Wednesday, August 14, 2013
BEN PEACOCK OF TOUSEY WINERY: THE EAST COAST WINERIES INTERVIEW
"Peacock, a former assistant at the Houses of Parliament in London, never imagined becoming a winemaker, but once he signed on, he embraced his commitment with gusto--he took a class to "brush up and make sure my chemistry was up to snuff," and enlisted the aid of wine consultant Peter Bell of Fox Run Vineyards (widely credited with bringing up the level of the wines of the Finger Lakes). Bell and his assistant, Tricia Renshaw, both now work with Peacock," reported Robin Cherry in The Valley Table magazine. Ben also worked alongside and now has as his consultant famed Long Island vineyard manager Steve Mudd.
Ben married Kimberly Tousey, and the two started off on the idea of a winery. Ray Tousey, a well know beekeeper/farmer, had been selling cassis made with his own honey and locally grown black currants. Ben and Kimberly have expanded the operation twice since then.
Ben has always associated himself with some of the best in the industry. He studies up, he's a great student, and a bit of stardust is starting to settle on himself and the winery. Tousey Winery Pinot Noir has drawn raves from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Snooth, the New York Cork Report,and many others. Their wines are well liked and carefully made.
I see Ben less than I would like, and we don;t spend nearly as much time together as I would like, but here's some insight from one of the hottest up-and-comers in New York state! And I think he's one of the smartest, sharpest young people in wine today. Someone to watch out for!
- C. DeVito, Editor
What is the biggest challenge facing wine in your state today?
I would say supply, throughout the chain, is one of the biggest challenges we face in the industry.
I recall the story of a secret NY Riesling tasting held by a highly regarded Steak house chain. They picked a particular Riesling and then contacted the producer to set up an account. They ordered a pallet of wine (approx. 60 cases) and distributed them to all their restaurants nationwide. Within three weeks, the winery received another call from the restaurant chain saying they’d sold out and they would need another pallet. Fantastic news! This happened several months in row, until the winery ran out of wine four months in. The producer inevitably lost the account.
This is a great story as it shows how highly rated and sought after NY wines can be. But it also shows we have work to do to sustain its demand. This means, an increase in vineyard acreage of our best varieties, higher production of our finer wines and a more concentrated distribution.
We produce plenty of great wine here in NY but consumers outside our immediate locale have little to no chance of getting their hands on it. And if consumers out of state can’t get NY wine, how are they going to learn about it?
What is the difference between wine in your region from ten years ago to today?
I’ve only been around for the last four years but in that time the quality of Hudson Valley wines in particular are steadily on the rise. And this is probably down to increased competition locally (it has to be good!) and the continued success of the Finger Lakes, driving us on.
Where do you think wine in your region will be 10 years from now?
Providing the weather cooperates, I see only good things to come. Riesling will be firmly established as the go to white in NY, if not the US. And by that I mean, NY Riesling will be a household name, seen on most restaurant lists etc, etc (I hope!).
What’s the trend in wine in your region that has surprised you the most in the last 2-5 years?
It hasn’t surprised me but I have enjoyed the increase in demand for Dry Rosé. And about time too.
Is there a new trend you expect to see in the next 2-3 years?
Not a new trend but more Riesling, more Rosé.
Do you find liquor stores and wine shops have been a good partner for your state grown wines? What have been some challenges?
I would say on the whole, wine stores have been a good partner for us. Many are enthusiastic about what we do and proactively promote us, which is great. The biggest challenge for us is account management. Sometimes, we don’t get to see some of our accounts often enough due to the sheer lack of man power.
Region wineries sometimes find it hard to sell wines outside of their state. How easy or difficult is it for your wineries to export their wines to other states…countries?
It’s so difficult we don’t know where to start! We have many customers across the country who’d like to buy our wine on a regular basis. But due to the complex shipping and tax regulations sending wine out of state, they’re unable to do so. We will get there one day, however.
How big a part do festivals and farm markets play in your state‘s wine distribution?
Farmers’ markets tend to play a bigger role than wine festivals. They give us a chance to connect regularly with customers in different parts of the region. It’s also a good way to connect with local restaurants and strike up potential partnerships with other businesses.
What are the challenges of getting your wines covered by local press and the wine media?
To meet demand, some of our wines are released on the early side. This means by time the wine is ready to show to a wine writer, it’s typically sold out!
We only have three vintages behind us so, so wine media wise, we’re not really on anyone’s radar. But hopefully this will change over time.
Are their any media streams that you have found that are more effective than not?
Many people would probably sing the praises of Facebook and Twitter but for us, Tripadvisor is the most effective in bringing people through the door. A large number of our first time visitors have seen and been influenced by a review seen on the site.
Are there any fears you may have too many wineries in your state?
It all depends where you are in the state. Being located in the Hudson Valley, I don’t have any fears about the amount of wineries. If I were in the Finger Lakes, however, I would be a tad concerned about the amount of choices on hand.
Are you finding there are enough grape growers to fill the demand created by wineries in your state?
No, not nearly enough. Getting our hands on good Riesling, Pinot Noir and Lemberger is always a struggle both in the HV and across the state.
Here are some links: