By Lisa Rowlands

Established as an AVA in 1982, the history of winemaking in Finger Lakes dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century. However, it wasn’t until more than one-hundred years later, in the early 1960s, that the region’s wine industry really began to flourish following the successful introduction of European Vitis Vinifera varieties grafted onto hardy, native rootstock. Today the appellation is New York’s largest and most prestigious winemaking region, receiving both domestic and international acclaim for its cool climate varietals. It is home to more than one-hundred wineries / winemakers whose collective passion and innovation have helped to establish it as a high quality viticultural region.

Eleven slender, glacial lakes give this area its name, however the vast majority of vineyards occupy the steep, free draining slopes around just four of them. Two of these - Cayuga AVA and Seneca AVA - are themselves officially designated sub-appellations (receiving this status in 1988), and the others - Keuca and Canandaigua - are amongst the area’s largest bodies of water, with Keuca (taking its name from the Native American for crooked lake) notable also for its unusual Y shape. As well as providing a somewhat scenic backdrop, the lakes themselves are integral to the region’s microclimate; their deep waters serve to moderate the cool temperatures and reduce the risk of frost damage to the vines.

Despite the often harsh conditions and the difficulties they pose for growers and winemakers, a huge number of different grapes are successfully cultivated in Finger Lakes. These include European Vitis Vinifera varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, French-American hybrids and indigenous grapes. But the standout variety is undoubtedly Riesling, which accounts for more than one quarter of total production and delivers a wide range of celebrated wines. Vinified dry, sweet and even as an ice wine, Finger Lakes’ Rieslings - across the full spectrum of styles - are flavoursome and well-balanced with the inherent acidity for which the variety is known.