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An Interview with Finger Lakes Region Wine Writer & Publicist, remedy Melissa Dobson
With over 9,000 acres of vineyards and more than 100 wineries, the Finger Lakes in upstate New York is one of America’s greatest emerging wine regions. Home to the largest concentration of wineries east of California, it has lately garnered a great deal of attention for some of the best domestically produced Rieslings. It was with this reputation in mind that I reached out to Melissa Dobson, a wine industry publicist I first met while she was visiting from her native New York state, during the Wine Bloggers Conference held in Sonoma, California earlier in the fall. Seeing a ripe opportunity to learn more about this burgeoning wine region, I spoke with the writer and publisher of wine blog Family, Love, Wine to get her perspective on the present state of the Finger Lakes wine industry, as well as a hint of its direction in the future.
NM: What first got you interested in wines of the Finger Lakes region?
MD: I'm originally from Buffalo and moved to Manhattan, where I lived for three years and started a new PR career there. I was working for Deutsch, Inc. in their PR Department, promoting a lot of different beverage clients, one of which was Samuel Adams beer. Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams, strongly believed in looking to the wine industry to help elevate the image of the craft beer industry. So, a lot of my projects on the PR side were to start reading food & wine magazines — Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and all of those types of publications — which I'd never really picked up prior to that. I found that I absolutely loved reading about wine. And even though I'd been a wine drinker for several years, I never really appreciated the industry itself. So that really started this whole process and my interest, and having me pay more attention to the industry — the winemakers, the regions, and all of those facets of it. My husband then received a job offer here, upstate, and so we moved here two years ago. Once we moved, I started free-lancing from home in PR. But then I really started to think about the fact that I was right in the heart of the wine industry here, and wanted to see if there would be a need for someone like myself to help the wine producers to tell the story of the region. If there was a need, I could put both of my passions together — PR and wine — and make it work somehow.
NM: What have you learned from your experience living and working in the Finger Lakes wine region, and in your interactions with its professionals, and can you compare that to what you might know of other wine regions here in the States?
MD: Sometimes it's not always apparent that the Finger Lakes region is the 2nd largest wine producing region after California, and that it has a long history [as such]. The things that stand out most about this region are that many of the wineries are very small, family-owned farms, that don't have a lot of outside investor interest. From what I understand of Napa and the little I've seen of Sonoma, the wineries are very elaborate and grandiose. It's almost the exact opposite here. When you visit a winery here, you feel like you're walking into someone's living room; it's very intimate. The people who work in the tasting rooms, the winery owners, the winemakers — they're very welcoming and excited about your interest and they want to tell you their story.