A Tour of New York State's Best Wineries

Henry Georgi/Getty Images

Henry Georgi/Getty ImagesĀ 

New York's best wineries have a long history. In fact, the nation's oldest continuously operated winery, Brotherhood, was established in 1839 in Washingtonville, NY. While other states have definitely caught up, New York is now in the midst of something of a wine boom. That figure includes larger wineries, but many of the Empire State's wineries are smaller and offer wine tours and tastings. These wineries are a must-visit!

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Finger Lakes Wineries

Finger Lakes Winery

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This is New York's major wine producing area since the Civil War. The Finger Lakes region is home to the most wineries and produces the most wine by volume.

The Finger Lakes are a series of long, thin and deep lakes, formed by a glacier. The viticultural area is defined by sloping hills and glacial soil. The two longest lakes, Cayuga and Seneca, are each distinct viticultural areas and have their own wine trails. There are also wine trails around Canandaigua Lake and Keuka Lake.

Finger Lakes Wine Country includes a cheese trail, a spirits distillery, and special promotions.

Specialties: Sparkling, riesling, pinot noir, and ice wine.

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Long Island Wineries

Rose grapes growing in a Long Island vineyard

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The Long Island viticultural area's temperatures are moderated by the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound and the Great Peconic Sound. The region is quite flat, and it's noted for its sandy, loamy soil. At its end, the island splits into two fingers of land, the North Fork and the Hamptons, separated by the Great Peconic Sound. These are each their own viticultural areas.

Long Island's wineries are an easy drive from New York City and make a great excursion for visitors to the city or for anyone planning a trip to Long Island's many beaches.

Specialties: merlot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon.

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Lake Erie/Chautauqua Wineries

Lake Erie

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The Lake Erie area, also known as Chautauqua, includes parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio. This microclimate is in a land of harsh weather, dominated by the Great Lake that it borders. But its location on the Allegheny Plateau moderates the temperatures in this viticultural area.

There are 19,000 acres of vineyards here, but only 18 wineries. The area is mostly planted with Concord grapes, and are mostly used for grape juice. In fact, the National Grape Cooperative Association, which owns Welch's, is located nearby Westfield.

Specialties: seyval, riesling... and grape juice.

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Niagara Escarpment Wineries

Vineyard at sunrise in Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

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This area takes its name from the 650-mile limestone ridge that starts near Rochester, NY and ends in eastern Wisconsin. In this area around the famous waterfall, you can visit two wine trails here, one that loops near Niagara Falls and the other that hugs Lake Ontario.

Make sure you pack your passport, because you can extend your trip by heading across the Canadian border to visit Ontario's many wineries along the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.  If you're planning a trip to Niagara Falls, it's easy to plan a US/Canada Niagara Falls-area wine tasting excursion.

Specialties: ice wine, dessert wine.

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Hudson Valley Wineries

Millbrook Vineyards

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery

The steep slopes, or Palisades, along the Hudson River, help funnel maritime air from the Atlantic Ocean to the vineyards in the Hudson Valley area. There are two wine trails on either side of the river: the Shawangunk Wine Trail to the west, which includes Brotherhood Winery and the Dutchess Wine Trail to the east, which includes Millbrook Vineyards & Winery.

Specialties: seyval, chardonnay, fruit wines.

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New York City Wine Tasting

Wine tasting at International Culinary Center

International Culinary Center

It's been a long time since grapes were grown in Manhattan proper, but there are a few wineries operating within city limits. In Brooklyn, for instance, there are kosher wine makers of national repute, including Royal Kedem and Joseph Zakon Winery. 

Still, a wine experience in New York City is far more about learning and tasting. There are several schools that offer wine tasting classes -- the International Culinary Center is one -- and excellent wine tasting opportunities.

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