Named the top wine region in the USA Today 2018 10 Best Reader’s Choice national poll, the Finger Lakes wine region is host to more than 120 wineries and is the biggest producer of wine in New York State. The scenic Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua, and Cayuga lakes are the central focus of the region and play a major role in the area’s renown cool climate wines, especially its varietal whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. But the region is also famed for its red varieties such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, as well as other popular white varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
It is said that when it comes to growing good wine, the magic is in the terroir. But in the Finger Lakes wine region it’s not just the picturesque, and agriculturally-rich, sloping hillsides that help make our region’s wines world-class, credit goes to the growers and winemakers, who carefully cultivate the land and grapes to create award-winning wines.
According to historical accounts, the earliest instance of grape growing in the Finger Lakes goes back to 1829, when Reverend William Bostwick planted Catawba and Isabella grapes in his Hammondsport rectory garden. But other descriptions prove that European settlers, who were “impressed with the remarkable profusion of wild grapes growing here,” discovered the potential for its evolution into the wine region it is today.
Our region’s glacially-designed lakes and hills provide ideal drainage for growing grapes, but it wasn’t until the passage of the New York Farm Winery Act of 1976, which allowed New York grape growers to sell their wine to the public, that the Finger Lakes wine region began to grow into the verifiable wine country it is today. The region even has the distinction of birthing the first bonded winery in the United States—U.S. Bonded Winery No. 1, which is now the Hammondsport-based Pleasant Valley Wine Company.
To name its winners in the USA Today poll, a panel of wine experts selected 20 wineries in the U.S., and USA Today readers voted on the final top 10 winners. Finger Lakes ranked in all categories covered by the poll: Geneva-based F.L.X. Table was awarded the title of the country’s best new restaurant, the second year it has received the accolade; and Fox Run Café at Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan placed third for Best Wine Restaurants, and Veraisons Restaurant at Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee was ranked eighth.
Other winners within our region included Best Tasting Room: Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan (7th) and Dr. Konstantin Frank in Hammondsport (10th); Best Wine Country Hotel: Belhurst Castle in Geneva (3rd); Best Wine Festival: Finger Lakes Wine Festival in Watkins Glen (5th); and Best Winery Tour: Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in Dundee (7th).
The Finger Lakes wine region attracts visitors from all over the world, but not just for the grapes. Our region also offers a wealth of breweries, distilleries and cideries, as well an array of activities, festivals, and breathtaking sites. Steeped in history, surrounded by deep lakes, and host to fun events all year long, our region is one to discover and explore. And while you’re here, definitely taste the wine.