Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Visit to Red Newt Winery and Cafe in the Finger Lakes

I was up in the Finger Lakes last week, not the least of which, I was up for the wine festival that was held there last week.

But one of the major things on my "to-do list" was to visit Red Newt. Firstly, Red Newt is always on my "must go" list almost any time I am up in the Finger Lakes. The restaurant is superb, and the wines are incredible.

However, where I usually yank the door open with abandon, zealous for the culinary delights awaiting me inside, I opened the door more curious and with the sense of opening up a church door this time. With the passing of Deb Whiting, mine and my friends' visit was as much an homage to her, and to her husband Dave, as it was a visit down a wonderful culinary yellow brick road.

There were gentle reminders of her passing. Photos of her and with Dave set next to small bouquets of flowers. For those who had met her and understood her importance to the New York wine industry, they were well placed but not intrusive. They were kind reminders, memorials.

The diningroom was half filled, and as we ate, more people came in. The restaurant was abuzz with activity. People ordered sandwiches and meals, salads and desserts, and of course various wines. In the tastingroom, people milled about, tasting wines, and buying t-shirts and hats.

And there, on one of the walls, was another tribute by the staff, to Deb.

We tasted some wonderful wines. The Glacier Ridge Vineyard wines continue to impress. I am a big fan of the Cabernet Franc, and Merlot (new to me anyway) did not fail to impress either. Big red, ripe fruit, with lots of plum, dark raspberry, and dark cherry, and a hint of plum and vanilla. A wonderful, well balanced red. Very well made. Elegant.

The 2007 Dry Riesling was also exceptional. Bright, with crisp granny smith green apple and a nice, citrus ending, this was a stellar wine. Lots of mineral textures. Refreshing and light. Fabulous!

And of course I couldn't sneak out without a taste of the circle label riesling either. Always a dependable, classic riesling.

But there was something odd in my visit, that I could not get my head around until after I had long left it. People were laughing, eating with joy, drinking wine and chatting, and the business of the winery hummed. And remember finding it discncerting. After all, a wonderful activist, someone who had truly made an impact, had slipped through our fingers. Why wasn't the tone more sombre? More respectful? And of course, the ultimate tribute to what Deb and Dave built is just that. They had created their own little culinary Oz, and the laughter and good times that go along with great food and great wine will far out distance anything thing we can write. The laughter and happiness that those folks expereince as they experience it is the real tribute.