New York State

If we were to be writing this education section of our website in the year 2000, we might not have even included a section for the state of New York, but over the past decade it has gained some national attention and honestly, quite a bit of hype over its wines.

The overall quality of the wines from NY are uneven at best presently, but improving and there are some types that can sometimes deliver good value for the money. We still need to be realistic about our expectations on quality here as NY is far from an ideal climate to grow world class grapes.

The main problem that New York runs into in regards to its wine industry is that the native varietals to the region include names like: Niagara, Catawba and Concord. You probably recognize Concord from the Welch’s grape juice commercials that have been on television, in some cases since before we were born. Concord grapes, frankly speaking, don’t make very good wine. Well if you’re looking for a jammy wine that will typically come off like grape juice with some alcohol poured in, then you should be set.

Some of the better NY state wineries have gone to hybrid grape varietals like Baco Noir which are a combination of their native grapes and some of them Mediterranean varietals that we’re all more familiar with in terms of wine. The wineries in NY are forced to do this instead of planting Pinot Noir grapes itself because their winters are much too cold for many varietals to grow naturally. While these hybrids sometimes make good drinkable wine, they can also sometimes be poor as well. In this case it definitely pays to do your research before purchasing.

There are 3 regions each specializing in a different type of grape that I wanted to highlight as wines to try, if you’re willing to go out on a small limb:

  1. Hudson River Winery-Chardonnay. Still not close to California standards on average, but the cool climates make for interesting taste combinations. You can sometimes find bottles at half, or a third, of California prices for similar scores. Again, do research before hand, we can’t yet suggest walking into a wine store and picking up any Hudson River area Chardonnay.
  2. Finger Lakes-American Rieslings. In the far North West portion of the state (think between Buffalo and Syracuse) there are some interesting white wines being produced. In this case it does make sense to follow conventional wisdom and buy white wines from colder climates when in doubt. Look for Wagner Vineyards or Knapp which sell decent Rieslings for around $20 a bottle.
  3. Long Island is definitely the most sophisticated of the wine regions in New York state. If you have to choose a NY wine off the shelf without any prior knowledge, pick a Long Island vintner. Interestingly Long Island is actually at the same latitude as Bordeaux, so they’re able to plant more standard varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which are their focus. Unfortunately for the wine drinking public there is very little room for agriculture and the price of land tends to lead to overpriced bottles when new wineries come onto the scene. A couple of wineries to try would include Pindar Vineyards and Lenz Vineyards.

As we said at the beginning New York has a few expanding winery regions. Although their offerings are not yet at a quality we can recommend them to our clients, we will be following their progress, especially some of the small producers on Long Island because of their favorable latitude and weather conditions compared to the rest of the state.