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Discovered! Finger Lake Wines

Discovered! Finger Lake Wines

Casa Larga Vines (photo by C.S.)

Carrie Strong | Chef's Blade

New York State is one of America’s agricultural centers, maintaining 35,600 farms on 7.55 million acres of land. The state boasts being in the top three in the US production of milk, apples, cauliflower, pumpkin, cabbage, and grapes. Jelly, jams and non-fermented juice notwithstanding, grape farming has helped New York to become the third largest wine producing state in the country, behind top producers California and Washington. While the Finger Lakes area is generally a cool place, I stole a warm summer weekend to explore a few wineries in that wine region in upstate New York.

With harsh winters, the Finger Lakes region was once considered too cold to grow vitis vinifera, the most common wine grapes, which include Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, in the 1950’s Dr. Konstantin Frank and Charles Fournier proved everyone wrong by successfully growing Chardonnay and Riesling at the Geneva Research station, a center for viticultural experimentation. These two grapes had been successful in European countries of similar climates, which presented the foundation for Frank and Fournier’s experiments. For example, Riesling grapes grow in abundance in both Germany and Alsace while Chardonnay grapes create world class wine in the moderate climate of Burgundy.

In the Finger Lakes, like many smaller American wine regions, hybrids (grapes created by crossing two different vitis species) flourish because of the cooler climates. Many wineries produce predominantly hybrid grapes for their wine catalogues.

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Imagine Moore Tasting Room (photo by C.S.)

Long Point Winery, on the east side of Cayuga Lake, produced a refreshing Vidal Blanc that caught my interest. Vidal Blanc, a hybrid of Ugni Blanc (sometimes referred to as Trebbiano) and Rayon D’Or, produces high levels of sugar in cold weather while maintaining acidity for balance. Long Point’s Vidal Blanc was delicately sweet with floral aromas and melon flavors. It suited the overall expectations I had received from the website, 2BASnob, which advised me to “expect lighter, fruitier wines with stronger perfumey scents.”

I spent most of my time on the Canadaigua Wine Trail, where a $10 passport allowed local tastings at each of the trail’s 6 wineries. This pass includes a tasting at the NY Wine & Culinary Center, a non-profit organization, which advocates, educates, and celebrates New York’s agricultural reputation and local food, wine and culinary industries. This center, opened in June 2006, maintains a state of the art culinary kitchen, two Wi-Fi equipped educational spaces, a tasting room promoting all NY State beer and wine, and a high end restaurant. Walking through the center, I could feel the enormous sense of New York culinary pride embracing me.