Finger Lakes pioneer Debra Whiting dies

  • Tuesday 5 July 2011

New York Finger Lakes wine and food pioneer Debra Whiting has died in a car accident.

Debra Whiting

Debra Whiting (pic: senecadaily.com)

The 52-year old chef-proprietor of Red Newt Cellars and Bistro on Seneca Lake, in the wine region in upstate New York, was the passenger in a 1985 Volkswagen when it collided with another car last Thursday night.

Whiting’s husband and business partner Dave, who is also winemaker for their Tierce brand of wines, was driving.

The accident happened in the town of Montezuma, about 40 miles from their Cayuga County home.

Debra Whiting died of internal injuries in hospital. Dave Whiting survived the crash, along with the driver and passenger of the other car.

All three are being treated for minor injuries. No charges were filed, and an investigation into the accident is pending.

Debra Whiting, a self-taught chef, was instrumental in transforming Finger Lakes into a renowned food destination – matching the region’s reputation for quality wines.

Since it opened in 1999, Red Newt Cellars and Bistro has been widely considered to be the area's top food and wine destination.

Peter Bell, winemaker at neighboring Fox Run Vineyards, said, ‘We're all kind of walking around in a zombie-like state,’ local newspaper the Ithaca Journal reported.

Whiting, a microbiologist by training, was also president of Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty, a network of local food producers, processors, distributors, and restaurants.

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