Story and photo by Lauren Chamberlain
It seems sacrilegious to say that it took me an entire month after my twenty-first birthday to visit a winery and have a tasting. Especially considering I go to school at Keuka College and have a cabin in the Finger Lakes region. I knew I could go no longer without doing so. My goal for this past weekend was to understand the wine tasting process and start to narrow in on the kind of wines I like. As I wanted to stay within my familiar territory, I ventured to Dr. Konstantin Frank and Keuka Spring Vineyard around Keuka Lake.
I — as a self-declared history nerd — love learning about traditions that survive civilizations and centuries. It can be found that the first records of wine and winemaking can be farthest dated back to 6000 BCE in early Middle Eastern civilizations. To know that this experience and delicacy dates to early humanity, makes this much more exciting for me to finally be able to indulge in.
Every winery I walked into, even if they are quite busy — which in the height of summer and wine season, they typically are—we are quickly attended to and set up for a wine tasting. Most range anywhere from five to fifteen dollars a person. I walked into this adventure with extensive apprehension. I worried that I would feel out of place and completely lost and judged based on my lack of knowledge. I can thankfully say that was not the reality. I was able to select multiple wines from lists that broke down the different available categories. This was perfect for me as I was about as lost as a ball in high grass when it came to wine.
The most memorable aspect of my first wine experiences was learning about the wine process such as the effects of aging wine, “wine bottle shock”, grape farming, and wine-tasting etiquette. I learned that they start with the lighter white wines to not have your palate be muddled by darker red wines first. This is because white wine doesn’t have the same level of tannins as red. I tasted different Rieslings varieties, after a contemplative sniff and a swirl to see the wine’s “legs”—which I learned showed a higher alcohol content and therefore a richer wine texture and body—I lifted the glass to my ignorant lips and tried to focus on the flavors and notes. The same pattern followed a myriad of White wines, Rosés, Red wines, Bubbly wines, and a sweet dessert wine.
In the end, I learned I really am not a fan of red nor sweet dessert wines. The one that stood out was the Bubbly red wine I tried. I, shocking to no one, loved the “rare”, or rather uncommon, bubbly red wine. It was tangy but not acidic, with a faint hint of sweet summer strawberries. The bubbles were mild and pleasantly sparkled over my tongue.
Wine and grape farming is a trait of this region, so I find a great drive to learn more about it and educate myself in it. You cannot travel anywhere without seeing the vast rows of grape vines and striking signs for the dozens of wineries that work hard to create delicious traditional and unique wines. As a New York resident and a student at Keuka College, I love being able to experience more of what this region has to offer. The more I learn and explore I feel more immersed in the culture and community—as well as with humanity as I partake in something that connects us through centuries.