Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Billsboro Winery - Some Places You Just Like to Go Back To

How many times have I been to Billsboro Winery? I can't even begin to count. But I know this - it's just one of those places that I love to back to. The tastingroom staff is friendly and professional. The tasting atmosphere is enjoyable. There's lot of chochkies and eye-candy in the tasting room to keep you entertained without being annoying. Oh, yeah, and the wines? Amazing!

I did this tasting sometime late last summer, so I am behind a bit, but the wines here are always fantastic, whatever time of year you go!
Billsboro Winery sits on 28 acres overlooking the northern end of Seneca Lake. Since 2007, Vinny and Kim Aliperti, along with their three children, embarked on a quest to create great dry wines from locally grown grapes.

Vinny Aliperti, Owner and Winemaker, has been hooked on winemaking for over 15 years. Starting out in the Hamptons of Long Island, he apprenticed for three vintages (1997- 1999) at Wolffer Estate under long-time winemaker Roman Roth, producing mostly Chardonnay and Merlot. In early 2000, Vinny moved his family to the Finger Lakes to work at the legendary Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, where he was first exposed to Riesling production. In 2001 Vinny joined then startup Atwater Estate Vineyards, where he continues today heading up winemaking operations of over 15 different varieties. Vinny's winemaking style is often described as crisp and fruit-driven with a focus on creating intense but balanced wines. His dynamic approach has earned him praise both locally and nationally, including several write-ups in The Wine Spectator and New York Cork Report.

Kimberly Aliperti, Owner and Operations Manager, is a former Peace Corps volunteer and high school English teacher. She is especially devoted to children and is an active member in many civic organizations in the Geneva community. A long-time wine enthusiast, Kim was the impetus in moving forward to purchase Billsboro Winery in 2007. Kim puts her classroom and boardroom skills to work in juggling all the elements involved in running Billsboro, one of the Finger Lakes best destination's for wine tastings and special events.

So, the Sauvignon Blanc 2012 was absolutely fantastic. Big, bright, bold, clean, refreshing with a big hand of tropical fruits and citrus notes, this is a light, elegant wine with a great ending. A lovely food wine or a great sipper. Writing this now reminds me, I need to go up and pick up a bottle or two, despite the crappy winter weather...spring and/or summer is coming. And I'll want a few bottles of this.

I love Anthony's Pinot noir. And this 2011 was no exception. Beautiful bright cherry, in this light-to-medium bodied red wine. Great fruit and great acidity make this a lovely wine that finishes long. Grown on the southeastern slopes of Seneca Lake, it has a nice hint of pepper on the finish, with notes of vanilla and a hint of bright red currant? Fabulous! One of the nicest reds in the Finger Lakes region.

Anthony's Cabernet Franc is always lovely. Bright and medium-bodied ripe cherry, with hints of plum, hints of red raspberry, vanilla and anise. Beautiful Chinon-styled red wine.

This was a surprise. A beautiful medium-bodied blend of Cabernet and Syrah. Nice dark fruits of blackberry, dark cherry and dark raspberry. Lovely purple-reddish color. I love blends, and this is a perfect example why. Lots of lovely fruit, with no holes in the wine, which sometimes varietal wines will give you. This was a nice, big surprise at Billsboro. A very handsome wine that begs for grilled pork chops or a small steak, or a grilled Portobello mushroom. Beautiful. 

This is always one of my favorites. The fruit is grown at Sawmill Creek Vineyards They made less than 100 cases of this stuff. It's got a residual sugar of 19%. Honey, apricot, peach, and hints of fig all come across on the nose and in your mouth. A luscious, unctuous wine, with enough acidity to keep the sugar in check. Beautifully balanced.
Anthony remains amongst my favorite winemakers in the Finger Lakes. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Meet Sam Filler - The Most Popular Man in New York Wine

OK, so you have to know first that winery, brewery, distillery, and cidery owners are a fairly cynical bunch. Not a lot rocks their boats. Not a lot makes them hoot and holler - except booze. So it was with great delight then, when I attended the recent, second Wine, Beers, Spirits, and Cider Summit in Albany last week, a singular exception occurred.

Any time the name Sam Filler was mentioned, and it was mentioned many times, the owners would begin to clap, whistle, and generally exclaim like I have never seen before. It was like a casino full of armed bandit types with their cups full of quarters all hit the jackpot at the same time! Near bedlam! What makes a bunch of cranky business owners cheer for an Albany state government representative at 10 o'clock in the morning? He's not giving away money. He can't even make a parking ticket go away. Who is this guy?!

He Sam Filler! The answer man!

Samuel Filler currently leads Governor Cuomo’s Craft Beverage Initiative at Empire State Development. Samuel served as the Director of Programs for the Transportation and Land Use Collaborative (TLUC), an urban planning consulting firm in Southern California that specialized in stakeholder engagement in Latino communities. He was also selected to be a Coro Fellow in Southern California and an Americorps member with City Year. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Vassar College, and a Master of Urban Planning from the
NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

To understand, you need a little background.
Filler, and Gov. Cuomo's new approach to the industry have been a huge sea change, best explained by New York Wine & Grape Foundation President, Jim Trezise, who wrote, "I've often pinched myself in the past year or two to make sure I'm not dreaming when I'm dealing with the New York State government.  I've been doing that for over 30 years, often with difficult and unpleasant encounters, but there has been a sea change under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo."
"The latest example came on Tuesday when Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen, Deputy Secretary for Agriculture Pat Hooker, and other State officials met with about 60 winery representatives at the Geneva Experiment Station.  The purpose: Continue the dialogue between the public and private sectors."
Five years ago? Never!
But now there is Sam Filler! At the first Wine, Beer, Spirits, and Cider Summit in October 2013, Gov. Cuomo and his team announced among a slew of changes, a "one stop shop" for New York craft beverage makers. Governor Cuomo launched a one stop shop designed to provide New York’s wine, beer, and spirits producers with a single point of government contact for assistance regarding regulations, licensing, state incentives, and any other questions or issues facing the industry. As a result of last week's Summit, the one stop shop will now market available state financing options to the farm-based beverage industry. In addition, a new on-line marketplace will be launched to connect farmers to beverage producers, a new business mentor program for the craft beverage industry will be launched at ESD, and state-operated webinars will be hosted on a variety of industry-related topics.


This was greeted with skepticism by the usual congregation when it was first announced last October. And Gov. Cuomo promised the faithful, if they got word from Sam, they could act on it. And if it turned out Sam and forwarded the incorrect information the NYSLA and the state would not hold the beverage producer liable in any way. When this new announcement was made last week? Nothing but applause!
Trezise waxed rhapsodically about the meeting with Fuller, "Also present was Sam Filler, whom I call "the answer man" because he runs the "One Stop Shop" office where industry members can ask any question in any area--alcohol policies, environmental regulations, tax guidelines, etc.--and Sam and his colleagues will contact the appropriate agency and get the answer back to the source.  I have heard nothing but praise for his efforts.  This has been a dream of mine for decades that is now a reality. (Pinch.)"

As both an industry watcher, and as a winery owner, Sam Filler is in fact "The Answer Man!" in the fullest sense of the word. You call up with a question, and if he doesn't know the answer, he gets your number, gets an answer, and calls you back. Done! It's fantastic! It's no more, "You'll have to read the rules and regs to find that out. Please consult your NYSLA handbook. Thank you." It's now real, live answers. And they are fast and you can rely on them!

He's an answer to a business owner's prayers.

You getting the idea?  Wait....there's more! He's become something of a star in his own right. As a member of the Economic Development team, he's out there not only answering questions, but promoting the industry as well!
In August 2013, Filler attended a Cornell University Extension meeting for new growers and new winery owners as an emissary of the Empire State Development agency's "one stop shop" for wine beer and spirits. He gave a presentation and answered questions related to licensing and other legal aspects of starting a winery.

In September 2013, he attended a Farm Brewery and Cidery Start-up Workshop at Cornell Extension as well.

In November 2013 he was a panelist at the American Farmland Trust discussion on Harvesting Opportunities for wines, beers, spirits, and ciders in New York state. Again he provided answers and shared examples of what others were doing in the industry.

He even appeared on WAMC radio in December 2013, promoting the cider industry. Filler explained that farm brewing, distilling, winemaking and cidermaking (especially in this instance) is all part of a larger plan to aid New York agriculture through an emphasis on the products that can be made from crops.

“As an Orchard, instead of selling just raw apples, you can take them and turn them into a vodka, or turn them into a brandy, or turn them into a hard cider, and get even more value out of them,” Filler said.

In February 2014 he stopped by the famed Jimmy Carbone's radio show. Jimmy Carbone discussed the state of beer in New York State! Jimmy was joined in the studio by the Beer Czar of New York, Sam Filler. Carbone talked with Sam  and how he helps facilitate local beer production using regional grains and hops.

He's so in demand he's been on conference calls regarding industry meetings with Economic Development concerning our industries with Virginia business leaders (just this past February) looking to hear his insights, thoughts, and answers.

But the real proof in the value of Sam Filler goes back to that applause. When you've got this crowd that excited, you've done something really right. Conversations and comments from the back of the room included, things like... "Great guy!"..."They better never let that kid go!"..."Straight shooter"..."Best thing that ever happened to us!"

Now, we all know that it's NYSLA Chairman Rosen and his lieutenant Tom Donahue, that back up Filler and make him so valuable. And that they are the real power behind the curtain so to speak. But it is also a testament to their cooperation with Governor Cuomo that Sam's job exists at all. And a sign of the fundamental changes going on over at the NYSLA.

That said, you need a smart, reliable, straight forward person on the end of the line who people can count on and know as sound and responsible. That's Sam Filler.

THAT's why he's so popular!

Watch Out, Baby! New York Wine, Beers, Spirits, and Ciders, Is Back!

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of New York
-          William Shakespeare 

With apologies to William Shakespeare the line has never been more apropos. It has been a long and ugly winter, both metaphorically and realistically. In recent memory, this was one of the worst winters of recent memory, and a seeming nightmare for vintners throughout the north east. From Michigan to Niagara to New England, cold weather has wreaked havoc with vineyards, as the thermometer plunged ever southward.
And metaphorically speaking, New York’s booming beverage industry has endured a long, cold winter, while watching states like Oregon, Washington, and closer to home, Virginia, forge ahead in reputation, with the help of their states’ governments, to be ever more competitive in the wine industry, while New York’s winter of neglect stretched for the last five or six, as the state legislature gutted spending programs, and disregarded a home grown industry valuable to its own survival.
New York craft beverage producers, especially long suffering wineries owners, have awoken from a long nightmare.
But now, compelled by a force it cannot ignore, state government has finally risen to the challenge, and agreed to enable our booming wine, beers, spirits, and cider industries to truly compete, both nationally and internationally.
The “son of New York” is refer to is none other than Governor Andrew Cuomo, and his administration. In two quick blows, one struck in October of 2013 and one recently struck just a week ago, Andrew Cuomo has done more for any other governor in this state since his father back in the mid-1980s. It was very clear that he and Lt. Gov. Duffy clearly see the value of the industry and finally get that other states governments are doing everything they can to help these industries compete.
There is no question that the wine industry has benefitted completely from the recent booms in craft beers, distilling, and cider industries. The distillers and cider makers deserve much of the credit for rocking the cradle of government, and pounding on the door, asking for changes to antiquated laws. People like Elizabeth Ryan and Sarah Grady, people like Ralph Erenzo and others in distilling, even Tom Edwards of the Tom Edwards, President of the New York State Liquor Store Association, pushed and pushed the government. And kudos to Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation for taking advantage of the situation, and helping force changes in the wine industry as well.
Governor Cuomo and his team, by changing archaic laws invented to inhibit bootleggers back in the thirties, will allow thriving businesses to grow stronger and faster, which intern makes for more taxable revenues for the state, more agritourism, and for more jobs.
Some of the shocking statistics that came out of the summit? New York is America’s No. 3 producer of wine in the country. We are No. 2 in distilling. That the New York wine industry was valued at $4.8 billion dollars to the state. How fast in the business growing. The cider business grow by more than 300%! The distilling and beer business almost more than doubled in the last four or five years. In the small community like Columbia County, for example, where there was one business in 2007, there are now eight, and there are more businesses planned to open in the next two years.
What other industry in New York is offering that kind of expansion? That kind of growth?
Now, with the Governor’s help, this craft beverage industry, across the board, can explode in a way that only New York can do. With our massive number of tourists, and our fast growing industries,

To his credit, Governor Cuomo has not just thrown money at the problem, but instead has turned around the industry through institutional change. The moribund and byzantine NYSLA has transformed into a dynamic force, looking to partner with an industry it seemed it sometimes wanted to strangle only three or four short years ago. Even the fiefdom known as the Department of Transportation, long Kafka-esque in bizarre and wilful disregard of mandated issuances, seems to have gotten more friendly (let’s not go too far in our effusiveness – but a change is palpable.
And he’s offered disaster relief to winemakers in the Finger Lakes and Niagara and Lake Erie to help get through the losses many will incur this year to to buss loss and winter damage caued by this year’s devastating winter.
And yes, he had promised more money to promote the regions and the business of those regions through promotion and advertising.
“Agriculture and tourism have the potential for tremendous growth in New York, and over the past few years we have seen that our investments in the farm-based beverage industry are resulting in new opportunities for small business owners throughout the State,” Governor Cuomo said. “The proposals and actions announced today will make it easier than ever before to start a farm-based beverage business, raise the profile of producers across the State, and open up new markets where our entrepreneurs can succeed. Today’s summit was all about creating jobs and stimulating the economy, and I am confident that by working alongside our partners in the private sector our producers will be able to thrive and compete anywhere in the world.”
To the Governor’s credit, it’s become so obvious that the craft beverage industry is one of the better bets in New York state, that the legislature, who have long ignored us after they gutted Jim Trezise’s budgets over the years, are suddenly even trying to get into the act. Even Sheldon Silver, who has not mentioned the wine industry in as long as I have been a watcher of New York state government these last seven years, for the first time held a news conference to promote the industry. Cuomo gets my vote the next election regardless, just for that.
Now, I have complained bitterly in the past, that the New York wine industry was falling behind many of its peers. But let me say emphatically, that it is with love and passion that I did so. I can complain about my Mother, but YOU can’t! Let me say now, with the hackles of antiquated laws lifted from our hands, unchained, New York can rise to the occasion.

It's not all strawberries and cream just yet. There's a lot of work still to be done. We need innovative marketing for our industry, we still need to band together better than before, and there's lots of good wine, beer, spirits, and ciders to be made. But....
We have some of the best winemakers on the east coast. We’ve got cider and distillery industries second to none. And we’ve got an ocean of terrific craft beer that helps lead the national industry! New York is poised to take it’s spot. To reach and to grow.
So, to this Glorious summer, made possible by the son of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, I salute you!
And to you, Virginia and Pennsylvania, you are on the move. But watch out, New York is back! 
Read the governor's press release - worth reading: