Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes is centered on a series of thin, deep, long lakes in the central part of upstate. The moderating influence of these waters and the warmth provided by east facing hills allows the fragile grapevines to survive the region's harsh winters and to ripen grapes in the summer. As it is a cool grape-growing region, it is only fitting that it should specialize in white wines. Riesling in particular is where the Finger Lakes is beginning to establish a very solid reputation, but high quality, sophisticated sparkling wines are also appearing with more regularity.

Just as in Germany, where Riesling reaches its apex, the grapes struggle to ripen in the cool Finger Lakes climate and the hillsides and rivers make viticulture possible. It should not come as a surprise that German wine makers have been drawn here and winery names such as Wiemer or Frank attest to the fact. As the fortunes of Riesling have waned in the Chardonnay-goggled US, it is abroad that many of these wines are leaving a mark. I was amazed to be at dinner with a large Belgian wine buyer in the French countryside recently when he asked me not about the latest glamour winery in Napa, but what my opinion was of Finger Lakes Riesling. He then proceeded to list all the best producers from the top of his head and retreated to his room for a sample bottle he had been toting around the Mosel the previous weekend (to bemused admiration, apparently).

US consumers will eventually catch on to Riesling, and when they do the Finger Lakes will be shown to be the nation's finest Riesling appellation. At present, the wines are a steal, with some great bottles going for $10 and sometimes less. As with fine Riesling anywhere, these wines also age well, and I have been delighted by five to ten year old examples that have developed that inimitable "petrolly" note that is the hallmark of a fine Riesling with some age. Though availability is somewhat limited, the best retailers around the country will carry some of the best examples. As a "house" wine, Finger Lakes Rieslings are astonishing values, particularly at a half or a third the price of many innocuous Chardonnays. (Wine/Appellations)