Eric Asimov will talk about wine and food Sunday at Finger Lakes Community College

HOPEWELL — Wine lovers will get a special treat this weekend when New York Times chief wine critic Eric Asimov comes to the Canandaigua area for an engaging talk-show style presentation on what he describes as a “most exciting time” for wine consumers everywhere.

Asimov, who has been writing about wine full-time since 2004, will present “Wine. Food. Who Could Ask for Anything More?” at 4 p.m. Sunday at Finger Lakes Community College, the second installment in the three-part George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum.

“I'm really thrilled to have this opportunity to come up to the Finger Lakes to take part in the Ewing series,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “I'm really excited and I can't wait to be there.”

Asimov is the author of “How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto,” and “Wine With Food: Pairing Notes and Recipes from The New York Times,” written with recipes by Florence Fabricant.

The program will be moderated by fellow wine lover Evan Dawson, host of the WXXI News show “Connections,” and author of an award-winning book, “Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes.”

Dawson said Asimov and his works have had a serious impact on his interest in wine, which was sparked around 2004 when he moved back to the region from West Virginia and began covering the wine industry.

“I think everybody who writes about wine or drinks wine with any seriousness knows about Eric Asimov,” Dawson said. “Eric has a way of writing about wine that makes it feel accessible to everyone, and that's not always easy to do. He is an outstanding writer, but he does not write in a way that feels exclusive or inaccessible. Eric is a leader, largely for that reason.”

While his talk will include Finger Lakes wines and the local winemaking industry, Asimov hopes to create a larger context.

“I think you can say in a very general way, this is the most exciting time in history to be a wine lover,” he said. “You've got more great wines from different places in more different styles and different grapes than anybody has ever heard of. You have more emerging in the country, like the Finger Lakes, and around the world that have essentially entered a global market with wonderful diverse wines.”

Asimov said there is a lot to talk about in terms of how wine has has changed in the last 20 years, and how the introduction of high-speed Internet has changed how people learn about and talk about wine; how the cultural discussion has changed and even the vocabulary is different. He noted wine is less frequently being put upon a pedestal and becoming more of a dinner staple, instead of being thought of as something for special occasions.

He became interested in wine as a teenager growing up on Long Island in the 1970s when he said the food culture in the United States was very different and people were not nearly as conscious as they are today of good ingredients and good cooking, something he first encountered in France.

He began his career as a journalist, turning to his passion in 1999 writing restaurant reviews, which became a full-time concentration by 2004 when he became the chief wine critic at The New York Times.

"One of the things I love most about the Finger Lakes wine community is that it is not an ego-driven effort to achieve great wines, or rather, to achieve all the recognition and financial gains that come from being regarded as a center for great wines," Asimov said. "I believe producers are instead trying to make the best wines they can from their patches of earth and, from that, eventually will come recognition. It's a very different approach from some other American regions, and an important difference."

Asimov said he loved the feeling of an unexploited wine region which gave him an authentic impression, but he found it striking that it was hard to find local wines on restaurants' wine lists and hopes to find more this time around, noting it is worth celebrating.

Asimov said he is coming up a few days early to visit some wineries, check in and see what's happening. He and Dawson met in 2011 when Asimov was visiting to do a piece on Finger Lakes wines.

“He is a wonderful conversationalist,” Dawson said. “I've had dinner with him and it felt like half an hour and we looked at the clock and it had been four hours. That's how it is with him. Everything is so compelling that you wish you had more time.”

Asimov is also the creator of the $25 and Under” restaurant reviews which he started in 1992; co-author of “The New York Times Guide to Restaurants;” and has published four editions of "$25 and Under: A Guide to the Best Inexpensive Restaurants in New York.”

He is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut who did graduate work in American Civilizations at the University of Texas at Austin.

Asimov's talk is sponsored by John and Josephine Ingle, owners of Heron Hill Winery; the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance; and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation; with in-kind support from the New York Wine & Culinary Center, as well as season sponsors Canandaigua National Bank, Wegmans and FLCC.

 

If you go

WHAT: George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum: "Wine. Food. Who Could Ask for Anything More?" featuring Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for The New York Times, and moderated by Evan Dawson, host of WXXI News show “Connections”

WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m.

WHERE: Student auditorium at Finger Lakes Community College, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua

DETAILS: Tickets are $25 each; free at the door with a current student ID. They may be ordered by phone at 585-430-8382 or purchased online at gmeforum.org. Audience members may submit questions. Donor sponsors are welcome and will receive tickets, admission to a special after-event reception and other benefits.

UP NEXT: “Trump: Day 365. What Just Happened?!?” featuring author David Cay Johnston, 4 p.m. Jan. 28.