“LOCATIONS” — An Exploration of Regional Wines @ Roanoke Vineyards

Now that two of the tastings have come and gone, I guess it’s time for me to write about the “LOCATIONS” program that I’ve been co-hosting at Roanoke Vineyards with Scott Sandell, creative director. In a nutshell, the LOCATIONS program is a series of tastings that I’m leading that offer the 25 or so lucky attendees the opportunity to taste and learn about wines from places they may not have explored before.


We started back in August with a tasting of six Finger Lakes rieslings — from bone dry up through a sweeter (but still balanced) style — all from the 2014 vintage at a variety of pricepoints. We poured the wines one at a time, I offered some background on the producers, the vineyard or winemaking styles and then we tasted together. This was my first time leading a group this size through a tasting and it was fascinating. Although it was a mostly red wine-drinking audience made of predominantly of Roanoke wine club members, the reaction was great. I dare say I even changed some “riesling equals sweet” minds that evening.


This past weekend, our second session — titled “Cabernet Franc Above 125th Street” — focused on cabernet franc from across New York state. Now, I know that a lot of Long Island wine lovers don’t think much of anything outside of riesling from upstate, so we did this tasting blind. All seven wines were poured before our attendees even entered the room. When people sat down, I gave my usual schpiel about how great cabernet franc is and how it’s really New York’s red wine — because it is so successful in all but the harshest northern climes. Then everyone dove into their glasses, swirling, sniffing and taking note of their favorites.

Blind tasting is definitely the great equalizer. The most popular wine was probably the Roanoke Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc, a wine deserving of praise, but quite a few people in the room picked out the Eveningside Vineyards 2014 and the Tousey Vineyards 2013 Reserve as their favorites. People who thought they only liked big, burly cabernet franc with a decided oak profile were delighted with the light-bodied silky complexity of the unoaked Lamoreaux Landing 2014 T23.

Where are we going to go next with LOCATIONS? Scott and I are working that out right now. We’re going to do one more in 2016, probably in December, and then we’ll do one every other month starting in February or March. Scott will probably rein me in a bit, but I want to put a table full of wines from Virginia or Maryland or Michigan in front of these folks. Maybe we do a tasting of east coast pet nats. Maybe we’ll even do a — gasp! — chardonnay tasting at some point, too.

I’m eternally thankful that the folks at Roanoke are being so supportive and encouraging. It makes it great fun and hopefully with time I’ll get a whole lot better at leading these things.

How can you get into one of the LOCATIONS tastings? Make sure you join the Roanoke Vineyards mailing list. Their rabid tribe of wine club members scoop up the limited spots quickly, but I’m hoping to find a way to get more of my tribe involved too.

Comments (2):

  1. Bruce Stevens

    October 18, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I was fortunate to have attended the first two “Locations” tastings. Which is a great way to familiarize yourself with wines (and wineries) you have not yet tasted. And because the “Cabernet Franc Above 125th Street” was a blind tasting, it was not just great fun but eye-opening. My favorite wine at this tasting was not the Cab Franc from Roanoke or Hermann J. Weimer (which is what I would have predicted before the tasting), but from Eveningside Vineyards, a winery in the Niagara Escarpment. Which is what these tastings are about: Not just confirming what you like, but discovering something new! Hmmmm. Sounds like I have the beginning of my next blog!

  2. John Goodfellow

    October 18, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    My wife Terry and I have been touring Virginia wineries each October for nearly 20 years. These are mostly in the Blue Hills area around Charlottesville. The changes in quality of the Virginia producers over that span of time is remarkably similar to what we have witnessed here on Long Island. They have the luxury of a slightly warmer and longer growing season, and a heck of a lot more farmland to devote to our favorite fruit. But I would love to see some of the Virginia producers’ efforts presented at a Roanoke event.
    Yes, you can label us among that rabid tribe of Roanoke Wine Club Members. 🙂
    Keep up the good work Lenn , and thank you!


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