This past Wednesday evening I set out on a trek across a large part of North America to get to the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference which was being held in Corning, NY, in the Finger Lakes wine region. In order to reach the conference it took me an hour and a half drive on either side, plus three flights (including one in a plane so small there was only one seat either side of the aisle, and it was open to the cockpit) and layover time in airports for a total travel time of about 16 hours. Not the easiest conference to attend, but not the longest travel time either (that goes to last year’s IWINETC)! Once I arrived though, I was very glad to have made the effort. My attendance was also due to the wonderful efforts of the WBC Scholarship Fund, which paid for my registration fees, hotel accommodation as well as a generous sum toward my flight costs. Without that, I would not have been able to attend this year’s conference.
Corning, New York, is somewhere that I never really knew existed, or I had certainly never put much thought into it. However, in some way it’s been a part of the majority of my life. Anybody who has spent any time in a kitchen is familiar with CorningWare and Pyrex glassware; my grandparents and parents always had them as a part of their kitchens and they’re a part of mine now too. These have all been produced in Corning for over 100 years now. Also, the vast majority of our television screens and smartphone screens these days are all manufactured there as well. I wish I had had more time to explore the Corning Museum of Glass. I took part in a quick tour of the museum just prior to the Opening Wine Reception on the Thursday evening. The recent expansion of the museum is architecturally stunning, providing a naturally lit space that allows the sunlight to play with the glass exhibits, particularly in the “porch” of the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries. The museum boasts a collection spanning over 3500 years of history from around the world on display, as well as an innovation gallery, live hot glass shows (which we were all treated to as part of the Saturday evening conference program), and workshops to make your own glass! Corning is a quaint small town in upstate New York. I noticed a real sense of community and everybody pulled together to make us wine bloggers feel welcome. Almost every business along Market Street had posters in their windows welcoming us to town. There seemed to be a sense of pride in the community as well; the streets were all clean and the buildings were kept up nicely, maintaining their heritage feel.
The Conference kicked off with the Opening Wine Reception in Riverfront Park, “Taste of the Gaffer District”, co-sponsored by the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, Finger Lakes Wine Country and the Corning Area Chamber of Commerce. It featured the restaurants of Corning’s Gaffer District and the wines of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. This offered many of us our first ever sampling of wines from the Finger Lakes region. I know that, certainly in BC, I haven’t come across any. Particular stand-out wines that I found included the Dry and Semi-Dry Rieslings from Dr. Konstantin Frank, the Gewürztraminers & Vignoles from Keuka Spring. The tasty white wines didn’t come as any particular surprise to me as I knew that the Finger Lakes Wine Country is a cool climate growing region, however some reds really did surprise me. I would have thought that there might be some nice Pinot Noirs (comparing simply to the not-so-distant Niagara region), however that was not what impressed me most. The Reserve Blaufränkisch from Heron Hill and the Blaufränkisch from Vineyard View Winery, the Cabernet Francs from McGregor Vineyards and Ravine’s Wine Cellars, and to my biggest surprise I found some the Georgian varietal Saperavi in McGregor Vineyards’ Black Russian Red – so delicious! In between wine tastings I sampled some of the delicious bites provided by the Gaffer District restauranteurs. Hand + Foot made up some delicious (and visually pleasing) sandwiches with chèvre, mango, jalapeno chutney, carrot and radicchio on rye-sourdough bread. Wegmans offered some fabulous cow’s milk & goat’s milk cheeses. The Site Cyber Bar & Grill had the most decadent-yet-light chocolate mousse cake, which I ended up devouring rather than photographing. Poppleton Bakery & Café made bite-sized red wine chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting.
Following the reception, the Canadian contingent opened up an invitation to anybody (particularly the Americans in attendance) to sample some Canadian wines from most of the regions within BC, plus some from Ontario as well, that we had all brought with us from home. I had brought a few wines myself, plus the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country had sent me with a selection of wines. This particular evening I brought out a Chardonnay from Burrowing Owl Vineyards, a Merlot from Nk’Mip Cellars, and a Viognier from Liquidity Wines. Other wines on offer included some from Haywire Wines, Time Estate, Serendipity, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Lighthall Vineyards, Blue Grouse, Monte Creek Ranch, and Rosehall Run. Based on how overcrowded the room was, and that the bottles were all drunk dry, I would say that the Canadian wines were a hit and that we need a bigger room next year! By this point I had been awake for the better part of 36 hours, so it was off to bed to rest up for the next few days full of wine, conference sessions, and more wine again. Stay tuned for upcoming posts.