It may surprise even many New Yorkers to learn that two high-quality wine regions are within driving distance. We’ve written in the past about the wineries of Long Island, but more recently, we had the pleasure of exploring the Finger Lakes. About five hours by car from Times Square, these long and surprisingly deep bodies of water resemble a set of blue claw marks scratched into the map between Buffalo and Syracuse. It sounds like chilly territory for fine wine grapes, and indeed, the winters can be quite cold. But just as the Rhine and Danube rivers help warm the vineyards on their banks, the heat-retaining and sun-reflecting waters of the Finger Lakes create microclimates conducive to vine-growing.
A sommelier I once chatted with compared the Finger Lakes to Germany’s Moselle Valley, but the area seemed to me more like Austria, which excels with a similar set of grape varieties. Like Austria, the Finger Lakes region is most famous for its dry Riesling, and rightly so. Other Austrian grapes, such as Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch (here called Lemberger), also thrive. And similar to many Austrian bottlings, wines in the Finger Lakes tend to have an excellent quality-to-price ratio.
I noticed that most wineries in the region tend to be small, often family-owned affairs. It’s not uncommon to meet with a winemaker or someone else involved in production, which makes winery visits more fun. Certainly, wine snobbery is nowhere in evidence here; all the people I’ve met in the industry are friendly, informal and down-to-earth.