Keep Your Eye on Wine Lists for NY Wines
by Margaret McCormick - Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Next time you’re at a restaurant or liquor store, ask about New York wines.

Have you ever visited a local restaurant, scanned the wine list for Finger Lakes selections and found a token Riesling and token red — or nothing at all?

For years, the state’s wine industry has struggled to persuade local restaurants to carry wines from their own backyard. A new TasteNY promotion appearing in some national magazines this month encourages New Yorkers to drink New York.

“Next time you’re at a restaurant or liquor store, ask about New York wines,” the ad says.

Michael Warren Thomas, host of the Savor Life radio program on WYSL-AM (1040) in Rochester, wants consumers take it a step further.

“I’ve been complaining for 10 years on the radio about the lack of local wines on restaurant wine lists,” Thomas says. “We’re aiming to turn up the pressure.’’

In the summer, Thomas launched New York Wine Spotting, a campaign with what he thinks is an achievable goal: a shift in restaurants to wine lists comprised of one-third New York State wines. For now, the program is focused on Rochester restaurants, but Thomas plans to expand it throughout the state.

It started in the spring, when Thomas visited more than 100 Rochester-area restaurants, pored over their wine lists, recorded how many Finger Lakes wines were offered by the bottle and by the glass and gave each restaurant a ranking based on the percentage of local wines featured. Not one restaurant could claim a wine list made up of 50 percent New York wines.

Leading the list is Simply Crepes, in Pittsford, with 44 percent Finger Lakes wines. Most restaurants offer considerably less than that.

To see a list of the Top 10 Rochester restaurants, visit the NY Wine Spotting Facebook page.

What’s discouraging about the numbers, Thomas says, is that Finger Lakes wines aren’t new on the scene. They earn accolades and win gold medals. The region’s Riesling is world-class.

“Finger Lakes wines are recognized around the world,” Thomas says. “They deserve our support.”

What can Central New Yorkers do to advocate for more Finger Lakes wines in restaurants? They can be a “NY Wine Spotter.”

To begin, “like” NY Wine Spotting on Facebook and share posts. Follow NY Wine Spotting on Twitter (@nywinespotting) and Instagram (nywinespotting). Share in posts and photos where you ate, what you ate and what Finger Lakes wine you paired with your meal. Use the hashtags #nywinespotting, #nywinespot and #flxwine to talk up and identify restaurants with Finger Lakes wines.

If you’re in the Finger Lakes, look for NY Wine Spotting cards at wineries and take some to fill out and leave at restaurants. “I’ve got my eye on you,” they read. “Love your food, love your place, wish you had more Finger Lakes wines on your wine list. … I love the wines from ______________ and would really love to enjoy their wines here.”

NY Wine Spotting is just starting to roll and needs reinforcement in the field, Thomas says.

“Things are going to change,’’ he says. “It’s just a matter of how fast.’’