New York Wine Country

The Yankees (not my personal team to root for) are in the 2010 baseball post season again. They are representing a city of nearly 8.5 million people, about 27,900 humans per square mile. Contrast New York City’s population with that of Los Angles (nearing 4.0 million) or Chicago (nearing 3.0 million). Ironically, New York State’s population is ranked only third most among U.S. states. Still the state would seem to be nothing but a “sea of people”. New York State actually consists of a lot of rolling countryside dissected by many river valleys with elevations ranging from sea-level to Mt. Marcy at 5,344 feet. This countryside, I came to find out, has several areas where vineyards and wineries flourish.

New York State has six areas that currently define its wine country. The areas are:

1) Lake Erie-Chautauqua,
2) Niagara Escarpment,
3) Finger Lakes,
4) Hudson River Valley-Catskills,
5) New York City and
6) Long Island-North Folk-Hamptons.

Another area that previously has not been considered a part of the state’s wine country is Central New York-Lake Ontario, an area experiencing recent wine industry growth. The three most important areas Lake Erie-Chautauqua, Finger Lakes and Long Island-North Fork-Hamptons have over 95 percent of the vineyard acres, over 75 percent of the bonded wineries and over 95 percent of the tons of grapes produced in the entire state. In an article by Debra J. Goon, she discusses New York’s grape and wine industry as contributing $3.76 billion to the state’s economy. New York ranks third behind California and Washington in grape production by volume.

The grape growing seasons in the state range from about 180 days in the northern areas (Finger Lakes and Upper Hudson River Valley) to 230 days near the Long Island area. Annual precipitation across the state averages 30 to 50 inches per year. Wines produced include Sparkling Wines, Seyval, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Ice Wines, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, and Merlot. Many American hybrid grapes such as Catawba, Delaware, Elvira, Ives and Isabella are also grown. Important French hybrid grapes grown, noted to make great wines, are Cayuga, Vidal and Vignoles. Concord grapes are grown primarily for use in juices.

The state has several notable wine trails that would make excellent tour destinations. Trails can be found near the cities of Fredonia, Niagara, Penn Yan, Fayette, Watkins Glen, Marlboro, Clinton Corners, Williamson, Alexandria Bay and Riverhead. Visiting a winery could easily be coupled with visiting other state attractions like Niagara Falls, Sterling Renaissance Festival, Erie Canal, Everson Museum, Allegany State Park, Catskill Park or even the Long Island Beaches. Often a side-trip taking you away from your primary destination focus is a welcome relief; at least it has been that way for me. I bet you might even find a wine that you can add to your list of favorites.

Take the time to check out New York’s wine industry. As I always say, buy the wine you like, store wine properly in a wine refrigerator, serve it at the proper temperature and enjoy it immensely.

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