Explore the Finger Lakes

Explore the Finger Lakes

We love exploring new wine regions, so we are taking it to the East Coast.

And since we’ve been talking about Riesling a lot lately — because it’s perfect with sushi and Thai, works great with a big heavy meal, and even pairs effortlessly with a bag of Skittles — we’re heading to an area of our country that makes great Riesling — the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York.

It’s about a five-hour drive north of Manhattan and is located south of Rochester, west of Syracuse and below Lake Ontario.

The entire Finger Lakes wine region is about 11,000 acres and often is compared to the Riesling area of Germany, which is along the Rhine River (not a typo), because the land and the cooler climates are so similar. And that’s exactly why Riesling grows so well in the Finger Lakes.

There are eleven lakes and they actually look like fingers on a map.

And while the first record of wine making in the Finger Lakes is in 1829, it didn’t start getting any areal attention until the 1960s.

Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Ukrainian immigrant with a PhD in Plant Science (yes, there is such a thing), came to work for Cornell University in 1951.

And even though tons of people told him it could not be done, he set out to prove that he could grow grapes in this cold, undeveloped region of our country. And in 1962, he did just that.

Not only did he successfully grow and produce Riesling, we went on to do the same with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Flash-forward to 2014, Paul Hobbs, who Forbes has called “the Steve Jobs of wine,” famous for his California Cabernets, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, decided to invest in the area. Hobbs, who actually was born in upstate NY, started a joint venture with one of Germany’s most famous Riesling makers — Johannes Selbach of the Mosel Valley's Selbach-Oster.

And while there were other important winemakers that came to invest in the Finger Lakes, the Hobbs-Selbach combo brought a ton of attention to the region.

Now there are over 130 wineries, 9,393 acres of vineyards and 54,600 tons of grapes produced each year. And while the majority of the wine is Riesling (about 200 different Riesling brands are produced each year), they also are putting out some great Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris and Gewürtztraminer (pronouncer, just in case.)

So buy a bottle or take a road trip. And the next time you order sushi, try an east coast bottle of Riesling.

Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.

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