New Yorkers who may be thirsty for travel and wine need not journey too far, as there are four wine regions in New York State: the Hudson River Valley, Long Island, Lake Erie, and the Finger Lakes. In the Finger Lakes region of New York we have our very own vacation getaway and wine destination, complete with award winning wines and only a few hours road trip away from Manhattan. In western upstate New York where one may see frost upon the ground even after the cherry blossoms have started to bloom in Central Park, is a place where panoramic countryside views of farmhouses, lakes, and mountains offer a scenic escape along with your wine tasting.
Glacial lakes carved into the landscape over 500 million years ago formed the Finger Lakes, named for their elongated topography which resembles fingers. The Europeans, as settlers, brought many things with them and thankfully wine was one of them. By the late 1800’s, developments in viticulture had firmly established the Finger Lakes wine industry. As far back as 1829 settlers began to cultivate vineyards and by 1836 the first commercial winery opened. There were significant advances in wine agriculture to combine American and hybrid vine species and the cultivation of V.vinifera varieties for wine production. As the wine industry continued to flourish, simultaneously the temperance movement gained traction as well eventually giving way to the Prohibition Era which lasted from 1919 until 1933, this adversely affected the wine industry’s growth. In order to survive many vineyards were transformed into commercial agriculture, growing grapes that would be used for juice and jellies.
The Finger Lakes Region AVA, a recognized American Viticultural Area, is comprised of four lakes: the Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, and Cayuga Lake. The Finger Lakes wine region is often compared to another region known for producing world class wines. This is a region also known for a cooler growing season, slate soils, and micro-climates created by the proximity of rivers and mountains. The Rhine Valley, which runs through Germany and Alsace along the Rhine river, has a reputation for spectacular white wines. A special combination of natural elements; the way the sunlight reflects upon the mountain vineyards bouncing from the water and back to the slopes, and the flow of air from the lakes, provides a perfect balance of necessary growing conditions that encourages certain wine grapes to thrive. The final product is a mouthwatering wine. Some crops and vegetation may find this to be a hostile environment, however certain grape varieties prosper.
There are three wine trail member wineries that offer a selection of activities and wine adventures for convenient trip planning. Known affectionately as “Lady of the Lakes” for her natural beauty, Keuka Lake holds her own against Piedmont in Italy, Loire Valley in France and America’s well known wine travel destination, Napa Valley. Keuka lake is also credited for being the birthplace of the Finger Lakes wine country. Dr. Konstantin Frank made a significant contribution to the American wine industry when he planted Vitis Vinifera and brought European vine planting to upstate New York. He was determined that the cold climate was no reason to except mediocre wine and since then Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars has become known internationally for exceptional Riesling as well as other award winning grape varietals. Other popular wines which have success in the Finger Lakes include: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, and Pinot Gris.
Don’t let a little frost on the ground frighten you away… one might typically imagine a day of vineyard hopping to be a warm weather activity, but guess what, the wine tastes the same if not better!
Finger Lakes USA has been rated one of ten Best Wine Travel Destinations by Wine Enthusiast
Town and Country put it on their 7 Places to Put on Your Travel Bucket List if You Love Wine
What are you waiting for?