With over 470 wineries and 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), it’s impossible to sum up New York’s wine scene with a single grape variety, wine style or region. Wineries across the state produce quality offerings in nearly all spectrums wine; white, red, sparkling, rosé and dessert wines. But of the 11 regions, you’ll want to pay special attention to four in particular: the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the Niagara Escarpment.
Finger Lakes Riesling and beyond
Finger Lakes Riesling may already be on your radar, but there’s a whole host of styles to explore within this subset. There’s everything from racy dry examples that express unique vineyard sites, to well-priced off-dry and semidry Rieslings that balance vibrant fruit and crisp acidity. Some of the region’s wineries even produce world-class late harvest and ice wines made from Riesling that rival their Old World counterparts in Germany.
While Riesling may be the calling card in the cool climate of the Finger Lakes, other grapes like Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Blaufränkisch show their worth in the region’s array of red, white, sparkling and rosé bottlings.
The many wines of Long Island
The maritime-influenced climate of Long Island boasts on average the most growing days per season within the state, which can translate to riper grape expression. Varietal bottlings of Cabernet Franc and Merlot are common, as are structured red blends made with those two grapes, which can also include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Medium- to full-bodied white wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are also worth exploring, as well as a handful of rosés and traditional-method sparkling wines.
The historical Hudson River Region
The Hudson River Region is one of the oldest wine-growing areas in the country. In the late 1600s, French Huguenots planted grapevines in the area and mostly made wine for personal consumption. The nascence of commercial winemaking in the region dates back to the 1820s along with the creation of hybrid grape varieties that could withstand the frigid winters and humid summers of the Hudson Valley.
Hybrid grapes are still prominent today, and quality Baco Noir and Chelois can be found. Vitis vinifera grapes like Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay are also common, and, as of late, a region-wide focus on Cabernet Franc has shown the grape’s potential in the area.
The Niagara Escarpment’s potential
With 20 wineries in the region, the Niagara Escarpment is one of the least developed winemaking regions in the state but it holds great potential for development. Its unique geography makes it one of the warmest growing areas in the state due to its proximity to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, as well as to the Niagara Escarpment, which is a geological cliff formation caused by erosion. The cliffs trap warm air from the lakes, which moderates the temperature in the area, making it a great fruit-growing haven. Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a host of other grapes that are planted there.
The amount of diversity in New York—from grape varieties to regions—is what makes it so difficult for consumers to fully grasp what the state has to offer. But on the other hand, the array of offerings found in the state also provides many touch points for wine lovers to begin their affair with New York wines. With that in mind, here are 12 wines from across the state to begin your New York wine journey.
New York wines to look for
Hermann J. Wiemer 2016 Noble Select Magdalena Vineyard Riesling (Seneca Lake); $75/375 ml, 94 points. Bright, zesty notes of pineapple, mango and passion fruit are drizzled in honey and lemon oil on the nose of this late-pick Riesling. Luscious and full on the palate, defined flavors of mango and pineapple unfurl, with precise acidity lifting it all up. Honey and a bit of furniture polish add an earthy depth to the otherwise succulent, fruity explosion on the palate. Drink now–2035. Editors’ Choice.
Red Newt Cellars 2016 The Knoll Lahoma Vineyards Riesling (Finger Lakes); $42, 93 points. This striking dry Riesling delves into deep tones of ripe apple, lemon and stone on the nose, lifted by a brisk note of early spring air. It’s rich and broad yet textural and succulent in feel, built by ripe fruit flavors that are honed by persistent acidity and a gentle grip of white tea. While a delight to drink now, this could be enjoyed through 2025.
Sparkling Pointe 2015 Séduction Blanc de Noirs Méthode Champenoise (North Fork of Long Island); $75, 92 points. Pretty rose gold in color, this blend of 64% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier spent over three years on its lees and was disgorged in November 2019. Rich aromas of raspberry, strawberry and spring flowers dazzle on the nose and extend to the creamy palate. Flavors of strawberries and cream, with a bit of apricot peel, extend on the finish, ending taut and dry.
Freedom Run 2017 Estate Cabernet Franc (Niagara Escarpment); $30, 91 points. Tightly coiled aromas of red currant and cherry are lifted by accents of crushed herbs and stone on the nose. With more time in the glass, well-integrated tones of warm spices chime in. The medium-bodied palate is driven by juicy thick-skinned red berry flavors, with graphite and herbs adding depth. The tannins are well knit and firm, lending ample support alongside integrated acidity to make this a well-balanced offering from the Western New York region.
Keuka Spring 2018 Gewürztraminer (Finger Lakes); $18, 91 points. Enveloping aromas of melon and papaya meld with spicy elements of crushed pink peppercorn and ginger on the nose. The silken palate shows creamy melon and peach flavors, studded with kicks of fiery spice and orange blossom. The floral tones linger gracefully on the finish.
McCall 2013 Ben’s Blend Corchaug Estate Red (North Fork of Long Island); $54, 91 points. A wealth of aromas carry this elegant wine: crushed black pepper, a bit of moss and gentle menthol over a dense dark berry core. This is smooth and supple on the medium-bodied palate, yet well balanced and bright in nature. Tart blackberry mingles with herbs and peppercorn, while polished tannins give this an accessible feel to enjoy in the near term.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2017 Old Vines Pinot Noir (Finger Lakes); $22, 90 points. Aromas of freshly pressed cherries, earthy stems and delicate peppery spice carry the nose of this Pinot Noir that’s partially sourced from vineyards on Keuka Lake that were planted in 1958. The light-bodied palate is rounded and juicy in feel, with tart cherry and currant flavors pushed along by persistent acidity. A delicate cocktail bitters note arises on the midpalate and resolves into the smooth, silky tannins on the finish.
Lamoreaux Landing 2018 Semi-Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes); $15, 90 points. The nose of this wine is stony and earthy in crushed limestone, with accents of citrus peels and bright spring blossoms rounding it out. The palate shows more ripeness in the way of juicy peach and apple tones, making this a pleasantly plump, semidry Riesling. It is poised in feel and propped up by well-integrated acidity. A kiss of citrus lingers on the close. Best Buy.
Lieb 2017 Estate Sparkling Rosé (North Fork of Long Island); $30, 90 points. A blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, this sparkling wine starts off with aromas of button mushroom, raspberry and a hint of cream. The palate is driven by tart red fruit, yet it is filled out nicely by a creamy mousse and a savory blanched almond tone.
Millbrook 2017 Proprietor’s Special Reserve Cabernet Franc (Hudson River Region); $40, 90 points. Aromas of earth, warm spices and red cherry coulis form the nose of this Cabernet Franc that sees 15 months in oak. The palate shows a pleasing mix of ripe red-berry flavors wrapped in allspice. Finely knit tannins are fleshed out by juicy acidity, giving this wine immediate appeal to enjoy in the near term.
Palmer 2018 Estate Bottled Pinot Blanc (North Fork of Long Island); $27, 90 points. An intense nose of ripe pear and pineapple melds with gentle jasmine and warm spice tones in this medium bodied white. There’s depth to the full, rich orchard fruit flavors on the palate, with bright shots of tropical fruit and citrus lending ample lift.
Wölffer 2019 Rosé (Long Island); $18, 90 points. Predominately made from Merlot, this refreshing rosé starts off with aromas of ripe strawberry, crushed stone and sliced cucumber. It’s zesty on the palate, with a pulsing vein of citrusy acidity that’s broadened out by ripe red-berry fruit and energized by a crushed mineral core. Enjoy on hot summer nights, or poolside, to capture all the refreshment.