Did you know that Lake Erie and the New York Finger Lakes area is the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies?
The wine region covers a large area in Upstate New York along Lake Erie, down to the Finger Lakes area all the way into Pennsylvania. The location was carved by glaciers that left behind soil ideal for grape growing. The various lakes around the region help blunt extreme low and high temperatures year-round.
There are three distinctive Wine trails to explore: the Lake Erie Wine Country, the Seneca Lake, and the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. We only had time to stop at two wineries on the Cayuga Lake wine trail: Thirsty Owl and Buttonwood Grove Winery. Still, we did some research on the other regions and unique wineries to consider visiting.
The area extends roughly 50 miles from Silver Creek, New York, to Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, and is home to over 20 commercial and estate wineries. These wineries produce an abundant and diverse list of wines from very dry to sweet. Stop at the oldest estate winery in New York State, Johnson Estate Winery on Route 20 in Westfield, NY. The century-old wine tasting room has over 20 craft-distilled bourbons, whiskeys, gins, and vodka. Visit the oldest and one of the largest wineries in Pennsylvania, Penn Shore Vineyard in North East, PA. They claim to produce the finest varietals and blends from European and American wine grapes grown in the area.
Seneca Lake is the largest of the glacial Finger Lakes and is also the deepest. It is this vast volume of water that contributes to this terroir ideal for growing grapes. Over 60% of the wine sold derives from fruit harvested within the recognized Seneca Lake viticultural area. They do not use juice purchased from other grape-growing regions, which reflects the region’s unique terroir. The Seneca Lake Grape Wine Company is the first winery built in this area in 1866. The rolling hills and lush vineyards framing Seneca Lake’s glittering blue waters shaped exceptional wines and stunning wineries.
Mary Plane of Plane’s Cayuga Vineyards (now called Cayuga Ridge Estates) established the first organized and longest-running wine trail in America founded in 1983 to promote wineries located within the Cayuga Lake American Viticultural Area (AVA). The AVA is situated around Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York. Most of the vineyards in the AVA are planted in the hillsides of the western side of Cayuga lake. The steep hillsides and the lake form a unique micro-climate in autumn that helps extend the growing season by preventing cold air from settling and producing frost.
“All wines start with grapes, and all grapes start with “terroir,” or the dirt and climate in which the grapes are grown.” I raise my glass to superb wine and a fantastic experience.