It’s a not-so-well-known fact that all 50 states make wine. From the coast of California to Idaho in the Pacific Northwest, down to the plains of Texas, and up to the populated Northeast, all states produce fine wine expressive of specific terroir.
Just a few hours from the bustling metropolis of New York, lies the fresh air country of New York State, producing wines full of elegance and character. The state has four major wine-producing regions: Finger Lakes, Hudson River Valley, Long Island and Lake Erie. These AVAs (American Viticultural Area) also have numerous sub-AVAs within their boundaries.
New York State has been on the rise in commercial wine production since the 1960s. In 2016, New York State came in third for annual US wine production, accounting for four percent of national production with 380 wineries producing 12 million cases, a world away from 1976 when there were only 19 wineries in operation. Though most winemakers don’t export out of the Tri-State area, or even the Northeast as a whole.
The state is no stranger to winemaking and is packing some serious history. In fact, New York is home to the oldest winery in the United States that’s still in operation, Brotherhood Winery, which was established in 1839 and is located in the Hudson River Valley AVA. Near the village of Hammondsport in the Finger Lakes, Pleasant Valley Wine Company, established in 1860, was the first bonded winery in the US (a winery that has been licensed by the federal government for tax and insurance purposes).
In the 1960s, the ambitions of a Ukrainian immigrant, Dr. Konstantin Frank, and his innovative viticulture techniques birthed quality production in the state by recognizing the potential for grapes, such as Riesling, to thrive in the cold climate. Before these innovative ambitions, New York State was, and still is, one of the largest producers of Concord grapes to make juice and jelly, most notably from the Lake Erie AVA.
Winemakers located in the Finger Lakes focus on showcasing the terroir of the region, producing single vineyard Riesling that could rival some of the greatest estates in Mosel. Other family-owned estates in the area make wines in converted Civil War Era dairy barns. These producers make Chardonnay with the razor-sharp acidity and charm of Chablis and happens to pair perfectly with the local Amish cheese.
During the common brutal winters, the leading red grape of the region, Cabernet Franc, and interesting varieties like Lemberger (the Austrian grape Blaufränkisch) paired with venison and game birds are everything you need to keep warm.
To escape the blazing city heat of the summer, the wineries of Long Island make for a perfect day trip or weekend getaway. The Hamptons AVA, part of the larger Long Island AVA, is also ideal for an eat local, drink local adventure. Local seafood paired with pleasantly salty Sauvignon Blanc from a coastal vineyard among local grandeur will make it as if you’re dining along the French Riviera – even if you’re just a few hours from the city.
A stone’s throw from the grandiose beachfront estates of The Hamptons lies the North Fork AVA. Nestled near the picturesque towns of Mattituck and Southold, the region boasts some of the most vibrant expressions of Merlot from decade-old vines. After your glass of magnificent Merlot and perhaps some fare from a local food truck, sip a late harvest Riesling and take in the sweeping cliff views of Long Island Sound.
There is much more to New York State than its famous cosmopolitan center. Picturesque, historic and family-owned estates produce quality wine served with generosity and enthusiasm. The expressive wines of New York State may be the best-kept secret in the Northeastern US – for now.