This weekend was the annual Glorious Garlic Festival at Fox Run Vineyards. Fox Run is one of the oldest wineries on Seneca Lake. It has a large and varied product line including dry and sweet wines and some special reserve bottles, and the Fox Run Riesling is a component of the Tierce, which is a collaborative venture with Red Newt and Anthony Road. The winery was acquired by Scott Osborne in 1993, who entered the wine industry from a career in real estate development in California and later moved back to upstate New York where he had grown up. He had the good fortune to hook up with winemaker Peter Bell shortly after he got started here, and the two have had an enormously successful partnership. We will return to Scott and a note on heroism later.
Although the festival proper is Saturday and Sunday, the preceding Thursday evening features the annual visit of the Celtic band The Town Pants. The band has been around for quite some time with Canadians Duane and Dave Keogh at the helm. Other musicians have floated in and out, and one of the Pants fans’ spectator sports is to see if last year’s female fiddle player is still with the band or has been replaced with someone else. This time the answer was replaced, with newcomer Nellie Quinn from Victoria, BC, skillfully filling the role and seeming to thoroughly enjoy herself. The group plays a variety of genres — ballads, reels, etc, but except for occasional forays into other subjects, the songs tend to center around drinking. And why not?
We returned on Sunday to visit the vendors and purchase some terrific fresh garlic to get us through the winter. It turns out that garlic is amazingly variegated and complex. There are German varietals, French, Italian, and others. There are red garlics, white, soft neck, hard neck, and others. Some are relatively sweet, some spicy and hot, some that will start mild and then bite your tongue off. And regardless, anything you can buy fresh puts most supermarket garlic (imported and chemically treated) to shame. We pick up a couple of dozen bulbs, which should be good into early next year if kept cool and dry.
Regarding Scott and heroism . . . New York State does not allow the sale of wine in supermarkets. Beer is OK, but wine and spirits are the province of licensed stores. Every so often, a push is made to allow supermarkets to sell wine, and about four years ago legislation to do this got pretty far along. Suffice it to say, serious money found its way to Albany to preserve the status quo, and the wine and liquor retail business raised the specter of stores failing, teenagers getting drunk on Chardonnay, and all sorts of bad things happening, despite proof from other states that supermarkets and well run wine and liquor stores can coexist.
Among the wineries, it is probably safe to say that almost all were in favor of broadening their markets, but few came out in public risking the ire of the wine and liquor stores and their distributors. Scott Osborne was one of the few that spoke out, and as a result Fox Run lost about half of its distribution to stores, and the measure did not even pass. Scott and the Fox Run team worked hard to recover from this and by all indications did, but it was sad to see his business suffer for being honest and correct. If there is a single alcohol related law on the books that actually protects consumers and consumer choice, please post here, and we will be happy to share. In the meantime, Scott continues to be a hero in our book.