Where’s Aimée?: Lieb Goes to the Fair

As the NYC Brand Ambassador I don’t encounter much exposure to rural life, but recently I took an Amtrak train up to Syracuse to The Great New York State Fair to present our award winning 2018 Lieb Cellars Estate Chardonnay at a seminar hosted by the NY Wine & Grape Foundation. We were included for having both this year’s Best Oaked Chardonnay and Best Over-All Chardonnay. The seminar was fully booked and the room was packed. There was even a standing room only section!

The purpose of the seminar was to bring awareness to New York State Wines. Topics covered included using senses to evaluate wine, the 11 official New York American Viticultural Areas (Lake Erie, Niagara Escarpment, Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake, Upper Hudson, Hudson River Region, Long Island, NORTH FORK, The Hamptons, and Lake Champlain), and the number of wineries in NY State (450).  “Up from just 19 in 1976,” stated our moderator.

I presented Lieb Cellars Estate Chardonnay 2018 alongside other “best in class” winners, Coffee Pot Cellars 2018 Rosé, Six Mile Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc, and Vineyard View Winery Ice Wine 2017.  I discussed the wine making decisions that Russell made concerning our Chardonnay and surprisingly received a round of applause when I informed the crowd that not only is Lieb Cellars certified sustainable, but that Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing is the only certified sustainable viticulture program on the east coast. Success! The “work” portion of my trip was done. Now onto the fun.

Naturally, I disguised myself as an ear of corn and was able to slip through the crowd undetected. Read on to experience the highlights of my day.

DELICIOUS DISCOVERIES:

Maple Cotton Candy – Don’t let the neutral sandy color fool you. Made with New York pure maple syrup, this is fluffy goodness at its best; slightly reminiscent of caramel corn but without the hassle of kernels sticking in your teeth. Pro tip: Strap the bag onto your backpack zipper using the twisty tie provided. It’s light-weight and munching makes waiting in lines more fun.

The New York State Great Potato Booth – Baked or sweet? Either way it’s a tasty meal for a mere dollar.  Fully load it with every topping like I did and eat like a queen for $3.

Maurice’s Belgian Waffles – I was served fresh strawberries and an ice cream waffle sundae that was larger than my head.

Harvest Caramel Assortment – Delivers concentrated flavors from the Hudson Valley of Salted Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, Bacon Bourbon Maple, and Cider in this 4 oz. pack by La Petite Occasion. A little goes a long way.

Tongue Tied – This is a Tart Cherry Sour made by Anything but Beer. Gluten-Free, Vegan and being made of cherries, it was a category that’s new to me.  It appears to only be available upstate so this alone is a good reason to go to the fair.

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY:

Pink Bins – After making the connection that pink=recycle at the fair I dumpster dived after class to retrieve the spent bottles to put them in their proper place. The funds from the collected deposits of bottles and cans go towards cancer research.

Water Bottle Stations – The Amtrak train brought me straight to the fairgrounds (only in operation during the fair) to Gate 11 so I had all my belongings with me in my backpack including my reusable water bottle and was happy to use this hydrating perk.

ACCESSIBILITY:

Butter Statues for All – I was churning (sorry yearning) to find a statue carved of butter and the fair did not let me down. Even better was learning that every year since 2004 there is a mini model available located at the Dairy Princess Booth for the visually impaired to touch and sense the larger butter scene.

Also Good – American Sign Language Interpreters were at the concerts and facilities also included All-Gender Restrooms.

NON-HUMAN CONTACT:

Cows – Want to break out of routine and learn about cows? This is the place for you! I asked a kid the reason that he was icing down his cow’s udders in anticipation of an imminent competition. He explained that it was to better define the ridge between the udders. I’ve judged many wines, and never cows, but at least I now know that this step has nothing to do with service temperature.

Butterflies – Once after an opening ceremony for a wine competition in Beijing I spent 15 minutes giving a ride to a Monarch on my finger. Imagine my surprise at the Skyriver Butterflies exhibit that not a single butterfly in the netted room wished to interact with me. We were each armed with a single cotton swab that we were to dip into the bowls of nectar and offer the butterflies a taste with their front feet. (That’s how they taste things.) Perhaps I merely annoyed them by imagining the whole room as clamoring reporters pressing my Q-tip in front of them shouting “Any comments? Any comments?” I’d like to pretend that all of these winged beings were merely full, but that didn’t stop them from landing on everyone else. Butterfly envy aside this is an amazing exhibit.

Also Good – These are actual possibilities: Rent a chicken, admire bees in a screened gazeebo (or is it referred to as a buzzbeebo?), or win a calf named Alaina in a raffle.

COMPETITIONS:

It seemed as if every other step I encountered a ribbon. I walked through one building as a short-cut to get to my ice cream fix faster and I ran into an arm wrestling competition. Experience the best flowers, the best pumpkins, the best beans, the best hay, the best fill-in-the-blank. You can even take your competitive spirit further and purchase your Hunting & Fishing Licenses at the fair.

EDUCATION:

Beer & Wine Seminar Room – That’s always a good sign.

Science Fair Entries – Flashback to 6th grade with tri-board exhibits on Saving the Planet One Bag at a Time or Spot the Farm Hazards.

Daniel Parrish Witter Agricultural Museum – Learn how to lathe without electricity.

The New York State Fair History Exhibit – Did you know the New York State Fair traveled to NYC in 1854? It began in 1841 but it stopped traveling in 1890 so odds aren’t good that it will return to NYC.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Rick Springfield – At night I attended this free outdoor concert interspersed with open fire pits (being careful not to singe my husk in the flames.) Rick shocked the crowd by announcing that he was 70 years old, and oddly enough, I recognized one of the thousands of attendees also as one of my seminar attendees too. As I was thanking him I learned that he’s a very experienced farmer who comes to the fair because he feels it keeps him young.

Also Good – People watching, fireworks, and the Tom Petty cover band Hard Promises wrapped up the night

REASONS TO RETURN:

There was tons to do, see, drink and eat, and I crammed in as much as I possibly could before my train brought me back to NYC.  I let the fair wash over me like butter slathered on a corncob, but I look forward to enjoying the following another year: Traditional Native American Dances at the Indian Village, Cotton Candy Burrito, Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, Erie Canal Cloggers, Goat Obstacle Course, examine the model lock at the New York State Canal System booth, Dairy Cow Live Birthing Center, and of course, more NY wine.

Aimée Lasseigne New

NYC Brand Ambassador