to have three staff attend the Friday event, which increases to 12 staff members for theSaturday rush. She said the staff levels go to around eight on Sunday as it tends to be a calmer crowd.
"We are always out to sell, and we know our wine is the best," Bev Stamp said.
Amanda Gumtow, tasting room manager at Atwater Estate Vineyards, said Atwater has been attending the festival since 2001, adding they bring eight staff members for Saturday and six for Sunday. She described their preparation for the festival as "almost second nature now," mentioning they bring between one and a half to two pallets of wine, with one containing some 54 cases of wine.
Gumtow said they pick the wines they bring based on the crowd, mentioning Atwater tends to have drier wines, but the crowd tends to range on the sweeter side. She added they bring between eight to 12 different wines, pouring away anywhere between 10 to 12 cases over the weekend to tasters. Gumtow stated their pinot gris, riesling and dessert wines tend to be popular among the crowd, adding they use their staff to distinguish themselves from other wineries at the event.
"A friendly, knowledgeable staff goes a long way," Gumtow said.
Mark Karasz, owner of Rock Stream Vineyards, has been attending the Finger Lakes Wine Festival for the 10 years his winery has been open. He said they bottle a lot of wine for the event, bottling some 100 cases of wine and bringing 50 of those to the event with them. Karasz added he works with a smaller crew, with three staff to pour the wine and one to work the register.
"Our most popular wines are our Make Me Blush and our Dry Niagara, which are on opposite ends of the spectrum," Karasz said.
Karasz mentioned the event is good for getting his winery's name out there, adding many who attend the festival end up coming by the winery itself at a later date.
Natasha Nichols of Glenora Wine Cellars said anywhere from 18 to 26 people staff their booths at the festival to make sure everybody is served and nobody is waiting. She mentioned Glenora brings a little more than 300 cases of wine to the event, pouring between 18 and 26 cases over the weekend. Nichols said they bring 15 varieties, leaning heavier on the sweet side but also bringing a few dry wines as well, adding their fruit wines tend to be the most popular with the crowd.
"It involves a lot of people, a lot of staff, a lot of hands-on work, a lot of supplies and a lot of time," Nichols said.
Nichols said they try to bring a high energy atmosphere to their booths, adding the workers like to chant and get people going at the festival. She mentioned this is Glenora's second largest event of the year next to the New York State Fair, adding they have been involved since the beginning of the festival.







Sections: NEWS 1