New York

New York Wine Overview

New York is one of the kingpins of the United States wine industry. Long before California was settled, vineyards were prolific in the Hudson River Valley and later in the Finger Lakes region. Large mass market wineries like Taylor brought New York’s wine industry to the general public in the 1960s and 1970s and cemented the state’s reputation as a major player in U.S. winemaking. Today, there are numerous grape growing and wine-producing regions all across New York state, which ranks third in U.S. wine production behind only California and Washington.

One of New York’s advantages as respects the wine industry is the wide variety of grapes grown here. Native American varieties are the most common, particularly in the Lake Erie shore area, but traditional European grapes are widely grown all across the state. Some of the more prominent varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vignoles and at least a dozen more.

New York, like California, Washington and Oregon, has specific regions noted for excellence of wine styles. The beautiful Finger Lakes area is noted for its Rieslings, which are sought after and praised worldwide. The eastern half of Long Island, the beneficiary of a unique microclimate, is known for excellent Merlots. In the western part of the state, the Buffalo and Niagara region has developed a stellar reputation for unique ice wines.

Situated between two Great Lakes to the north and west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, New York offers a unique variety of microclimates. The state is home to nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). New York’s four most prominent AVAs are the Long Island AVA and Hudson River Region AVA in the east and the Lake Erie AVA and Finger Lakes AVA in the west. New York’s other AVAs are the Seneca Lake AVA, Cayuga Lake AVA, North Fork of Long Island AVA, The Hamptons Long Island AVA and the Niagara Escarpment AVA. The mountainous region in the north and northeast portion of New York only adds to the diversity of climate conditions. The end result is broad and varied grape growing, and well over 200 wineries calling New York their home.

Long before California was settled, vineyards were prolific in the Hudson River Valley and later in the Finger Lakes region.

New York Wine Trails

Due to its rapidly growing winery count, New York was one of the first states to recognize the value of wine travel and wine-related tourism. New York has a whopping 11 wine trails, literally spread across the entire state. Here’s a snapshot overview of each New York wine trail …

Finger Lakes Area

The Finger Lakes Wine Countryarea of central-west New York is not only well known for its many wineries, but also as one of the best vacation spots in America. Truly a four-season destination, wine travelers in particular return here again and again to enjoy great wine in a peaceful, refined atmosphere.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Finger Lakes Wine Country, we encourage you to read our wine trail travelogues. The small towns surrounding the lakes are as charming and appealing as the wineries and the lakes themselves.

Specific to wine, the Finger Lakes themselves are a moderating influence on climate. One of the first things you’ll notice are the sloping hillsides leading down to the lakeshores. This valley-like environment allows for natural draining of grapevines, a condition that helps them thrive. Although the area is best know for Rieslings, many other grape styles are grown here, among them Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

At last count, there are close to 100 wineries in this general region. They surround each of the four main finger lakes: Canandaigua, Keuka, Cayuga and Seneca, as well as most of the smaller lakes. If you’re a wine lover (or even if you’re not), this is one area in America that belongs on your “must visit” list!

Located only an hour from Rochester, New York, the Canandaigua Wine Trail is one of New York’s smaller wine trails, both in winery numbers and geography. At the trail’s north end is the picturesque town of Canandaigua, an ideal location to use as a base. There are seven wineries on the trail, which stretches only 41 miles. It’s perfect for a quick overnight visit, although we guarantee you’ll want to stay longer.

Keuka Lake, a name which means “crooked,” is best known in the region as being a lake with two distinct branches. The area around both branches is known as the Keuka Wine Trail, home to eight Finger Lakes wineries including the renowned and pioneering Dr. Frank’s Wine Cellars. The trail is anchored on both ends of the lake by two quintessential Finger Lakes towns, Penn Yan and Hammondsport.

Cayuga Lake is one of the largest Finger Lakes. It’s surrounded by interesting small towns and Ithaca, home of Cornell University, at the southern end. The Cayuga Wine Trail offers 16 wineries to visit and numerous other agri-tourism attractions. Like most everywhere in the region, there’s an abundance of dining choices and a full range of accommodations.

The fourth wine trail in the Finger Lakes is the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, bounded by the New York towns of Geneva on the north and Watkins Glen on the south. In addition to the 32 wineries on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, you can also visit five breweries and distilleries. Needless to say, this is the largest wine trail in the Finger Lakes!

Central and Upstate New York

About 45 minutes east of Rochester along the south shore of Lake Ontario, you’ll discover the five member wineries of the Lake Ontario Wine Trail. This beautiful area of bays, inlets and small New York towns is a somewhat under the radar vacation destination, but well appreciated by those in the know. Summers are especially pleasant here, as the deep waters of Lake Ontario temper the heat.

Farther to the northeast, where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence Seaway, is the spectacular New York/Ontario Thousand Islands area. This area is an agricultural cornucopia, with rich soil, warm days and cool moist nights. Six wineries are located on the Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail, near the picturesque town of Sacketts Harbor and up to Alexandria Bay.

New York has 11 wine trails, literally spread across the entire state.

Hudson River Valley and The Catskills

The Hudson River Valley, about two hours north of New York City, was one of the first wine grape-growing regions in America, dating back close to 400 years. Two wine trails are located here, one on each side of the Hudson River. The first is the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which consists of 11 wineries, and on the east side of the Hudson River is the Dutchess Wine Trail, which has two more. All told, there are almost three dozen wineries in this general area, which is well known for producing white wines like Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc.

Lake Erie Area

South by southwest of Buffalo along the New York State Thruway is Chautauqua County, and just beyond, the Pennsylvania border. This area, which laps over into both states, is known as Lake Erie Wine Country. This group of wineries was formerly known as the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, which we visited. You can see our travelogue about this wine trail on our Pennsylvania wine trails page.

Of the 23 wineries in Lake Erie Wine Country, 14 are in New York. If you’re driving through the area, you’ll not only see all the vineyards just a few hundred yards from Lake Erie, you’ll also notice their fragrance. The scent of grapes is always in the air here, and there is a tremendous variety grown here. Among the local wines you’ll find at area wineries are Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnays. Quite a few Port wines are made here, as well as brandies and sweet wines. This is also the largest Concord grape-growing area in the world, anchored by Welch’s, which is headquartered just over the border in North East, Pennsylvania.

Long Island

Moving to the far eastern part of the state, eastern Long Island is rapidly becoming known as a grape-growing region and home to three separate AVAs. The wineries here have become known as Long Island Wine Country. Long Island, which extends 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, has a maritime climate that is very suitable for grape growing.

There are more than 3,000 acres of vineyards on the eastern half of Long Island, which interestingly has a decidedly rural character. The history of grape growing on Long Island is relatively recent, with the first vineyards planted in the 1970s. Now, there are more than 50 wineries on Long Island.

Long Island wines are now becoming among the New York state’s best-known consumable products. The Merlots from here are highly sought after, and Long Island Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs also earn high praise. A relative newcomer (for Long Island at least) are the Malbec wines which have caused consumers and wine critics alike to sit up and take notice.

It is said by many that the Long Island region holds the most promise of any New York wine-producing area for turning out superior wines. High praise indeed, considering the outstanding wines being made in the Finger Lakes and other New York areas.

The Hudson River Valley, about two hours north of New York City, was one of the first wine grape-growing regions in America, dating back nearly 400 years.”

Niagara Area

About 30 outside of Buffalo, New York and just east of Niagara Falls are the wineries of the Niagara Wine Trail. We visited Buffalo and several of the wineries on this trail quite recently and enjoyed it immensely. Buffalo is a very underrated restaurant and cultural city, and of course Niagara Falls is spectacular any time of year. This area is known as New York’s fruit basket. Various fruit and grape crops thrive here due to a unique microclimate that surrounds the meeting of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. There are now 16 wineries on the trail, and they are well known for producing an impressive variety of wines made from grapes grown right here. Some of the wine styles you’ll encounter here are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, and Pinot Noir. The wineries here are also renowned for their ice wines, always released in limited quantities and a special annual treat!

Travelogue: New York Wine: Canandaigua Wine Trail
Travelogue: New York Wine: Keuka Lake Wine Trail

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