The Big Grape
Beyond the bustling, concrete jungle we call New York City, there lies an entire state that is primarily agricultural and rural. Viticulture has long been a practice in New York, with the production of high quality wine steadily growing over the past few decades. The New York State wine industry is diverse, with plantings that range from native American species to vitis vinifera, not to mention a number of hybrids and crossings. Native American varieties are very sturdy grapes, immune to phylloxera and genetically prone to withstand cold and snow. Unfortunately, wines made from these grapes, of the species vitus labrusca, have an unfortunate aroma and flavor critics refer to as "foxy." For this reason there are a number of hybrids that were created with the hopes of merging the non-foxy qualities of vitis vinifera with the lasting power of the native varieties. Some of these hybrids are still around today, the most widely used being Seyval Blanc. For vitis vinifera, you'll most likely find Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
The top regions of New York State are the Finger Lakes, the Hudson Valley and more recently, Long Island.
The Finger Lakes, located along the border of New York State and Canada, have been the heart of the New York wine industry for the past century. It was the region that first experimented with hybrids (mixes between European varieties and American varieties) and produced successful wines with them. The pioneer behind many of the top quality wines in the Finger Lakes was Dr. Konstantin Frank, who began focusing on cool-climate, European white varieties like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Manischewitz, the top producer of kosher wines, is also based here, making kosher wines from the plethora of Concord grapes. Also popular are ice wines, a product of the cold winters that move through the region.
The Hudson Valley, located just above New York City, is home to some of the oldest vines in the state. The small to medium sized vineyards focus on both hybrids and vinifera varieties.
Long Island is the most recent wine industry boom, and most of the vineyards here are located on the North Fork, which happens to be the sunniest part of the island. The area has a maritime climate, which has led many wine growers to plant maritime style varieties - most notably, the Bordeaux varieties
of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Quality here is growing as winemakers gain knowledge of the land and become more experienced with winemaking techniques.