Saratoga Springs Winery and Tasting Room

Horse themed, EVERYWHERE! Caitlin Shapiro Photo.

What started out as a romantic weekend turned into somewhat of a do-nothing wine-coma Saturday afternoon; nothing the spa can’t cure. Originally I wanted to visit the Finger Lakes with my boyfriend, Brad, but we wanted to find an inn or hotel that also had a spa. But seeing that everything was booked or $1,000+ for 2 nights, we decided to shift our focus to different parts of New York. We settled on Saratoga Springs, as it satisfied our requirements: historic hotel, spa, a winery close by and interesting restaurants.

It’s time to step out of the Finger Lakes winery realm anyway… but not too far away.

Wine stump. Caitlin Shapiro Photo.

And that’s exactly how we stumbled upon The Saratoga Springs Winery and Tasting Room, a winery that hand selects it’s grapes primarily from the Finger Lakes; my comfort zone. It’s a fairly new and quirky winery that has been around since the early 2000′s. The tasting room is decorated in a rustic, simple way with stacked barrels, sanded wood slabs that act as makeshift counter tops and its theme focuses on horses, which I’m guessing is due to the famous Saratoga racetracks. The people who work at the tasting room are helpful, relaxed and were able to answer my 1,001 questions about popular local restaurants. While we were there one man was bottling wine fresh out of the barrel which he let us try, while he raved about how much he loved his job.

Glasses available for purchase in the tasting room. Caitlin Shapiro Photo.

Whenever I walk into small wineries, I feel like I’m home. There always seems to be a contagious spirit of those who own and are employed by these close knit environments, and this place was no different.

They charged $1 per taste, but there were about 15 choices on the list. I have a fear of picking only a few to try when I go to a tasting because I think I’m going to pick the wrong one and walk away from a potential favorite wine. So, when in doubt, try them all… but be safe. We started with the white wines, faded to red wines, and capped off with their signature style of wine, a melomel, which is a mead, or honey wine, that contains fruit. We tried four variations, one white and three red. The flavor was similar to a port or sherry and I think they would pair well with a very dark piece of chocolate. Wine and chocolate are cliché for a good reason.

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Pure Wine Glass Talent

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Hip Wineries Login to Facebook

It’s no secret that social media has changed the face of communication all over the world, just ask protestors from the Middle East to Wall Street. So it’s no wonder that companies have used the networking sites to their advantage when it comes to reaching new audiences. Even wineries, which – let’s be honest, have an older, more conservative following, are looking to social media as a way to connect with young wine-lovers.

“What we’ve started to notice is that millennials are open to anything,” said Lorraine Hems, a certified Sommelier and Rochester Institute of Technology professor who teaches classes about wine. She attributes the seemingly growing interest among young people to the Internet. With access to websites like Wine Woot, an online marketplace for heavily discounted wine and wine products, and Youtube, where people can learn how to simply uncork a wine bottle, to various downloadable wine apps for smart phones, Hems agreed, “There’s more information than ever before.”

Hems thinks that the surge in wine culture popularity in young adults is because communication between people from different walks of life are enhanced by features like Facebook and blogging.

“Wine brings people from different backgrounds together,” she said. Rochester Winos, a Facebook group based out of Rochester, has a following of about 1,600 people. “Friends,” seem to range from experts and big names from Finger Lakes to the average Joe who just wants to read about wine reviews, free local tastings, local wine authors, and wine and food pairing suggestions.

One avid Facebooker has dared to mix the social media trend with the sophisticated and refined, sometimes stuffy, historic culture of wine lovers: partial Zugibe Vineyards owner, Brendan Zugibe.

As one of the younger vineyard owners found in the Finger Lakes, Zugibe, 33, is trying to maintain a humble and modest wine environment both online and in the tasting room. “It’s about staying personal,” he said. “We’re young and fresh and want to be informative.” He admits that he and his co-owners, his older and younger brothers, use Facebook more than their website. “It’s so important to interact – if someone posts something it’s good to be able to respond,” said Brenden.

But one millennial doesn’t see trend. “I think wine hasn’t approached young people yet,” said Chantal Lichota, 21, a graphic design student at the Rochester Institute of Technology who worked as a teacher’s assistant in Hems’ Wines of the World course. “They don’t know what all these flavors mean and how to find them in the wine,” she said about the average naïve wine drinker.

Fellow RIT student, Abby Holland, also 21, and food management student disagrees with Lichota. “I like knowing about what I enjoy,” she said. “I love to find out about food, so with wine I’ve just become a geek about it.”

Young adults have been given access to the refined world of wine through the social media language they understand. It seems that they’re ready to try anything and become more involved with wine and wine culture. These outlets are helping millennials explore and converse about wine, and give promise to a developing future network of wine lovers.

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Phoenix in the Finger Lakes

The wine label logo of Zugibe Vineyards certainly has a personal connection to its founders. In June of 2005, Frederick Zugibe II, a cardiologist from the small town of Newark in upstate New York, began Zugibe Vineyards on Seneca Lake. Along with his wife, Anna, and their three sons, Frederick III, Brenden and Sean, the winery became a family business.

But in November 2006, Frederick II died suddenly and unexpectedly. On the morning of the day Frederick II passed away, he was having his coffee and doodling logo ideas on a piece of paper. He had a rough sketch of a shield with a “Z” in the center.

Since Zugibe is a Lebanese name, and the Lebanese are descendants of the Phoenicians, the brothers chose the mythical bird, a Phoenix, and paired it their father’s sketch of the shield to represent their story.

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Toga Parties Just Got Serious…

Despite the notorious reputation of the beer-binging, body-shot-taking college student depicted in films like Animal House and Van Wilder, new studies show an increased consumption of WINE among young crowds. Will this lead to a more sophisticated college lifestyle? Doubtful… college knows how to make everything trashy :-P

A 2006 study conducted by the Wine Market Council found that the number of wine drinkers in America increased 31% between 2000 and 2005. They concluded that the two main reasons for the increase were younger generations consuming more wine and older generations learning about the relationship between wine and better health.

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I like… cheap wine?

Wine is never cheap… just inexpensive.

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After 9/11, Businessman Finds the Finger Lakes

Once a businessman working for Morgan Stanley in New York City, Will Ouweleen explained that he’d show off his posh palate by ordering pricey wines for potential clients. He lost his job at Morgan Stanley, the office located in the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001. “I knew my high profile career was over, it was a sign,” he said of the attacks on the towers that followed the next day.

He moved to upstate New York, and wound up living behind one of the oldest operating wineries in the “New World,” Eagle Crest Vineyards, on Hemlock Lake. When the vineyard went up for sale, Ouweleen thought this might be a good opportunity to try out the small business lifestyle. Although the vineyard mainly produced sacrificial wines, in the last six years, since Ouweleen has been in the picture, the winery now produces table wines – wines made for everyday drinking – as well.

“We’re the next up and coming region,” he said of the New York wine region. “We’re producing world class wines.” His tactic is to use grapes that people from all over the world are familiar with, and then introduce them to wine made from grapes that are only found in New York State. “The challenge is to introduce the world to something only we produce,” he said. He said that a marketing challenge for New York state wine producers is “figuring out who we are.”

Another challenge on his plate is the pressure to stay current. Besides the religious side of the business, Eagle Crest Vineyards’ target groups are locavores, foodies and millennials. The millennial generation are those who were born between the mid-1970s and early 2000s; the young adults of today. “The only reason millennials aren’t the top market is because we don’t have any on our staff,” he said. “I was doing kegs of beer in college, not wine, but it’s changing.”

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