By Mike "Ollie" Oliver, Wholesale Sales Representative
Highlights from the world of Wholesale Sales: As the newest members of the Wholesale staff, I have had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of personalities. I thought I would take this chance to share some of the more memorable moments from the road.
First and foremost, it’s important for you to know that I have had no sales experience of this type before joining the Heron Hill Winery team. I have learned, the hard way, that there are unwritten rules and procedures to meeting with Wine and Liquor store owners. For example, if you walk into a store and the owner or manager is meeting with another Sales Rep, you have to wait for them to finish. This, apparently, applies even if you have made an appointment! I walked into a particular store and saw this unfolding. I was about to go back outside and wait, when the owner asked if she could help me I introduced myself and was about to explain my intentions, to which she responded, “Well, you can just go outside and wait until we are done!” This was not exactly the warmest greeting that I have received, but after the other rep left, I went in and the owner had a totally different attitude.
Last week, I was in Scotia working with one of our distributor’s Sales Reps. After four mind-numbing hours of driving and a miscommunication with the navigation system, I was able to find the store where I was to meet with the rep. I parked, noticed that I was right on time, and called the rep to see if he was already in the store. He responded with, “At the store? We aren’t meeting until tomorrow!” He dubbed my response as “dead silence”, but let me dwell on it for a moment. Then, he let me off the hook by saying, “Yeah, I’m inside. I just had to start the day off right!” After meeting him, I realized that this was par for the course with him; watching him interact with his customers was comical at times!
I have also had the highly productive visits that ensure that I can continue to come to work. After being introduced by our distributor’s Sales Rep to a store owner and pouring samples for him, he proceeded to order in 9 different wines! As it turned out, he hasn’t been open for very long, but he is slowly trying to build a New York State wine selection. I have learned that this job is all about timing.
Several weeks ago, Paul Wilson, retail manager at Heron Hill winery, and I met with Brianne, the manager of the Switzerland Inn on Keuka Lake. She had approached us about doing a wine and food pairing dinner. She showed us menus that they have used in the past. Suffice it to say that I was very impressed; in general, six courses that showed some real ingenuity and forward thinking! We will be meeting with the Chef soon to start looking at the menu for the event. If he is open to it, I may even offer to take a course or two! Keep an eye out for tickets; they will only be seating 40 for this event. More information will be available soon.
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
Last Spring, I had the pleasure of going to the Northeast area of New York. The village is charming and the town is full of history, which all residents are very proud to boast about. My trip introduced me to a newly built Best Western on the outskirts of town on Burgoyne Road. This beautifully maintained hotel is a jewel. The Burgoyne Grill within the hotel adds something special that you don’t usually find within a hotel.
I met one of the owners, Denise Ward along with her staff. The restaurant guests had been asking for NY wines, our Unoaked Chardonnay, Semi-Dry Riesling and Cabernet Franc are on their list as the featured NY wines. At that time, we talked about the possibility of doing a wine dinner. I was excited when I got the call in the Fall. At that time, I met with Chef Bob Jennings and staff. They had never tackled a wine dinner, but we all put our heads together and had an amazing event.
The Friday night sold out, the Chef and his staff recreated the magic for Saturday evening as well. Chef went to work to put together a 4-course meal paired with four Heron Hill wines. The first course was an amazing squash soup paired with 2007 Heron Hill Semi-Dry Riesling. The next course was a scallop salad with caramelized onions, this was served with the 2008 Heron Hill Unoaked Chardonnay. These perfectly paired dishes were received very well by the guests. The third course was a piece of art and unfortunately, there is not a picture to do it justice. It was a twice-baked potato, fresh carrots with a delicate sweetness and a perfectly grilled filet dressed with homemade herbal butter with parmesan chips perched atop the butter. The pairing of 2006 Heron Hill Cabernet Franc, complimented the main course. The homemade apple pie with melted Vermont cheddar cheese with a chocolate truffle was served with 2007 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc.
Chef Jennings pulled out all the stops, and if you are ever in the area it is a must visit stop. Specials are offered every night and I had the most delicious hamburger I have ever had. I want to thank particularly Kourtney Kraft for her attention to detail, which made the night run smoothly. I travel and attend many wine dinners, and I have to say this dinner was in the Top 5. Thanks to all at the Best Western and the Burgoyne Grill in Ticonderoga!
The Montcalm Liquor Store in town was the site for a Saturday tasting. The Manager, Nancy, brought in some amazing snacks and I tasted the wines from the dinner the previous night. Several of the guests from the previous night’s dinner were there too. This is a great store, friendly customers and a true interest in New York Wines.
At the tasting, most of the locals where giving me information about their famous Fort Ticonderoga. I was intrigued at what they told me, so I thought I would do some research and add it to my blog. Fort Ticonderoga, originally Fort Carillon, was built by the French military between 1755 and 1759. The Fort is at a point where Lake Champlain narrows and the shore of Vermont is a cannon shot away. At this point, the water from Lake George enters Lake Champlain through the La Chute River. In 1776, a fleet of small warships and gondolas were rigged and fitted out at Mount Independence. This fleet under the command of Benedict Arnold fought the battle of Valcour Island. In 1977, British General Burgoyne managed to place a cannon on Mount Defiance and forced the Fort’s garrison to evacuate. The British finally abandoned the Fort in early November following the surrender of the British army in Saratoga. In 1820, William Ferris Pell purchased the ruins to preserve it for posterity. In 1840 he converted his summer home into a hotel to serve the tourist traveling the Lake by steamer to visit the Fort ruins. In 1908, the next generation opened the Fort to the public with President Taft in attendance. Unfortunately, the Fort was closed for the season, but I thought it was noteworthy to talk about. You can find out more information at www.fort-ticonderoga.org. The grounds are beautiful with weddings and business events, as well as war reenactments happening in the open season. On March 10, 2010, there is going to be a story on the Sci-Fi channel on the Ghost Hunters documentary. Apparently, there are some ghostly occurrences happening at the Fort. Ticonderoga also has a ferry that you can take across Lake Champlain to Vermont! It is, of course, closed for the season right now.
Ticonderoga is another amazing town in our State that proves to be yet another great place to visit in New York State. I can’t wait until my travels bring me close to the town, hopefully in the Summer when all the attractions are open.
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Sales at Heron Hill have slowed down for the season, however, in the October-December season, my cap switches from selling wines to retail customers to selling wines to consumers. There are many events; store-tastings and wine presentations in the past three months that keeps me busy, changing my focus to the actual consumers of Heron Hill Wine.
FIRST STOP - Syracuse Harvest Festival
November 13-16, 2009
At the Harvest Fest customers enjoyed a full weekend of unlimited sampling and purchasing fine quality food, wine and beer from New York growers and producers. Festival goers could taste everything from savory sauces to sophisticated wines and beers. There were also quality locally raised meats, specialty cheeses and fresh produce. There were cooking demonstrations and wine education seminars, which unfortunately, I was unable to attend. The attendance exceeded expectations, which surprised many of the festival organizers and vendors.
SECOND STOP - Palo Santo Restaurant, Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York
December 5, 2009
Whenever I have an opportunity to get to Brooklyn, I have to stop at Palo Santo. For those of you who have never been or are planning a trip, this is a “must go” restaurant.
If you are an adventurous diner and excited about sustainability and local foods, you are in for a real treat. This restaurant's cuisine is “Latin Market Cooking with South American Wines." However, he is now beginning to bring in a small selection of NY Wines. We are thrilled to be on their list! Many of the foods served are grown right on the roof of the brownstone above. You need to check out their website for their interesting horticulture endeavors.
Bernard and Lisa Cannac (winemaker and wife), Whitney (my helper for the weekend) and I ventured to the restaurant on Friday evening after a long drive to the city from Upstate. Bernard and Lisa were up for the challenge, but my daughter, Whitney, was not quite as daring and a little reluctant. Our server guided us through a fantastic dinner with the true taste of South American market cooking. The meal was exceptional; it was so good we never thought to take some pictures. After the meal, Whitney expressed that it was the “best meal she had every eaten!”
THIRD STOP - City Winery, Sip, Savor and Shop, New York City
December 6, 2009
The City Winery venue was amazing! Again, the turn out was more than expected. New York City has always been a difficult market for NY wines and the showing of people proves that NYC is beginning to realize the quality of their home state wines. Local restaurants, food purveyors from throughout the State were also present.
On this trip, I was excited to have Bernard Cannac, our winemaker and his wife Lisa attending. My “side-kick,” Whitney and I had tremendous feedback on Heron Hill wines. The positive attitudes and looks of surprise on everyone’s faces made the afternoon one to remember.
FOURTH STOP - Pride of NY (Desmond) Harvest Festival, Albany, NY
December 12-13, 2009
The following week, another event that brings the far eastern part of the State together for a celebration of NY wines and products, the Pride of NY Harvest Festival. This is the 13th year and the turnout was great. They probably should have named it the “Holiday Festival” since harvest has long past, and most people are thinking more about the holidays. The attendance was down, but the people there were repeat customers that enjoy the event. Proceeds from Harvest Fest benefits the Classroom Enrichment Fund at the Community Foundation of the Capital Region, to help local teachers purchase curriculum and classroom.
So, until next year when I hop behind the wheel of the trusted Explorer and hit the Interstate spreading the word about Heron Hill Winery, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night! Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to travel to the Catskills to present wines to stores and restaurants in that area. The scenery was amazing and the leaves were beginning to change. Each winding road had scenery and the climb up and down the mountains was stunning with a little town nestled around each turn. Just when I thought we were beyond civilization, we happened upon the town of Catskill established in 1788.
Our first stop in this quaint little town was Bell’s Café, which I understand has been a long-standing establishment on Main Street, Catskill. While I was there, a woman and her young daughter came in to see what kind of changes had been made. She had frequented Bell’s when she was a girl and wanted her daughter to have the same experience.
The owners Yael and Keith were fantastic. The cuisine is Israel/American food. Unfortunately, it was a little early for lunch, but the smells coming out of the kitchen were incredible. The lunch menu appetizers consisted of duck ravioli with pesto sauce and roasted eggplant with tahini. Lunches also included interesting salads, paninis and burgers. The dinner fare was equally exciting with panko encrusted lamb and Moroccan-style spicy shrimp.
Yael and Keith are committed to local products and being creative with the bounty from the local harvest. Because of Heron Hill’s commitment to this style of living, we all had a lot to talk about and I hope I did not overstay my visit. They were currently carrying out Semi-Dry Riesling and have brought in the Unoaked Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc. Their wine list is very eclectic and Heron Hill is proud to be present.
Before entering Bell’s I noticed a row of colorful cats on pedestals lining the street of antique shops, boutiques and galleries. I asked Amber Dennis, my wholesale representative from Southern Wine and Spirits, what the meaning of all these beautiful cats that made me want to stop my day and spend the afternoon prowling about these imaginative kitties.
This years Quadricentennial Celebration of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the beautiful Delaware river; the Catskill Cats will be decorated in themes depicting the wonder of this great valley they call home. Sixty painted fiberglass felines will be sCATered along the historic Main Street in the Village of Catskill for this summer-long celebration.
On October 4th, all of the cats were auctioned to be adopted into permanent homes, something I wish I could have returned to do.
The rest of my visit was wonderful, exposing Finger Lakes wines to the area stores and restaurants. The Finger Lakes is a relatively unknown wine region in this area and I get sincere gratification when I see the simple smile on their faces and the nods of their heads indicating that “Yes, the Finger Lakes makes some exceptional wines.”
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
The summer is jam-packed with events, and the State is all “abuzz” about NY wines. Having joined Heron Hill over 15 years ago, you would be amazed that in the beginning many people did not know about Finger Lakes Wines, let alone that Heron Hill was right in their backyard. With all wineries working as a team to make New York State’s wines notable, that is no longer the case. On a daily basis there are great opportunities presented to me; it is deciding which ones to select.
Recently, I received a call from an organizer out of Buffalo, New York who was putting together an event for the 106th Annual National League of Postmasters Conference at the Adams Mark in downtown Buffalo. The theme of the event was all that NY had to offer. The diversity of the City and why Buffalo is a great place to visit. Heron Hill was exclusively selected as representing the NY wine industry.
The organizer, John Dubreville, Director of Sales for Hale Northeastern, had visited the winery and was taken back by the experience and the quality of Heron Hill Wines. His vision was to have the guests coming to the conference to experience it as well. The beauty of the winery and the excellent staff at the winery made it memorable for him and when this opportunity arose, he thought of Heron Hill.
The conference itself was unbelievable. I had the pleasure of being in attendance of the opening dinner on August 3rd. People from all over the country from Oregon to Maine attended with their families. Many of guests had the opportunity to travel North and South of the city and were amazed at the amount of vineyards along the highways. Many people from far away states have the misnomer that New York State is like New York City. Heron Hill was a BIG hit and many of them wanted to visit prior to going home. Unfortunately, the 2.5 hour drive from Buffalo did not fit their agenda.
There were four stations of food, Italian, Polish, Chinese, and, of course, ALL Buffalo with Beef on Wick and world famous Buffalo Chicken Wings. A Grammy-nominated Polka Band played throughout the evening at the Polish Bar, Italian singer at the Italian gondola and the first woman to go over Niagara Falls (and live) at the ALL Buffalo bar.
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
With the warm weather comes the days of festivals and outside events for Heron Hill Winery. It’s amazing how many different venues and requests I get to taste and display our award-winning wines.
When thinking about my upcoming blog entry; I thought about some of the interesting adventures you might want to look for over the Summer.
Old Forge Lake Cruises, which sails out of Old Forge, NY will be kicking off their season on June 5th for their first wine and food pairing. Heron Hill will be on board to cruise the Fulton Chain of Lakes and give the history of the winery along with a wine and food pairing experience. Check out the website at www.oldforgecruises.com. This is going to be a unique adventure and should be loads of fun! We will be returning in the Fall for a foliage cruise.
The Mary Jemison which leaves out of the Cornhill Dock, in Rochester, NY cruises the canal with a local restaurant and winery on board for a scenic cruise with a food and wine pairing. This not-for-profit organization has another boat (The Sam Patch) that leaves out of Pittsford in Shoen Place. Schedules have not been made yet for 2009, but we’re hoping to be back on board this season.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad kicked off their wine trains last year and has been a huge success. This nonprofit organization offers passengers an unlimited New York wine tasting, New York State cheeses and light refreshments as well as a complimentary Uncork NY wine glass. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad offers many different scenic excursions departing from Utica's beautifully restored Union Station, which is an impressive station in itself. Heron Hill wines can be purchased for an additional fee by the glass or share a bottle with your friends, while you sit back and view beautiful scenery while riding the rails. Last year’s events included a Blues Train that departed from the Thendara Station in Old Forge. Check out their website at www.adirondackrr.com.
The Rochester Public Market has been in operation since 1827, making it one of the oldest continuously operating farmers' markets in the nation. Heron Hill is proudly the first Finger Lakes winery to be displayed, tasted and sold at the market for the past 15 years. Over the years new wineries have come and gone, however, Heron Hill remains a constant on Saturdays from May 1st until the last weekend of the year. Come taste some wine or buy that special bottle for dinner that evening.
Sterling Renaissance Festival is always an exciting thing to do for the summer. It is conveniently located just to the left of the Gift Shoppe as you enter from the parking area. Each weekend the Festival's wine tasting booth will showcase 4 wineries, which means that over the course of the 2009 Festival season, you could sample great wines from 28 separate vineyards. You'll be able to purchase wine by the bottle.
Over the Summer and the Fall there are many festivals which bring the New Wines together with New York products. These food and wine festivals are a fantastic way to support your local farmers, wineries and food purveyors. Check for any local events, and check them out, they can be a lot of fun! I am still looking for the event aboard a private jet or a cruise in the Caribbean, but haven’t been contacted yet.
To be kept up-to-date on Heron Hill’s upcoming events, sign up to be our friend on Facebook (which is updated regularly) or check out our webpage at www.heronhill.com. Have a great Summer and I hope to see you on the road…..
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
One of my favorite poets since I was in high school was Robert Frost, and my favorite poem was “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”. Little did I know at that time, my career would take me to my favorite verse.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP, And MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP.”
My life with Heron Hill began many years ago, more than I want to admit too. I never realized how huge NY State really is and how beautiful and diverse it was until 2006, when I began my current position as Wholesale Sales Manager, (aka, road warrior) representing the Heron Hill throughout the State.
When I first began in the early 1990’s, you would be astonished at how many people I came in contact with, that did not know where the Finger Lakes were let alone that it was producing amazing wine.
Times have changed in the past few years. The Finger Lakes wine region now has over 11,000 acres of wine growing grape and is the largest wine region in NY State. The wines coming out of the region are of excellent quality and receiving accolades from all over the world. People are actually seeking this excellent wine, which has made my job easier.
Recently, the sustainable living has become a conscious way of life, and with our owners John and Josephine Ingle’s life-long commitment to sustainable farming, paired with Thomas Laszlo’s superb cool-climate winemaking skills; this has made our Ingle Vineyard Series a sought after product. In these economic times, “buying local and eating local” is a slogan of many customers as well as consumers. More and more restaurants are popping up throughout the State creating sustainable local economies with a strong connection between farm and table.
As I travel this beautiful State representing one of the premier wineries in the Finger Lakes Region, I am thankful for the beauty of our State, the commitment Heron Hill has for quality, and the wonderful customers I meet in every corner from Jamestown to Lake Placid.