Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,

Craft Distillers (212.4)

We really have an awesome state! Not only does New York have dozens of wineries, many of them excellent, we're also up to nine "craft distillers" since the state started issuing licenses to small distillers and farm distillers about five years ago. Sharing my love of fine spirits, and sharing my collection of them, too, with friends in important (or at least well-lubricated) places led to an invitation to an event today up in Canandaigua, at the New York Wine & Culinary Center.

What we TastedI'd been only vaguely aware of this place, and had never been there before today, but I'm definitely planning on going back at some point before long. (Maybe on a day without snow squalls.) It's a beautiful lakeside building that's a showcase for New York's wines and foods, built about four years ago largely with funding from Wegmans (the massive supermarket chain that started in Western New York) and by Constellation (the even more massive global wine and spirits conglomerate).

There's a tasting room that doesn't look so different from some of the snazzier winery tasting rooms, except that they offer tastings of wines, beers, and spirits from dozens of New York producers, not just the producer whose building you're standing in. Upstairs, there's a restaurant that's open daily for lunch and on weekends for dinner (daily during the summer) and that features lots of produce and meats from around New York. Next to that is a gorgeous and well-equipped bar, and an outdoor deck whose sign suggests it's an outdoor bar when the weather's good. There's a conference room up there, as well.

Back downstairs, there's a remarkable boardroom-style dining room with one of the biggest mirrors I've ever seen outside the French royal palaces. There's a store with cookware, aprons, fancy oils, and the like. There's a big amphitheatre-style presentation room (where our tasting was) with curved rows of seats, and perhaps best of all, there's a teaching kitchen with nine Viking gas range cooktops, most with ovens. Viking donated all of their equipment for the whole facility! I'm totally jealous.

Anyway, the event was a tasting for industry and media folks of distilled spirits from several New York State producers. We tasted fifteen different liquors, a few of which I've had before but some I'd never heard of. I have to admit, as wasteful as I felt by spitting out most of my tastes and pouring out lots of each sample, there's no way I could have driven us back to Ithaca if I'd swallowed it all.

I'll be writing more about the tasting and New York's awesome craft distillers for 14850 Magazine, but I'll say for now that I was especially impressed with the Core Vodka (distilled from apples!) from Harvest Spirits, the Manhattan Rye from Tuthilltown, and the Sour Cherry Cordial from Warwick Valley Winery. I was also pleased to see Brian from Finger Lakes Distilling there; I already knew I love their stuff.

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