The Finger Lakes: Welcome to Riesling Country

When you visit the Finger Lakes, you’ll kick yourself for not going sooner. It took me six years of living in New York to venture up to the region and, coming from New Zealand, a country that has an abundance of lakes, it was at once new, familiar and incredibly beautiful.

What’s not to love when you have boats, vineyards and incredible mansions? Not only the land gorgeous in any season, but the five main lakes that make up the “fingers” make for an incredibly scenic backdrop.  I returned for a second trip last weekend, and I knew what to expect.

But what was most exciting for me this time was to discover some of the most incredible inns and boutique hotels – in particular the Aurora Inn and E.B. Morgan house – on the shores of Cayuga Lake.  These stunning sister properties make for a cozy wine country getaway for those of us in the North East, and offer a perfect weekend escape in any season. They also have a rich history: The founders and investors of Wells Fargo, the original investors of the New York Times and the American Express Company all lived in Aurora in the early 1800s.

This beautiful region is also less commercial than many West Coast wine country counterparts, and if you are a Riesling lover like me, it’s right up your alley.

So, why haven’t you heard of Finger Lakes wines? Well, probably for a few reasons. The wineries don’t produce huge quantities of wine so most of it doesn’t make it out of the state, or even past the tasting rooms. Therefore, many people don’t even know about these wines — they are generally bought by a small number of enthusiasts. The Finger Lakes also has a cool climate, so the red wines from this region are harder to market to the American palate; Finger Lakes reds are higher in acidity, lower in tannins, have restrained fruit and are more European in style.

But this is an up-and-coming region that deserves a lot more attention. Here you’ll find a lot of great Riesling, but there’s also excellent Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewürtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. I was even impressed with some of the Merlots I tried.

Some of the wineries you might like to include in your trip are: Atwater Estate, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Fox Run Vineyards, Heron Hill, Lamoreaux Landing, Rooster Hill amd Sheldrake Point. These producers all make some incredible bottlings, and what better way to discover their wines than to visit?

Have any questions about visiting the Finger Lakes? Post them below.