American Rhineland? The Finger Lakes AVA is the Empire State’s largest wine-growing region, with approximately 11,000 acres under vine and close to 100 operating wineries.
The AVA’s similarities to Germany’s Rhine area begin with its bitterly cold winters and short growing season. Also reminiscent is the preferred grape, Riesling, and the picturesque, river-like lakes, with their steep vine-clad slopes running down to the shoreline. Besides Riesling, a wide range of cold-tolerant vinifera, French hybrid and native American varieties thrive. Appellation specialties include sparkling and icewine.
This upstate viticultural area centers around the four main lakes: Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga, with the latter two having their own AVA status. The long, narrow, deepwater lakes help moderate the climate against the very cold and snowy winters, and then extend the summer heat into a protracted growing season. Steep slopes along the lakes provide good sun exposures and excellent air drainage, helping to reduce frost risks at both ends of the season.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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