Along the Byway

A series of articles about some of the many themes that you can experience on the Byway.

Cayuga Lake Wineries

Imagine sipping exquisite wine while looking out on a spectacular view of vineyards sloping down to Cayuga Lake. There are 28 wineries around Cayuga Lake, and visiting one or more of them can lead to some of the most delightful experiences along the Byway. All the wineries offer distinctive wines in a beautiful setting, yet each is unique, offering their own specialties and personalities. They offer award-winning varieties such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, to name just a few. Some wineries specialize in distilled spirits like port, brandy, limoncella and vodka; there is even an expert in mead and one in hard cider.

With a climate similar to regions in Northern Europe such as Burgundy and Bordeaux, this admittedly much younger wine region is quickly earning well deserved acclaim and producing exceptional products. 90% of New York States wines are produced in the Finger Lakes, and many wine magazines consider it the most important wine region in the eastern United States. The topography of the Finger Lakes, with their deep glacier-carved lakes and rolling hills, makes for this excellent grape growing region. The deep lake waters moderate the temperatures; in the spring their cooling effect delays the budding of the vines until after the danger of frost has passed. In the fall, the microclimate close to the lake stays warmer longer, extending the growing season. The rolling hills that we find so picturesque are also a great advantage, as the sloping shale beds provide the drainage essential to grape growing.

Cayuga Lake is fast becoming viewed as the best of the Finger Lakes. The growing season for Cayuga Lake is 190-205 days, the longest in the Finger Lakes. The altitude of Cayuga Lake vineyards are lower than that of the other Finger Lakes. This allows for a longer growing season, a favorable advantage for the production of vinifera varieties. Since the “vinifera revolution” in the Finger Lakes 50 years ago, when Dr. Constantin Frank and Charles Fournier grew European varieties by Keuka Lake and “proved to skeptics that old-world grapes could indeed thrive in the East and produce world-class wines”*, many vintners and entrepreneurs have brought their talents here to create award winning wines and an exciting, thriving wine region. The number of wineries around Cayuga Lake has grown from 4 in 1980 to 26 in 2011.

The best way to know them, of course, is not to read about them, but to come out and taste and sense it all. Along with great wines to taste, many wineries also offer specialty shops, fine dining, lovely gardens and special events. For more information, you can contact the wineries directly and/or visit the following websites.

Cayuga Lake Wine Trail “America’s First Wine Trail”

New York Wine & Grape Foundation

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