Wines Produced in New York State - dummies

Wines Produced in New York State

Wines produced in New York state don’t get the recognition they deserve, perhaps because of California’s overwhelming presence in the U.S. winemaking market. New York ranks as the third largest wine producing state in the United States.

Brotherhood America’s Oldest Winery, Ltd., the oldest continuously operating winery in the United States, opened its doors in New York’s Hudson Valley in 1839. And the largest wine company in the world, Constellation, has its headquarters in the Finger Lakes region of western New York.

New York’s Finger Lakes wine region

New York state’s most important wine region is the Finger Lakes area in upstate New York, where four large lakes temper the otherwise cool climate. This AVA produces about two-thirds of New York’s wines.

Prior to 1960, most of New York’s wines were made from native American varieties, such as Concord, Catawba, Delaware, and Niagara, as well French-American hybrid grapes such as Seyval Blanc, Baco Noir, and Maréchal Foch.

Common wisdom held that the relatively cold New York winters could not support Vitis vinifera varieties. But a Russian immigrant, the late, great Dr. Konstantin Frank, proved all the naysayers wrong when he succeeded in growing Riesling (followed by many other vinifera varieties) in 1953 in Hammondsport, in the Finger Lakes region. His son, Willy Frank, ran one of the most successful wineries in the state, with an entire line of fine vinifera wines and excellent sparkling wines; the winery carries on today under the leadership of Dr. Franks’s grandson, Fred.

NYC-area wine regions

Two other important wine regions are the Hudson Valley, along the Hudson River north of New York City; and Long Island, which has three AVAs:

  • North Fork of Long Island (the most important)

  • The Hamptons, on the island’s South Fork

  • Long Island itself, using grapes from all over Long Island

In 1973, Alec and Louisa Hargrave got the idea that Long Island’s North Fork (about a two-hour drive east of New York City) had the ideal climate and soil for vinifera grapes. Today, Long Island has 32 wineries and is still growing. Like Washington state, Long Island seems particularly suited to Merlot, but Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown, plus some Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, and numerous other varieties.