Finger Lakes in the Winter

 

 

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Why would anyone go to lake country in the winter?  What could one do on a freezing cold lake in the dead of winter in Central New York? Not much, not even ice fishing and ice skating because the 11 finger lakes that dot the landscape between Buffalo and Syracuse generally do not freeze in winter. Waterskiing would be challenging in the cold although with the right wet suit, I imagine it’s possible, though silly to ponder. And yet people tour these lakes in the winter nonetheless for one thing and one thing only, WINE.  With some 130 wineries mainly around 4 lakes: Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Canandaigua, the Finger Lakes are the 3rd largest wine producing area in the country.  Known for grapes that grow well in cool climates, the Finger Lakes region generates some of the best Rieslings wines in the world and increasingly some of the better examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc found anywhere.

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On a recent visit to the Finger Lakes, my wife and I sampled and bought wines from 8 wineries on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.  2016 and 2017 vintages are outstanding, particularly the Rieslings and Cabernet Francs which we purchased in abundance, but of course, before you buy, sample, because not all are the same, and there is a wild variability in the Cabernet Francs and other reds from vineyard to vineyard in my experience.  The same can be said for the Rieslings, but to tell the truth, almost all of the dry Rieslings I sampled, I liked, so fresh and balanced, a little zesty acidic zing with just a hint of sugar and a clean mineral finish; a few really stood out – Wagner, Lamoreaux Landing, and Boundary Breaks come to mind.  I don’t care much for the sweeter Rieslings but if you do, there are many to be had.  Some odd Whites that we sampled and snatched up are worth mentioning and they include Wagner’s Fathom 107, a blend of Riesling and Gewürztraminer and Fulkerson’s Matinee made from the hybrid Himrod grape. The Red standouts that I sampled came from Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake for Cabernet Franc, Glenora for an unoaked Cabernet Franc, Wagner for its Meritage, Merlot and Pinot Noir Reserve, and Heart and Hands also on Cayuga Lake for its Pinot Noir.

Winter is a great time to visit the magical Finger Lakes.  The tasting lines at the wineries are short, and the views around the lakes are breathtaking with very little traffic to contend with. It feels like the lakes and the vineyards are there just for me, and me only.

Cheers!

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