This month the Wine Pairing Weekend group is taking a virtual trip to the Finger Lakes wine region in Upstate New York. The eleven finger like lakes were formed by glaciers back in the ice age. Iroquois tribe legend believes the Finger Lakes to be those of the Great Spirit. While the region has a cool continental climate, the warming effect of the lakes and steep vineyard slopes put this region on the map for producing top quality aromatic Riesling along with Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, and Pinot Gris. I’ve packed my picnic basket full of picnic fare and, of course, some Finger Lakes wines, as I taste and pair my way through this unique American wine-growing region.
Finger Lakes Wine Region Fast Facts
- The region is home to over 130 wineries.
- There are three American Viticultural Areas (AVAs); Finger Lakes AVA has 11,000 acres of vineyards and the largest wine-producing region in New York. Within the Finger Lakes AVA are; Cayuga Lake AVA and Seneca Lake AVA.
- The majority of wineries are on four lakes; Seneca (61 wineries), Cayuga (25 wineries), Keuka (19 wineries), and Canandaigua (7 wineries).
- The warming effect of the lakes helps moderate the temperatures reducing spring and late summer frost risk and prolonging the summer ripening of the grapes.
- The vineyards on hillside slopes surrounding the lakes provide good drainage and better sun exposure.
- Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Ukrainian immigrant, is credited with revolutionizing the Finger Lakes wine region when he successfully grew and produced wines from Vitis vinifera grafted cold-hardy rootstock in 1962.
- Today more producers are focusing on sustainable farming practices, quality over quantity, dry mineral style Rieslings, rosé wines, cultivating hybrid varieties, and pioneering cool-climate varieties like Blaufränkisch.
Disclosure: The wines were provided as media samples. All opinions are my own.
2018 Wagner Vineyards, Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes
11.9% abv | $15.00 SRP (sample) | 100% Riesling
Five generations of the Wagner family have grown grapes on the eastern hills of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region. Bill Wagner, a third-generation grape grower, established Wagner Vineyards in 1979. The estate grows 20 different grapes varieties on 250 acres, producing 50,000 cases of wine annually.
Pale straw in color. Aromas of lime zest, minerals, apples, pears, and herbs. On the palate, dry, with medium body and medium(+) acidity. Flavor notes of lime zest, Granny Smith apple, pear, and minerals. A medium finish with a hint of bitterness.
2017 Atwater Estate Vineyards, Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes
12.1% abv | $18.00 SRP (sample) | 100% Riesling
Atwater Estate Vineyards is located on the eastern hills of Seneca Lake. The vineyards are found on the southern portion of Seneca Lake, known as the “banana belt” of the Finger Lakes region. This area is the warmest of the Finger Lakes region. The vineyards were first farmed in the early 1900s with native varieties like Catawba and Concord. The vineyards changed ownership over the years, along with adding French-American hybrid varieties and Vitis vinifera palntings. In late 1999 Ted Marks purchased the vineyards and founded Atwater Estate Vineyards. Today the estate practices sustainable viticulture methods, farming 13 vitis vinifera, and 4 French-American hybrid varieties.
Pale straw in color. Aromas of nectarine, blossom, anise, ginger, and apple. On the palate, dry, with medium body and medium(+) acidity. Flavor notes of tangerine, minerals, and blossoms. Medium finish with a soft round mouthfeel.
2019 Fox Run Vineyards, Dry Rosé, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes
12.3% abv | $18.00 SRP (sample) | 64% Lemberger and 36% Pinot Noir
Fox Run Vineyards was founded by Larry and Adele Wildrick. They planted the first vineyards in 1984 and converted the former dairy farm’s civil war-era barn into a winery in 1990. In 1994, Scott Osborn and his first business partner purchased the winery from the Wildricks. Today the estate includes 50 acres of east-facing vineyards and is co-owned by Scott and Ruth Osborn, Ruth’s sister, and brother-in-law (Kathleen and Albert Zafonte). Fox Run vineyards maintain a mission to practice low environmental impact methods.
Pale salmon in color. Aromas of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, rose, grapefruit, and minerals. On the palate, dry with medium body and medium(+) acidity. Flavors notes of strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, and minerals. Medium(+) finish of lingering grapefruit notes.
Picnic Fare Pairings
All three of these wines were medium bodied with fresh crisp acidity making them food-friendly. I imagined myself savoring these wines by the shores of Seneca Lake with a simple but flavor packed picnic. In my basket were ham and cheese sandwiches on rye bread with cornichons, lemon, zucchini, tomato, and herb orzo salad, an asparagus and herb frittata, Eric Ripert’s “watermelon pizza,” and seasonal bing cherries. I especially enjoyed the lemon and vegetable orzo salad with the lighter style Wagner dry Riesling. The frittata and sandwiches paired well with the Atwater dry Riesling and its smooth round mouthfeel and cleansing acidity. And finally, the Fox Run dry Rosé matching fruity flavors and acidity with those in the watermelon pizzas.
Eric Ripert's Watermelon Pizza
- 1 mini round seedless watermelon, cut into 1-Inch thick slices and then into 6 wedges
- Kalamata olives, chopped
- feta cheese, crumbled
- mint, thinly sliced
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive
- Sprinkle Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and mint on each watermelon slice. Finish with black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Cheers to Finger Lakes Wines and Picnic Season!
More Finger Lakes wines and pairings from my fellow Wine Pairing Weekend group~
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm is Exploring the Wines of New York’s Finger Lakes Region.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Bibimbap with Garden Banchan + Forge CellarsClassique Riesling 2017.
- Lori at Dracaena Wines is Delving Into the History of the Finger Lakes with John Wagner.
- David at Cooking Chat shares Finger Lakes Wine Paired with Everyday Favorites.
- Cindy at Grape Experiences posts An Impressive New York Treasure: the Finger Lakes Wine Region.
- Teri at Our Good Life pairs Zero Degree Riesling with Pan Seared Scallops over Cheesy Grits.
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! writes New York Finger Lakes – I Hope You Like Riesling!
- Jill at L’OCCASION gives us New York Finger Lakes: Wine For Summer Pairings.
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings matches New York Finger Lakes Wines – Lonesome Stony Rose andFox Run Rieslings Paired with Quick-Prepped Seafood.
- Jane at Always Ravenous posts Picnic Fare Paired with Finger Lake Wines.
- Rupal at Syrah Queen discusses The Charm Of New York Finger Lakes Rieslings.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles pairs Finger Lake Riesling and Alsatian Salmon.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator offers two posts: Two Riesling from the Finger Lakes Pairedwith a Potluck and #RoseAllDay for #RoseDay:3 from New York’s Finger Lakes.
- Susannah at Avvinare examines Delightful Wines from the Finger Lakes.
- Jennifer at Vino Travels looks at Wines from Around Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Region.
- Nicole at Somm’s Table hosts Bo Ssäm and a Comparative Riesling Party!
- Finally, Linda at My Full Wine Glass is sharing two posts: Three Takes on Finger Lakes NY Cabernet Franc Rosé and Two Pair of NY Finger Lakes Riesling – A Winning Hand.