New York is without a doubt one of the most well known places in the world. You can travel half-way around the world and see someone wearing a New York Yankees hat. True that the city of New York is very well know, but not necessarily the whole state (which also called New York). Regardless, there are many well known topics (besides the Yankees) that people often relate to New York. If I polled 10 people to tell me something that they think of when I say “New York”, I doubt any of them will say wine. This just shows how large of gap there is between the top few states that make wines in the USA.
Depending on where you get your information, New York is the fourth largest state in the US (behind California, Washington, Oregon) as far as number of wineries and the third largest state (behind California and Washington) for wine made by volume. When most wine books focus on the US, California will get a large chapter, Washington about half that size, Oregon about a third of the size, and New York will get a few paragraphs. It’s interesting to me considering those first three states are on the West Coast, while New York is lonely over on the East Coast.
New York has had such a massive head start though, with its first reported wine being produced in the 17th century. For centuries, most of the wine came from Vitis labrusca varieties (like Concord) as well as various hybrids. Like most of these East Coast states, they struggled to find Noble grapes that would grow well with the soil and its climate. The state is known for harsh cold winters, so it didn’t make sense that they tried to grow grapes not typically found in such an environment. Due to the usual key historical wine events like phylloxera and prohibition, New York wine production almost came to a complete stop by the early 1900s.
It wasn’t until mid-century when a Ukrainian doctor (who was a well-known viticulturist in his own country) emigrated to the state and found work as a Cornell University janitor since this was the only position he qualified for with his limited US-based work experience. They couldn’t hire him for the position he deserved, but at least they could get him on staff somehow. While it took years, he finally convinced his colleagues to use the correct Vitis vinifera vines in the Finger Lakes area and that started to turn things around. He felt that the microclimates around the Finger Lakes created similar climates to parts of Germany and pushed people to focus on those varietals that are known to grow well there. Nowadays, while Concord wine is certainly still well known, ones like Niagara, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gewürztraminer get center stage. The state has several other AVA’s as well, but for this tasting I’m focusing on the Finger Lakes AVA.
I chose my NY wines from Heron Hill Winery who has vineyards and tasting rooms all around the Finger Lakes. They’ve been in business since the 1970s and appear to be quite awarded with several standout wine medals. The Finger Lakes has been reported to grow around 77 percent of New York’s Riesling, so I decided it would be my primary wine as I tried their 2017 Ingle Vineyard Riesling. It’s nose was bit of a blend of resin and apples with a taste of green ripe apples and citrus. While I do now consider myself a much better white wine drinker than I used to be, I still have my preferences. I’m realizing that I prefer sweeter Rieslings much more so than these dryer kind. I did enjoy this wine, but it was a bit dryer than I typically prefer my Rieslings.
For my second wine, I chose their 2016 Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir. This was a very soft and light wine. It’s color was so transparent that it was mesmerizing. How could a red wine so thin, still have such great flavors? It had a nice berry balance of cherries and raspberries. One minute I was convinced that cherry was the primary flavor, while the next all I could sense was raspberries. I had never tried a Pinot from New York before, but I will certainly be looking for more after this bottle.
Overall, I have to say that I preferred the red wine this time around. I guess my trend of liking the white wine more has come to an end, at least for this week. Without a doubt though, I need to visit the Finger Lakes sometime soon. There are so many wineries I need to try up there!
You can see a list of states I’ve reviewed on my main 50 Wines From 50 States page.