Wine Q & A: You Asked, We Listened

by Jason Feulner

I appreciate the interesting questions submitted by readers thus far and encourage you to keep them coming. Please send all queries to Your curiosity about Finger Lakes wine – and wine in general – can help spur this column to explore areas with a fun and informative approach.

And, as the cliché goes, please remember that there is no such thing as a “stupid” question. If you’re wondering about something related to wine and the wine industry, undoubtedly someone else is as well. Don’t hesitate and email a question in today!

Q: How does one get started in the wine industry?

Kevin O’Neil
Lowell, Massachusetts

A: Only a few years ago, the answer to this question was far simpler than it is today. If you wanted to get started in the wine industry, you just sort of got started. As time has gone on, however, there has been greater formalization in all areas of the industry, whether you’re talking viticulture, winemaking, cellar management, or tasting room management. It’s no longer about getting an entry-level position and seeing where it takes you. More and more, wineries are becoming serious businesses that hire people with both experience and education.

With that in mind, I consulted Paul Brock who serves as Assistant Professor of Viticulture and Wine Technology at Finger Lakes Community College. Paul is also the owner/winemaker at Silver Thread Vineyard on Seneca Lake along with his wife, Shannon.

“You should start by learning as much as you can about the wine industry,” Paul writes. “Early education could be reading books, going to short classes like those taught at the New York Kitchen, and maybe joining a tasting club like American Wine Society or Women for Wine Sense. You may also want to take a course like Introduction to Wines and Vines at FLCC, or get a certification like Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) or Certified Sommelier. You should also try to meet people in the industry to hear their stories and network.’ 

“There are many pathways into the industry, but formal education is becoming more and more important. The Viticulture and Wine Technology associates in applied science degree offered at Finger Lakes Community College offers hands-on experience and will prepare you for a career in either winemaking or grape growing.”

Q: Does anyone publish a vintage chart for the Finger Lakes?

Ken Battle
Romulus, New York

A: This is a bit of a stumper. Of course, I thought to myself, there has to be a vintage chart somewhere, but no matter how I’ve racked my brain I can’t come up with a single example or source. It might exist, but I have to admit I’ve never seen one despite vintages being a common topic amongst Finger Lakes wine enthusiasts.

I think this question gets to the heart of what the Finger Lakes is and isn’t at this stage of its development as a wine region. Well-established regions, like Bordeaux or Napa Valley, are closely analyzed by critics/writers and, over time, consensus develops on vintages. The corresponding charts in various magazines and books provide a guide to curious readers and buyers about which vintages are considered the very best.

And while I do believe there is a great deal of consensus among regional observers about the standout vintages vs. the disappointing vintages within the Finger Lakes (say the glorious 2005 with the far more difficult 2006), as a whole the region has only recently begun to attract external critical attention.

Furthermore, many of the highest quality wineries in the Finger Lakes are still within their first decade of prominence and therefore it’s hard to rely on charts when even recent history doesn’t reflect the full body of the region.

Vintage charts are a hallmark of a mature wine region, and the Finger Lakes is certainly getting there year by year. Perhaps we’ll see more attempts to assemble Finger Lakes vintage charts in the very near future.

Please send all queries about Finger Lakes wine – and wine in general – to

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