Latitudes: Finger Lakes, New York
The land of 11 lakes becomes known for its rieslings
Once a quiet destination for summer vacations, New York state’s Finger Lakes has matured into a thrilling region for wine lovers.
That reputation is bolstered by the stunning rieslings crafted by many of the region’s 90-plus wineries.
Indeed, the region’s turnaround — from a curiosity to major wine destination — has been nothing short of incredible.
Located along the southern coast of Lake Ontario, the region includes a collection of 11 naturally formed lakes, which, according to an ancient First Nations legend, were formed when the Creator left the imprint of his hand when he blessed the land.
Riesling Wine Region
These days, the region’s wine success can be attributed to the attention paid to the grapes; in recent years, there has been a move away from uninteresting hybrids toward vitis vinifera varieties such as riesling, cabernet franc, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and pinot noir, grapes that perform best in the cool-climate region.
Of those grapes, riesling is the region’s superstar, a serious and distinct wine with a firm, acidic backbone, primarily made bone-dry and built to last in the cellar.
Wineries such as Ravines Wine Cellars have championed the style and, along the way, have earned medals and praise.
“We have everything here to make world-class rieslings,” says Ravines owner Morten Hallgren.
The style that’s getting the attention? Laser-sharp, tight, mouth-watering, dry rieslings that are balanced between fresh, zesty fruit and juicy acidity.
Other top wineries in the Finger Lakes have also perfected their riesling programs, and not all are in that same dry style. Along the way, many winemakers are branching out to master other varieties suited to the cooler climate.
And wine lovers are starting to taste what they have to offer.
Finger Lake, New York Facts and Figures
Vineyards: 4,452 ha of vineyards
Regional styles: Riesling, cabernet franc, chardonnay, pinot noir, sparkling and late-harvest wines
Soils/Climate: The soils of the Finger Lakes range from loam to gravel to slate. Weather in the Finger Lakes is similar to Germany’s Rhine area, with very cold winters and a short growing season, but it is moderated somewhat by the deep lakes that release stored heat in the winter. The region averages more than 76 cm of rain a year.
Appellations: The region has three appellations or AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). One is the all-encompassing Finger Lakes AVA, with Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, each with their own AVA completely contained within the Finger Lakes AVA.
Three top wine producers: Dr. Konstantin Frank, Hermann J. Wiemer, Fox Run
Top vintages: 2009, 2008, 2006
Production: 41,000 tons of grapes are produced annually.
How to get there: Get to a major airport in either Buffalo, New York, or Toronto, Ontario, and rent a car, which you’ll need. Or fly into Rochester or Syracuse, New York. Finger Lakes is about 250 kilometres (a three-hour drive) from Buffalo, or a 400-km drive (about 4.5 hours) from Toronto.