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Finger Lakes Wines Flow at New Forest Hills Bar

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | April 15, 2013 8:28am

QUEENS — Grapes from the Empire State are on the menu at a new Forest Hills wine bar.

Keuka Kafe, at 112-04 Queens Blvd., features more than a dozen New York wines in its 38-vintage wine cellar, including many from upstate's Finger Lakes wine country.

“It’s an emerging wine region that produces a lot of great wines,” said owner Ollie Sakhno, who named his bar after one of the region's lakes.

Sakhno, 44, fell in love with the Finger Lakes wineries 12 years ago, he said, when he and his wife took part in local wine tastings during a vacation.

“We tried the wine, and we thought it was fantastic,” Sakhno said. “We decided to go and visit the region, and we realized that the best wineries are located on Keuka Lake.”

Four of the bar's wines hail from Keuka Lake — Cabernet Franc produced by Ravines Wine Cellars, and Sunflower White, Cayuga White and Highlands Red made by McGregor Vineyard and Winery.

The bar also serves wines produced around Cayuga and Seneca lakes, such as dry riesling from the Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Sweet Catawba from Atwater and dry rose from Sheldrake Point, as well as wines from two Long Island wineries — Wolffer Estate in the Hamptons and Paumanok in North Fork.

Sakhno, who also owns Take Out Connection, a food delivery service for dozens of restaurants in the neighborhood, said that New York wines have started to gain the recognition they're due.

Two of them, he pointed out — merlot from Bedell Cellars Winery in North Fork and dry riesling from Tierce in the Finger Lakes region — were reportedly served during President Barack Obama’s inaugural lunch in January.

Nevertheless, those seeking to venture outside the Empire State at Keuka Kafe can also find domestic wines from California, plus foreign imports from Chile, Austria, Sardinia and France.

“Every wine on the list was very carefully chosen,” Sakhno said. “The only reason we chose them was their taste.”

The price per glass ranges from $6 to $12.

The bar also serves a variety of cheeses, including Keeley’s Across The Pond, a semi-soft, washed rind cheese produced in the Cayuga Lake area. Diners can also choose among a range of appetizers, small plates, sandwiches and salads, such as salmon ceviche, crab’n’avocado, oysters, grilled chorizo and grilled watermelon salad.

Sakhno said he hopes the bar's eclectic and well-researched food and drinks menus, its relaxed atmosphere and its proximity to the 75th Street subway station on the F line will attract customers who, like its wines, come from both near and far.

“We always thought that this neighborhood could use a place where people can come after work for a glass of wine, to chat, relax and maybe watch a game,” he said.