Do you know Finger Lakes?

Do you know the Finger Lakes wine region in New York State, USA?


Laura Winter Falk is the president and co-owner of the “Experience! The Finger Lakes, LLC”. She is also a Certified Sommelier accredited by Court of Master Sommeliers and an expert of wines and gastronomy of the Finger Lakes wine region. Laura has granted the Grand Terroir followers an exclusive interview and a 10% discount on the Finger Lakes wine tours until March of 2019!

The discount code is GrandTerroir10 . Experience! The Finger Lakes website is

Source: Photo by Allison Usavage, provided through Experience! The Finger Lakes
Source: Photo by Allison Usavage, provided through Experience! The Finger Lakes

Here is the interview:

Talita: “Could you tell us about yourself? What is your academic background? Why did you decide to work in the wine industry?”

Laura: “I grew up downstate in what is considered the extended suburbs of NYC. I came to Ithaca, when I was 17 to attend Cornell University, and little did I know at the time… That it would be the place I call home for the next 35 years and counting! I have three degrees from Cornell my BS, MS and PhD, all in Nutrition, and I am a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. I am also an adjunct professor of wine at Tompkins Cortland Community College in addition to owning and running Experience! The Finger Lakes. My husband and I started Experience! The Finger Lakes in 2007 when we recognized that there was no one in the region offering high end, curated experiences that show off the best that the region has to offer. I first discovered and fell in love with wine when I took the Intro to Wines class that Cornell offers in my senior year of undergrad, and since then always loved learning about and discovering wines. When we decided to start the company, it made a lot of sense for me to be in charge of developing and running the wine tour side of our business. Because of my background in food and nutrition, our tours have always incorporated some kind of experiential food and wine pairing to showcase the magic that happens when you bring the right combinations of flavors and textures together. In 2014, I began to offer wine pairing experiences outside the context of our tours. I felt that to best serve my clients, that I needed to put Finger Lakes wines within the context of the world of wines so that people understood its sense of place as a cool climate growing region. So that is when I set out to become a Sommelier. Since then, my growth as a wine professional really blossomed as there is endless opportunity to learn and expand upon your knowledge. Things really came full circle for me when I started teaching at the college level, as that was the original reason for getting my PhD. I always considered myself an educator, and it’s great to have an impact on young people interested in the wine industry and helping them connect with a career in the Finger Lakes. Today, I have a fantastic staff, so I don’t have to do many of our regular tours anymore, but it’s always great to see the excitement in guests’ eyes when they start to understand what is happening here in the region.”

Talita: “Could you tell us a little bit about your book?”

Laura: “I was approached by my publisher back in 2013 about writing a book that shares the richness of Finger Lakes history, and I immediately knew that if I was going to do it, it was going to be told from the culinary perspective. The book tells the story of the relationship between a region and the people who have lived here since the first native Americans settled here thousands of years ago. Each chapter tells about a particular culinary era in the Finger Lakes and includes a recipe that is indicative of that era that was created by one of the awesome regional chefs, and then I paired the recipe with a wine that complements the recipe both sensorially and historically.”

Talita: “Is there any organic and biodynamic wineries in Finger Lakes? How is this movement in Finger Lakes. ”

Laura: “To my knowledge there are not any certified organic or biodynamic wineries in the Finger Lakes. With most of the wineries being small, and the climate being so unpredictable, I don’t believe that investing in certification has made sense to people here to date. However, I know of a number of wineries and grape growers that incorporate organic and biodynamic principles into their practices. I think it may be more accurate to say that the producers creating quality wine here in the Finger Lakes follow sustainable practices to winemaking. They focus being very conscious about the environmental impacts of their growing practices, and many choose to have a minimalistic approach to manipulation in the winery, letting the vineyard do most of the talking. However, because this region is made up of so many small businesses, part of being sustainable is being economically sustainable as well. So, I think if you are going to use any one concept to describe the movement in the Finger Lakes, I would say it is a movement toward creating high quality, sustainably-minded wines.”

Talita: “Would you say that Finger Lakes region is similar to German wine regions? Why?”

Laura: “In lots of ways, yes. We are a cool-climate growing region, that relies on bodies of water to help moderate the cool temperatures, extend the season, and limit risks associate with the climate like frosts and cold winters. In Germany, it is their rivers, here in the Finger Lakes, its our deep lakes. We both plant our vines close to the water on the slopes to maximize air and water drainage, and the soils have similar characteristics. Our soils contain a lot of shale. Germany, particularly Mosel, has soils that contain slate, which is the metamorphized version of shale. Both regions battle the same kind of challenges to growing, but both also reap the benefits of cool climate grape growing by producing wines of beautiful aromatic fruit quality, minerality, and excellent acidic structure.”

Talita: “When comparing a Finger Lakes Riesling to a German Riesling, for example, in the same price point, with the same level of alcohol, is there any specific aroma or taste that tells you it is a Finger Lakes Riesling?”

Laura: “The Finger Lakes are really being recognized for beautiful dry Rieslings. The best are beautifully aromatic with bright stone fruits and citrus, an alluring minerality, medium alcohol and always a lip-smacking acidity that makes them so perfect for food pairing. I think Finger Lakes rieslings are some of the best food pairing wines in the world. ”

Talita: “What makes Finger Lakes wines special for you?”

Laura: “For me, what makes our wines stand out is their authenticity. Each wine from the quality producers in the region tells a story; not only of the place in which it is grown, but of the people producing it. Our producers of quality wine are united by their passion for this region and showing the world what we can do here. No one here is in it for the money. We do it because we love what we do and love sharing it and experiencing the excitement felt when you make that connection with someone who gets it.”

Talita: “What was the most recent label you tasted and enjoyed?”

Laura: “How much room do you have? Every season my team and I go out to all our partners out on the lakes and taste the current vintages in the tasting room so we can share our insights and experiences with the wines, and we just finished doing this, so there are lots of them!
Maybe I will highlight some our favorites during these recent tastings, then you can pick!
Bet the Farm Winery 2016 Gamay, Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2017 Dry Rose, Shepherdess Cellars 2014 Gewurtztraminer, Ports of New York Red Melleau, any of Silver Thread Vineyard’s 2016 dry rieslings, 2012 Red Newt Cellars Merlot, Damiani Wine Cellars Cabernet Franc (any vintage) , Flatt Rock Cellars 2013 Boulder Blend, Lakewood Vineyards Three Generations Riesling, Barnstormer’s 2017 Sangiovese Rose’, Barry Family Cellars 2016 Cab Franc, Anthony Road Wine Company 2014 Sparking Riesling, Osmote 2014 and Nine Four 2016 Chardonnays, Element 2013 Finger Lakes Pinot Noir, Fox Run Vineyards 2016 Lemberger, and Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Blanc de Blancs.
Not enough room to list all my favorites, but this is a good start ”

Talita: “What can a tourist expect from a Finger Lakes experience in the vineyards?”

Laura: “When a guest tours with Experience! The Finger Lakes, they are going to get an immersive experience where they will get out into the vineyards, taste wine out of the barrel or tank, taste a curated list of the best wines from each carefully vetted winery, experience a specifically-designed food and wine pairing featuring local finger lakes cheeses, chocolates and other delectables, and enjoy lunches featuring locally-sourced ingredients. This is all weaved together by the best tour guides in the region who will share their knowledge, their stories, and their love for everything Finger Lakes with them!”

Thank you! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *