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Have liver, will travel

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Word to the Wise

February is half over, and warmer weather is soon to return. The Alcotourist and I are looking forward to a foray into Long Island wines the moment the ground thaws. And not a moment later, lest we be overrun by crowds of tour busses. I am reminded, not at all fondly, of our misadventure at Rivendell winery in the Hudson Valley.

The Alcotourist and I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the New York State wines we've tasted. There have been a few stand-out rieslings, sparklers, and cab francs to give us hope for our new home state. The tasting rooms of Vintage have been especially good promoters of the best New York has to offer, and I always enjoy stopping by their SoHo location for a few sips and a look around. Because of our pleasant encounter there with a riesling from Rivendell, we decided to take a trip to the winery itself. It was early fall, and we enjoyed the crisp air and scenic drive... until we reached the parking lot. There were two tour busses and at least twenty cars (two parking lots!). We entered warily. What we saw turned our stomachs like a bottle of cabernet left ten years in a boiler room: a winding assembly line of "tasters" moving through to get their swig with no description of the what they were tasting, no interaction at all. As we approached, two stumbling young women left the line, downing their fresh pours, and one said to the other, "Oh, my god, I'm so drunk!" Her friend grabbed onto her as if she herself might topple over any second, glass in hand. The Alcotourist and I hurried out the door without trying a thing.

The Alcotourist and I understand that Rivendell couldn't help the busloads of tourists (though they could have prevented the stumbling drunks, I say). But I do wish that they had chosen to announce to the group what the wine was, what its characteristics were, and then allowed each a taste. As it was, the pourers informed gulpers simply of wine names or varietals if asked, then moved them along.

I also believe their determination to attract large crowds led to this display. Rivendell doesn't just sample their own wines at the winery; the room serves as another Vintage tasting room location. In fact, I was disappointed to discover from their list that the only Rivendell wine we could have tried that day was the same riesling we had already tasted at Vintage in the city. While I applaud their efforts to reach a large audience with the finest of New York's wine, they got a little too much of what they asked for. If you set up an assembly line-style service, you get stumbling, drunk assembly line-style tasters. A little intro into the world of appreciation could have gone a long way.


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