New York

In the U. S., California is justly famous for its wines. In fact, it is so famous that it comes as a surprise to many to learn that New York has long been a serious competitor in terms of quality.

In the New York region winemaking goes back centuries. Ice Age glaciers carved out an ideal region for growing wine grapes, ten thousand years ago. When these glaciers melted, the waters' effect on the air combined with the cliffs to funnel maritime breezes through the region to create the perfect climate.

350 years ago on a small island that would alter be named Manhattan, Dutch settlers took advantage of this. They were the first to plant vinifera (the common European species that forms the basis of nearly all French wine), but found it would not survive in this colder region. Eventually growers learned that vinifera could be grafted onto native root-stock and production began in earnest.

Hudson Valley

To the north in the Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes areas the first commercial wineries planted vinifera in the late 1860s and began the industry that thrives still today. Twenty five years ago there were 19 wineries. Today there are over 150.

For example, on 500 acres 28 wineries grow 1,280 tons of Seyval, Chardonnay and on another 10,000 acres during a 200 day growing season come 61,500 tons Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and others from 58 wineries.

The famous Benmarl, is among these. It is America's oldest winery which produces Seyval Blanc and Baco Noir.

Lake Erie

Arctic air masses flow toward the Lake Erie region, however get water conditioned by the Great Lakes and trapped by the Allegheny Plateau to buffer the vines from extreme temperatures.

This is the largest wine producing area outside California (if the Pennsylvania acreage is included), with 20,000 acres under cultivation the grape production is a whopping 121,697 tons. Labrusca varieties of Concord and Niagra produce grape juice, Seyval and Riesling.

While 90% of this region's Concord grapes are used to make grape juice, there are seven wineries that grow European varieties for vinification.

Long Island

Long Island, which is known as New York's 'Bordeaux' region, is the newest and fastest growing wine area. Approximately 160 km (100 mi) east of New York City the island separates into the North Fork and the South Fork separated by the Great Peconic Bay. The temperature is moderated by the bay and the Atlantic Ocean, creating favorable conditions for Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

While it is small at only 1,600 acres and 4,800 tons of grape production, the 24 wineries located here are producing award winning vintages.

New York State

In 2004, which was considered a light year, over $400 million of New York wine was sold, with an economic impact on New York State of $3.3 billion. The are produces not only Labrusca, but Baco, Aurora, Riesling, Chardonnay in a total area, second only to California.

Now that regulations have changed to permit shipping of New York wine out of state to be sold by direct mail, that number will grow significantly. Thanks should be given not only to changing laws, but also to the continual improvements made by New York's dedicated vintners.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

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