Wine in the Finger Lakes Region
The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long, thin lakes that run roughly north to south in the Finger Lakes region of New York that straddles the northern, transitional boundary of the Northern Allegheny Plateau. Known as one of the best wine regions in the United States, the Finger Lakes wine area is home to more than 120 wineries and is New York State’s largest wine producer, according to the 2018 10 Best Readers’ Choice national survey.
The picturesque Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua, and Cayuga lakes are the region’s central points and play a significant role in the region’s acclaimed cool-climate wines, particularly varietals such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Worth mentioning, the area is also known for red varietals, like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, and white varieties, like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
“New York State is wine country, the third largest wine-growing region in the United States after California and Washington, and has excellent wines to offer, particularly dry white wines like Riesling.”
The magic is supposed to be in the terroir — a region’s climate and soil — when it comes to growing grapes for exceptional wine. But it’s not just the gorgeous, agriculturally rich, sloping hillsides that contribute to the world-class wines of the Finger Lakes wine region; credit also goes to the growers and winemakers, who painstakingly cultivate the land and grapes to produce award-winning wines.
The first grapes were grown in the Finger Lakes in 1829, when Reverend William Bostwick planted Catawba and Isabella grapes, according to historical reports. Other accounts show that European immigrants, “impressed by the astonishing profusion of wild grapes growing here,” saw the region’s potential for becoming the notorious wine region it is today.
There are activities for people of all ages in The Finger Lakes. The Glenn H. Curtiss Aviation Museum, for example, displays the history of Glenn Curtiss, who was issued the United States Pilots License #1 in 1911 and held the motorcycle speed record from 1907 to 1930 . Outdoor activities like hiking and fishing are also popular in the region. There are a variety of beautiful state parks to visit, such as Watkins Glen State Park, which features a route with 19 waterfalls. The Finger Lakes region is known for its wine tours and so much more.
Did you know: The Finger Lakes were formed by glaciers moving south, which were subverted by rivers flowing north. These counter-rotating movements have created extremely deep furrows – Seneca and Cayuga lakes are 188 and 132 meters deep, respectively. The enormous amounts of water in comparison to the base area, which release heat energy to the surrounding vineyards in autumn and winter and cool down in the evenings in summer, are responsible for the unique climate. Favored grape varieties are Riesling and Pinot Noir, which are cooked to compote on the west coast by the Californian sun. However, in the Finger Lakes, you get the climate you need: time to mature and enough night-time cooling.
This Day in Wine History
1976: The Finger Lakes wine region began to grow into a renowned wine country thanks to the passing of the New York Farm Winery Act of 1976, which authorized New York grape producers to sell their wine to the public. The region is also home to the first bonded winery in the United States, U.S. Bonded Winery No. 1, which is now the Pleasant Valley Wine Company in Hammondsport. The Finger Lakes are famed for superb wine, especially world-famous Rieslings. There are also several breweries, distilleries, and hard-cider manufacturers in the area.
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 Norcross, Amanda. 2022. “18 Top Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit.” U.S. News Travel. https://travel.usnews.com/features/top-finger-lakes-wineries-to-visit.