March begins what is essentially New York Wine Month, known as NY drinks NY, culminating in a Grand Tasting in New York City later this month. For more information on NY drinks NY, click here.
New York has a rich history of growing and production stretching back to the 17th century when the Dutch began planting and harvesting the Hudson Valley, and the state boasts the first bonded winery in the US in addition to having the oldest continually operating winery, at almost 180 years. New York is the third-largest wine producing state in the US behind California and Washington, outproducing Oregon by almost three fold with a much wider variety of native, European and hybrid grape growths uniquely suited to their terroirs.
A Janitor & A Champagne Maker:
In the early 1950s respected viticulturist Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated to the US from the Ukraine. Although he spoke 6 fluent languages, his grasp on English was rough. At the time, he was qualified to only work as a janitor where he got his foot in the door at Cornell University. It was here that he was relatively ignored – due to his language barrier – and received pushback while he was trying to convince people that the answer to better quality wine production was to plant European varietals in the Finger Lakes region. Up until this point the focus had been largely on the Hudson Valley region. Add to it 300 years or so of failure preceded the janitor’s ramblings about how to bring quality wines to the state, he went largely ignored…
Until fate crossed his path with Charles Fournier, a French Champagne maker.
Sharing a common language, Fournier came to respect Dr. Frank’s vision for the Finger Lakes with European grapes, and a decade later, Dr. Frank was producing quality wines for the first time from Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. By the 20th century, Fournier and Dr. Frank’s hard work and vision paid off making the Finger Lakes region the epicenter of modern New York wines.
While the state has 9 recognized AVAs, the Finger Lakes AVA is still the most recognizable to this day with consistently high quality Riesling being produced year after year, recognized globally, and Chardonnays that are quite a bit more Burgundian in style than the larger portions of the west coast growths.
So take some time this month to source and enjoy some Riesling, Chardonnay, or our personal favorite, Cabernet Franc, from the great state of New York – particularly from the Finger Lakes AVA if possible, and celebrate drinking NY with NY!