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FINGER LAKES COOL CLIMATE TRADE SEMINAR
THE FINGER LAKES: AMERICA’S PREMIER
COOL-CLIMATE WINE REGION
VINEYARDS PLANTED ON SLOPING LAKESHORES
BREATHTAKING VINEYARD & LAKE VIEWS
WHERE ARE THE FINGER LAKES?
FINGER LAKES GEOGRAPHY
LOCATION & CREATION
• Located in the heart of New York State
• South of Lake Ontario & West of Lake Erie
• 11 long “finger-like” parallel lakes oriented north-south,
carved by Ice Age glacial movement
• Main winegrowing lakes - Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga
• Among the deepest lakes in North America, 450 to 600 ft
deep, some reach below sea level
FINGER LAKES TOPOGRAPHY
VARYING SLOPES AND ASPECTS
LAKE FACTS: THE BIG THREE
Length
mi
Width
mi
Depth (ft)
Max Mean
Keuka
20
0.5 – 2
181
101
Seneca
35
3.5
630
291
Cayuga
38
1 – 3.5
435
WHY DO THE LAKES MATTER?
THE LAKE EFFECT
• Lake Ontario to the North, warm air currents in the
winter, cool air currents in the summer
• Depth of Finger Lakes provide beneficial “lake effect” to
the vineyards planted on the shores
• Warmer Minimum temperatures in Winter
• Cooler Maximum temperatures in Summer
• Helps compensate for Continental Climate
• Elevation of Vineyard & Distance from Water creates
vineyard diversity
TERROIR: SENSE OF PLACE
• Glacial Activity that created the Finger Lakes also
produced very complex soil patterns
• The greatest wine-growing regions in the world have soils
rich in limestone, shale, gravel; The Finger Lakes stands
proudly among them
• Site-Specificity: vineyards planted on varying soils show
great mineral expressions that are specific to their
underlying soils
FINGER LAKES: A BRIEF HISTORY
• 1860: Pleasant Valley Wine Company in Hammondsport,
first US bonded winery
• Dr. Frank promoted Vitis vinifera in New York – hired by
like-minded Charles Fournier (French Champagne maker)
and president of Gold Seal Vineyards
• 1962: Dr. Konstantin Frank creates Vinifera Wine Cellars,
which quickly gains reputation for making excellent Riesling
• 1976: New York Farm Winery Act passed, permitting
wineries to sell directly to public
• Dozens of new wineries begin to pop-up along the
Finger Lakes in the 1980s-1990s, focusing on Vinifera
WINERIES & VINEYARDS TODAY
Over 100 Finger Lakes wineries
9,300 acres of grapes
20% Vinifera
1,900 acres ~ 5,800 tons ~ 350,000 cases
Growing Acreage of Vinifera Plantings
Focus on Riesling & Aromatic Whites
Whites ~65%
VINIFERA PLANTINGS
Varietal Area
800
700
600
500
400
Acres
300
200
100
0
Riesling
Chardonnay
Cabernet Franc
Pinot Noir
Other Vinifera
Gewurztraminer
Cabernet
Sauvignon
Pinot Gris
Merlot
INFLUENCE & INSPIRATION
• Looking to the Old World for Guidance
• Similar Climates, Soils & Vineyard Site exposures
• White Wine: Germany, Austria, France’s Alsace (Riesling,
Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer) & Burgundy (Chardonnay)
• Red Wine: France’s Loire Valley (Cabernet Franc),
Burgundy (Pinot Noir) & Bordeaux
(Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot)
• Sparkling Wine: France’s Champagne (Pinot Noir &
Chardonnay yielding méthode champenoise wines)
QUALITY & VALUE PERSPECTIVE
• The Finger Lakes offer incredible terroir for these
varietals, one of the most unique in the New World with
regard to suitability & diversity
• Value & QPR: Fantastic Finger Lakes wines in the $10-
$20 Retail Range (normal bottlings) that rival their Old
World counterparts in the same range
• Exquisite single-vineyard expressions & old-vines
bottlings in the $20+ Retail Range that perform similarly
• Finger Lakes Vinifera industry is very young (only several
decades) and just hitting its stride in comparison to Old
World vineyards & winemaking cultures (centuries-old)
RIESLING: KING OF FINGER LAKES WHITES
• ~ 700 acres
• Stylistic Diversity
• + 26% since 2006
• Dry, Lean, taut
• ~ 2100 tons
• Off-Dry, lush, with
• ~ 140,000 cases
• ~ 7% of US Riesling
market
balanced acidity
• Sweet, dessert-style
(Ice Wine &
Late-Harvest)
RIESLING: TERROIR COMPARISON
• Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany): Rieslings of incredible
balance, dance of acidity & sugar (Slate)
• Wachau (Austria): Rieslings of greater weight, laser-like
acidity, richness, profound waxed & firmly dry character
(Loess [silt, sand, clay] & Volcanic Rock)
• Alsace (France): Rieslings of greatly varied character,
ranging from bone-dry & lean, to weighty, rich &
unctuous (Granite, Limestone, Sandstone, Clay)
• Finger Lakes (USA): Riesling for every palate, with soil
types spanning the gamut of terroir, and styles
influenced by all the great Old World Riesling regions
WE LOVE RIESLING – BUT WHY?
• Terroir, A Sense of Place: Rieslings are incredible vessels for
expression of site, you can “taste the soil” in site-specific
examples
• Wine + Food: wine’s place in history is on the table, with
food, and Riesling’s fantastic natural acidity & fruit profile is
extremely versatile with cuisine
• Longevity: Riesling can age extremely well because of its
balance of acidity & fruit extract
• Hold the Oak: while many New World wines are over-oaked
to accommodate the “modern palate”, Riesling will never see
new oak, maintaining a great freshness and always expressing
its fruit character & birthplace
THE FUTURE OF THE FINGER LAKES
• As a region, there is great potential to become a world-
class winegrowing region
• Other now-great cool-climate regions at one time had to
overcome growing pains & other obstacles, learning
about what their land & grapes were capable of, and
making important decisions for their futures
• The region is now positioned to enter a Golden Age;
vinifera has proven its viability in the area, vineyard
techniques & care in the cellar have shown their
benefits, and producers have the confidence to make
great changes to benefit their wines
THE FUTURE OF THE FINGER LAKES
• Producers must come together and combine resources
in order to make great strides
• Position Pioneering Estates as the “face of the region”,
focus on quality & use them to represent the area as a
whole to the rest of the wine world
• Focus on the Vineyard as the primary goal
• Follow the examples of Old World estates
• Single-Vineyard Wines & expression of terroir, quality
over quantity & never-ending pursuit of greatness
THE FUTURE OF THE FINGER LAKES
• The American Wine Market is ready for an emergence of The
Finger Lakes as its very own Premier Cool-Climate Wine Region
• As consumers, we are leaning toward fresher wines that
have lower alcohol and have their place at the table
with food; very quickly, we are growing tired of jammy,
high-alcohol fruit bombs
• We already show love for cool-climate international regions,
such as Germany, Austria, and France’s Burgundy, Loire Valley
& Champagne
• Utilize tools to provide Accessibility to the region & its
wines, such as the IRF Scale
INTERNATIONAL RIESLING FOUNDATION’S
RIESLING TASTE PROFILE
• A quick way to understand balance
• Voluntary participation to inform and educate
• Ratio of residual sugar/acidity
THE INTERNATIONAL
RIESLING
FOUNDATION’S
RIESLING TASTE
PROFILE
www.drinkriesling.com
THE FUTURE OF THE FINGER LAKES
• Utilize the Food & Wine Industry to propel the
Finger Lakes region to greatness
• Sommeliers, Restaurateurs, Wine Writers and many
other professionals in this industry will fall in love with
Finger Lakes wines, once they are exposed to the best
examples and notions of poor quality are dispelled
• Create Ambassadors for the region through these
professionals, let them become inspired & then
inspire others
SOMMELIER’S PERSPECTIVE
• Some great quality to be found in the area at various
price-points
• Single-Vineyard & small-production examples (micro-
cuvees) are proving to be the most exciting
• Acid: Keep it turned-up!
• Dry to Sweet: Uniform support, as long as there is
balance (whether austere or plush in style)
• Sounds wine-making mixed with great terroirs
• Value? Yes & No
• Focus on the Very Best; put aside anything less
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
“The Rieslings from our region have been outstanding in
quality for many years and now that Riesling in general is gaining
in popularity we are thrilled.”
— Kevin Zraly, FingerLakesTravelJournal.com, April 2008
“From dry to sweet versions, the Finger Lakes is slowly but
steadily cementing its reputation as this country’s best source
for Riesling.”
— James Molesworth, Senior Editor, Wine Spectator
“Americans are turned on to Riesling and the Finger Lakes has
what Riesling loves: life at the cool margins and layers and
layers of slate. There’s no better place to find crisp, refreshing,
mineral-tinged Riesling in the States.”
— Joshua Greene, Publisher and Editor, Wine & Spirits Magazine
THE FUTURE OF THE FINGER LAKES
• Wine enthusiasts like you must go out & discover these
wines, demand that your local stores & restaurants
acknowledge and represent them
• Include yourself in the equation as much as possible,
visit these wineries & reach out to the winemakers &
owners, share your thoughts & wine experiences
with them
• The Finger Lakes region cannot grow through the acts
of a few individuals, only through a combined community
effort & support
THE FINGER LAKES: AMERICA’S PREMIER
COOL-CLIMATE WINE REGION
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