New York state is an important wine producer with five quite different wine regions. Most important in terms of quantity of wine produced (as opposed to grape juice or table grapes) is the bucolic Finger Lakes region in the west of the state. The slopes of these deep lakes are sufficiently steep to keep cold air moving in winter while vines bud too late in spring for frost to be a serious threat. The Cayuga Lake is warm enough to ripen European vinifera vines, but considerable quantities of wine have been produced from earlier-ripening hybrid or American vines, of which red Concord is the most powerfully flavoured example. Some seriously fine Riesling is produced here, however, and in warmer years some appetising dry red wines emerge too. Superior producers include Anthony Road, Heron Hill, Chateau Lafayette Reneau, Lamoreaux Landing, Macari (actually based in Long Island), Hermann J Wiemer, Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars and Heart & Hands.
The vineyards on Lake Erie on the Canadian border produce mainly grape juice, Concord jelly and table grapes, while those of the Hudson River due north of Manhattan are notable for their continuous existence over 300 years. Most of the wine, made from European, American and hybrid vines, is sold locally although Millbrook, under the same ownership as California’s famous Williams Selyem and specialising in the relatively obscure white grape (Tocai) Friulano, has a national presence and even manages to penetrate the odd restaurant in Europhile Manhattan.
Arguably the most exciting wine region is only just in New York state, the easternmost tip of Long Island where the climate, thanks to the ocean which surrounds it, is mild enough to allow vinifera vines to flourish in all vineyards. Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Merlot do particularly well here and have a finesse, natural acidity and delicacy that distinguishes them from many other American wines. The North Fork of the island, potato country, is the predominant wine region and high achievers include Bedell, Gristina, Jamesport, Lenz, Macari, Palmer, Peconic Bay, Pellegrini and Pindar. One stand-out producer on the South Fork is Channing Daughters, although they buy fruit from the North Fork too.
For more information on this region see Uncork New York.