I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to participate in a Finger Lakes white wine tasting tonight, my second time after last spring. While back then, the Finger Lakes were still an exotic wine destination for me, I have now tried more and more of its wines and am quite impressed, so tonight’s line up including Chardonnay, Gewuerztraminer and Rieslings should be fun! The tasting happens on Twitter at 9:00pm EST and you can follow it via the hashtag #winechat (it takes place under the auspices of Protocol Wine Studio (@ProtocolWine), which skilfully hosts #winechat every week).
I did some research on the Finger Lakes last year, and figured it was helpful to read through it again, so I am reposting this. May is Finger Lakes Wine Month, so why not give their wines a shot?
The Finger Lakes region became an officially recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1982 and consists of approximately 4,451 hectares (11,000 acres) that are operated by around 100 wineries. The main glacial lakes that make up the area are Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. These (and other lakes) stretch from North to South just South of Lake Ontario which explains their name: Finger Lakes. Apparently, the first vines were planted in 1829. The Finger Lakes really seem to have taken off when the above mentioned Dr. Konstantin Frank (a Ukrainian immigrant with a PhD in plant science) started experimenting with roots and grapes varieties there for Cornell University in the 1950s and 60s. His work proved to be the first that enabled wine makers in the North Eastern United States to grow European grape varieties, in a climate and area that had been deemed off limits for these grapes.
What is interesting about the region is that the lakes lie at different heights, with land surrounding Canandaigua Lake reaching up to 2,000′ in height, with the land between the lakes further to the East successively reaching lower heights of 1,500′, 1,300′ and 800′. So this should actually make for different micro climates and therefore perfectly situated for single vineyard wines.
The region’s dominating grape varieties by acres under vine are mostly North American usual suspects: Concord (1,814 acres), Catawba (811 acres) and Niagara (667 acres). However, the Finger Lakes region’s second most planted variety is Riesling with 828 acres under vine. The climate should be favorable to Riesling and other varieties grown in colder climates like Germany. Actually, if you look at data gathered by Cornell University in the summer of 2012 (which also provides the other numbers), there are many obscure German or Austrian varieties planted in the area: from Zweigelt to Siegerrebe to Geisenheim to Dornfelder.
The Finger Lakes have been pushing their Riesling credentials, and from what one can read and what I have tsted in the past, rightly so. Its slate soils and cooler temperatures seem to give their Riesling grapes all the ingredients a winemaker needs to make good Riesling: slow ripening conditions to develop sugar and acidity and mineralic soil…
Finger Lakes Riesling is the King of the Region. Cab Franc and Pinot Noir from certain wineries aren’t bad. If you are looking for a spectacular view from the Tasting Room I recommend Lamoreaux Landing (Seneca) and Heron Hill (Keuka). There are so many good wineries and decent people in the Region. My favorites: Fox Run, Anthony Road, HJW, Lakewood, Hazlitt, Red Newt, LL, and Damiani. Hosmer and Sheldrake Point on Cayuga and Dr. Frank and Heron Hill on Keuka.
Hi Jeffrey, and excuse my late reply! Thanks for taking the time to comment, this will be a great list to return to once I will travel to the Finger Lakes!!
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This sounds way cool, Man. Hope it was an enjoyable tasting.
Apologies for the dry spell, but you know the reasons.
Have a wonderful weekend, my friend! :-)
I wish you could have joined us. It was a ton of fun!!
Slate soils, like Mosel and Rheingau? How do the Finger Lake Rieslings compare to the German Rieslings would you say?
They’ve got some lengths to go, I am afraid to say, but I find them a bit more consistent in quality than the Michigan Rieslings…
Lucky Dog! We will be going to the Finger Lakes again this summer and I can’t wait. We were in Pensacola last week during the storm, 26 inches of rain in 24 hours, we need a dry trip next time.
Yikes, that sounds horrible (the rain, I mean!). I envy you for your trip to the Lakes. It really is inching up and up on my bucket list…
I think this goes without saying but pretty please have a bottle for me!
LOL, only if you send me your skull wine glass! :)
I wish I could have overnighted it. Shoot!
Oh yeah, I so wish this had happened…:(
have fun on tonight’s wine adventure )
I’ll try…I don’t think it will be very easy…;)
Psyched for tonight! Got some goodies for the tasting…
Awesome!! Cannot wait.
I am a big fan of the Finger Lakes region. Living in Buffalo makes the trip easy and affordable and spend a few days there once or twice a year. I have been enamored with the Dry Rieslings (from Dr. Konstantin Frank, Ravines Wine Cellars and Fox Run Vineyards to name a few) but there seems to be a recent trend among some of the winemakers to make more European style Rieslings (such as Boundary Breaks, Villa Bellangelo, and Kemmeter Wines). There is great Gewurztraminer to be found as well as crisp Chardonnays. The reds are becoming better and better and differ from California reds significantly but the Cabernet Francs have been terrific and the Pinot Noirs can be elegant and delicious. They had a rough winter and it will likely be June of early July before the full extant of the cold weather damage will be known.
Sorry for the rambling… :-)
Thanks for weighing in Nathan!! Very much appreciated!!
I tend to prefer the drier Rieslings from the Finger Lakes (and I drink the Germans with a bit more residual sugar), and have had good experiences with Dr. Frank before.
I am also in agreement that the reds that come out of this region are not to be ignored. I was particularly taken by a Dr Frank Cabernet Franc, that was just spectacular. I also like that they are different from California. A colder climate warrants different types of wine.
I have heard about the issues of rough winter (you tell me, I am in Michigan, and this winter SUCKED!), so am keeping my fingers crossed that not too much harm was done.
And hey, this is a rambler’s site, so you are more than welcome to ramble!! :)
A weekend trip to FLX is on my summer agenda . . . I’ve been really impressed with the Rieslings and Gewürz coming out of the region. “See” you tonight, Oliver! Prost!
Yes, me too. And see you tonight!!!
I had been lately very impressed with the quality of Finger Lakes wines, especially even the red ones! Talking about unusual grapes, they make wine out of the Georgian star, Saperavi (never tasted one, but would love to).
Looking forward to the tasting and chat tonight!
Ah, you’ll be joining as well, great! It’s been a lot of fun with #winestudio and #winechat lately!!
I love how the Finger Lakes, and other regions here, are experimenting: I made a brief stop at a Niagara winery while I visited a friend last weekend, and there I tried a Siegfried grape (a bit weird, but not unpleasant), and two red grapes they use in blends that I had never even heard of…
The Finger Lakes aren’t too far away for you, right? Just gotta find a winery that grows Saperavi and then head there! :)
Well, it is not too far, but no too close – it is about 4.5 hours drive, so definitely more than the casual winery trip would justify. But I’m sure I will make it there rather sooner then later. And it seems you added a few grapes for the wine century ranks, good :)
Yes, I did! That was great!!
It was a 5 1/2 hour drive to Buffalo for me, so I am feeling you (Finger Lakes would have been an additional 2-3 hours from there, I was told).
I also plan to visit the region sooner rather than later. So much to explore there.
Sounds like fun! As you know, I enjoy Fingerlakes Rieslings…
I do know that! I am particularly excited to try a couple of Chardonnays and the Gewuerzes to see how these are faring. Exciting for sure!!