Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Boston Wine Expo: Finger Lakes Wines

New York is a major U.S. wine producer yet why is it so difficult to find their wines in my local wine stores? I live in Massachusetts, which borders New York, so you would expect you could find plenty of New York wines here. Yet I am lucky if I can find one or two of their wines in the stores I frequent. That is a shame because New York has some delicious wines which many people would enjoy, if only they could find them here.

Their general lack of availability is one reason why I chose to concentrate some of my efforts at the Boston Wine Expo on tasting wines from the Finger Lakes region of New York. They are wines of which I are largely unfamiliar but which I really wanted to check out. Why not support local wineries, especially if they produce a good product? I wanted to know whether they did have some worthy wines or not.

The Finger Lakes are a group of lakes in the west-central section of New York. Though there are eleven lakes in this area only the seven largest are usually identified as the Finger Lakes. This region is an important agricultural area with many vineyards, dairy farms, and other types of farms. It has also become a major tourist destination, all year round, with a wide variety of available activities, lodging, restaurants and more. The region is only about six hours from Boston so you could drive there for a long weekend or extended vacation.

There are over 100 wineries in the Finger Lakes area and they produce approximately 40 million bottles a year. The fact they make so much wine, and so little is available in Massachusetts, is a puzzler. The wine region is commonly divided into three different trails: the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, Keuka Lake Wine Trail, and Seneca Lake Wine Trail. The grapes they grow include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Riesling. They also grow some native and hybrid varietals such as Cayuga White, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, and Vidal Blanc. This local region provides much to interest a wine tourist. I have not visited this area yet but will try to rectify that in the near future.

At the Expo, I tasted wines from three different wineries, including: Ravines Wine Cellars, Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, and Wagner Vineyards. I found good wines from all three wineries and will post my tasting notes over the next few days. Overall, I found evidence that the Finger Lakes region can produce some excellent wine and deserves a closer look.

What also pleased me is that most of their wines seem to be very reasonably priced. One of my complaints about some Long Island wineries is that they seem to charge too much for their wines, making it difficult to find value wines. Yet the Finger Lakes wineries I checked out seem to be much more conservative in their pricing. Hopefully, their wines will start to become more readily available in local wine stores.

For more information about the Finger Lakes region, you can also check out:

Finger Lakes Tourism Aliance
Visit Finger Lakes
Corning & The Finger Lakes
Finger Lakes Wine Gazette
Finger Lakes Wine Guild


Lenn Thompson | said...

Richard: Looking forward to seeing your notes on the wines you tasted. Ravines is one of my favorite smaller producers up they are doing some wonderful things. Dr. Frank is one of the best known Finger Lakes wineries for a reason. And Wanger has impressed me with some of its wines.

Your point about pricing is a good one, not because I think LI wines are bad values (clearly I don't) but because there are some INCREDIBLE values to be had in the Finger Lakes. Especially with riesling and Gewurzt.

Unknown said...

You can also find more information on the region at Finger Lakes Wine Country You might also take a look at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Wines. A fine example of Reisling from the Finger Lakes, along with some good time party wines in Redcat and Whitecat. I think they are available in New Hampshire now. If they are not yet they will be soon, according to winery representatives.

Anonymous said...

Richard - Thanks for the write-up and we very much appreciate the time you spent tasting our wines. There is tremendous opportunity for Finger Lakes Wine Country in the Boston and New England markets. Having attended Boston College (so did Lisa Hallgren from Ravines and John Martini from Anthony Road) I know the city and surrounding area well. We hope to build on our presence at the Expo and bring more Bostonians to "Wine Country" this year.

Cheers to good, affordable local wines!

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks to all for your comments. I am a Finger Lakes fan after tasting some excellent wines at the Expo. Lenn is right that Riesling and Gewurtz seem like very strong contenders in this region. And I do hope these wines penetrate more deeply into the Boston market.