How Can Such Great Grapes
Grow So Far North?
Shannon Brock, wine coordinator at the New York
Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, says that
the Finger Lakes themselves are the reason for the
area’s great grapes. “Because the lakes are so deep,
they moderate the climate,” she says. “In the spring
you don’t want the vines to flower too early, and the
lakes keep the area cool. In the fall they store heat to
extend the growing season and let the grapes ripen.”
The soil plays an important role as well. “We have
glacial soils here, lots of slate, shale and other stony
soils,” she says. “Poorer soils are actually better—
there’s a saying in the wine world that wines need
Lucky for visitors, four of the lakes
have their own wine trails, providing an
ideal excuse for an oenophilic adventure.
New Flavors, Sustainable Ideas
With just six wineries within 41 miles,
the Canandaigua (pronounced cannon-DAY-gwah) Trail makes for an easy day
tour. Although none of the wineries is
actually on the lake, the hills on which
they are perched give you lovely views
of the water as you drive around.
Start right in the village with one of
the newest trail members, Wilhelmus
Estate. The vineyard opened in 2007
but its roots run back to the 1950s, when
a Dutch immigrant named Wilhelmus
Kuenen began making award-winning
wines here. His son and daughter-in-law, Boud and Karen, named their new
winery after Boud’s father and continue to win awards, most notably for
their Traminette, a hybrid child of the
Gewürztraminer grape, with a flowery
nose and spicy finish.
Another small newcomer is Imagine
Moore, in the village of Naples. Owners
Tim and Diane Moore use only sustainable agricultural practices to produce
vintages with such names as Peace, Joy
and Wisdom, which they sell in bottles
without paper labels. Their wine called
Harmony, a blend of Cayuga White and
Traminette grapes, may be their best.
Sip it on the wraparound deck overlooking the lovely Naples Valley or on the
European-style patio with olive trees,
just off the stone cellar.
Naples also boasts perhaps the biggest winery in the region, Widmer’s
Wine Cellars. Known best for its sweet
wines—think Lake Niagara and Manis-chewitz, which it owns—it produces
more than 50 wines in all, including a
premium line called Brickstone Cellars.
“Widmer has the most extensive
wine tour in the Finger Lakes,” says
John Brahm, the trail’s president. “It
takes you on an hour-long excursion to
the vineyards, aging cellars and bottling
line, which is humming every day.”
That’s not true at the smaller producers, such as Brahm’s own Arbor Hill
Grapery & Winery in Bristol Springs.
But his tasting room is another good
place to try Traminette. “We were the
first to produce it in the U.S.,” he says.