If you live in New York, work in New York or are doing business in New York – there is only one appropriate drink to order…New York State wines.
New York State of Wine
The New York grape, grape juice and wine industries generate more than $4.8 billion in economic benefits annually for New York State. There are 1,631 family vineyards, over 400 wineries, producing 175,000,000 bottles of wine, generating $408 million in state and local taxes (www.newyorkwines.org). New York’s wineries also contribute to New York State’s exports and in 2012, 19.8% of the wine produced in the state was exported.
Wineries and satellite operations attracted more than 5.9 million tourist visits in 2012, spending $401+ million. The tourism industry (including wineries, hotels, restaurants, retailing, transportation) contributes over 6400 jobs to the state, for a total of $213+ million in wages. The tourist is particularly important to the farm wineries, with sales direct to consumers representing approximately 60 percent of total wine sales volume.
The winery industry directly employs approximately 62,450 people and generates an additional 14,359 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries which supply goods and services to the industry and whose sales depend on the wine industry’s economic vitality.
In excess of 101,806 jobs can be linked to the wine industry and these positions average $51,100 in annual wages and benefits. The total wages generated by direct, indirect and induced economic activity driven by the wine industry – $5.2 billon.
New York State Wines and Wineries (Curated)
At a recent Rockefeller Center/ Rainbow Room wine event sponsored by the Wine & Grape Foundation, Sam Filler, the Executive Director of the organization stated, “New York is home to the first bonded winery in the United States, making our state one of the oldest wine regions in the country.” The objective of the NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting, “…is to showcase the diversity, artistry and accessibility of New York’s wine and food landscape.”
The 8th Annual NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting offered access to over 200 wines from approximately 50 wineries across the state.
- Keuka Lake Vineyard. 2017. Turkey Run. Vignoles (Finger Lakes)
Located on the slopes above the southern end of Keuka Lake this winery showcases young vinifera and old hybrid plantings that range from 3-years (representing Cabernet Franc and Vignoles), to vines over 50-years of age (representing Leon Millot and Delaware vines).
Thanks to the Finger Lakes, the vineyard produces excellent fruit. The heat of the summer is retained by the lakes and moderates the extreme cold temperatures of the vineyards in winter. As spring approaches, the frigid waters moderate the warming air temperatures and act as a delay for bud break and lower the risk of frost damage.
The terroir is a glacial mix of glacially laid rocks, sand, silt and clay that has been deposited on the lower slopes above Keuka Lake providing for water drainage that is essential for vine balance and health.
The owner is Mel Goldman and the winemaker is Staci Nugent. Nugent attended Cornell and did graduate work in California in genetics. Making a career switch, she enrolled in the wine program at the University of California at Davis, receiving a Master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology. Nugent has worked with highly regarded wineries that include Ornellaia, Italy; Hardy’s Tintara Winery, South Australia; and William Selyem, Sonoma, California. Before joining Keuka Lake Vineyards (2008), she was a winemaker at Lamoreux Landing Wine Cellars.
Sustainable farming practices brings the Vignoles to our attention. The grape is made by crossing Seible and Pinot de Corton, is associated with the Finger Lakes and grows well in the gravel soils (glacial till).
Notes: Keuka Lake Vineyards. 2017 Turkey Run Vignoles
Light bright blonde to the eye, the nose is rewarded with lemons, honey, green grapes and sweet oranges, (lemons and oranges) while the palate enjoys citrus and other fruits with the sweetness tempered by a light acidity. Pair with seafood curry, Buffalo chicken wings, pepper and Swiss cheese.
- Red Newt Cellars. 2006. Legacy. Niagara Cream Sherry (Hector, New York)
Located on the east side of Seneca Lake (Hector, NY) in the Finger Lakes region, the winery started in 1998 by David and Debra Whiting and the 1998 vintage produced 1200 cases of Chardonnay, Riesling, Vida, Cayuga, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The first white wines were released in July 1999.
Whiting is considered to be one of the top winemakers in the Finger Lakes Region. Current production of Red Newt Cellars is apprximately 20,000 cases with a white wine focus on aromatic varities: Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. CIRCLE Rielsing is the most popular and widely distributed wine, made in a classic Finger Lakes style, with hints on tangerine and honeysuckle, citrus and peach on the palate.
Kelby Russell is the head winemaker at Red Newt and considered an expert in the art of cold-climate white wines. Thanks to the variable climate of the East Coast, he recognizes that the search for the “perfect wine” is a “false idol, “ finding that the role of the winemaker is to, “…artfully direct what comes into the winery into the best thing and the most honest expression of the year that you possible can.”
At Harvard (Class of 2009) Russell majored in government and minored in economics, was a member of the Glee Club and thought his career would follow a path that would lead to orchestra management. During a study abroad experience in Tuscany he discovered the art and science of making wine.
After graduation, when a job with Jazz at Lincoln Center did not materialize, he visited Fox Run Vineyards and thought he had an interview. The staff was busy with the harvest so he was handed a shovel and offered the opportunity to help on the “crush pad.” This was the begnning of his unpaid internships and he got to spend winters in New Zealand and Australia and autumns in the Finger Lakes as an intern.
His first salaried position in 2012 was with Red Newt as an assistant winemaker. David Whiting, the co-founder and winemaker, promoted Russell to head winemaker and the rest is history. He currently directs the Red Newt house styles and reserves and develops his own Kelby James Russell label with a focus on small-batch wines, from dry rose to Australian-style dry Riesling.
Notes: Red Newt Cellars. 2006 Legacy. Niagara Cream Sherry (Niagara grapes)
The Niagara grape develops into a long-aged solera sherry, creating a complex palate experience.
Bright golden yellow to the eye (think daffodils) with the nose picking up hints of honey, raisins, oranges, apricots, yellow apples, and spices. The finish to absolutely delicious, delivering honey, lemons and spices. Perfect as a dessert course or pair with Blue cheese and pate.
- Damiani Wine Cellars (DWC)
DWC was started by Lou Damiani, a Cornell engineer specializing in energy conservation, and Phil Davis. Damiani had an interest in winemaking and his education started in the field of food science before switching to engineering. In the 1990s he returned to study winemaking and mentored under Phil Hazlitt.
In 1996 Damiani wanted to plant Cabernet Franc and Merlot and visited an old friend and college friend, Phil Davis, who was also a viticulturist. They started the project and in 1997 Hazlitt pulled out a hybrid vineyard and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot. When their vineyards started producing in 2003 the next step was to make world class red wines.
Damiani was the head winemaker from 2003 – 2011 and he trained Phil Arras to continue and improve the DWC tradition. In 2007 Glenn Allen joined as a Business Consultant and later became a partner in the enterprise. Today DWC has four main vineyard sites with approximately 40 acres of land under vine and a new tasting room that hosts events and is the retail outlet.
Phil Arras, originally from Philadelphia, moved to the Finger Lakes in 2003 to attend Cornell University and majored in philosophy and political science. Inspired by a class on wine appreciation, Arrras changed his career focus to winemaking. He was hired by Damiani Wine Cellars in 2009 as the assistant winemaker and began “on the job” training. In 2012, Arras became head winemaker.
Notes: Damiani Wine Cellars. NV Marechal Foch “Vino Rosso” Finger Lakes. (Varietal may be a cross between Goldriesling and a Vitis riparia/Vitis rupestris or a cross between Gamay Noir and Vitis riparia – Oberlin 595).
Deep ruby color to the eye, an undertone of tomatoes runs alongside notes of plums and apricots and the tannins are so soft as to be obscure. Pairings might include pasta, barbeque and smoked gouda cheese.
- Thirsty Owl Wine Company. 2017. Traminette
Ted Cupp purchased 150 acres of frontage on Cayuga Lake from Robert and Mary Plan, trailblazers who started the Cayuga Wine Trail in 2001. During 2001 and 2002 he began construction on the winemaking facility and tasting room for the Thirsty Owl. In 2002, in cooperation with Shawn Kime, he planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Malbec. When the doors to the winery opened in 2002, Thirsty Owl had produced 1200 cases.
Today, the Thirsty Owl is synonymous with award winning wines, including the Governor’s Cup and the John Rose award for Rieslings. The Pinot Noir had the highest rated North American Pinot at the Taster’s Guild International Competition. Thirsty Owl produces Malbec and Syrah as well as blends, reds, whites and ice wine.
The winemaker and vineyard master, Shawn Kime, is originally from Romulus, New York and attended Morrisville College and Cornell University. Kime started to work in agriculture at the age of 14 and started winemaking after spending 2 years working with one of the earliest Finger Lake Vinifera growers.
The goal of the Thirsty Owl is to “…make changes in the vineyard and winemaking based on the year to produce wines that not only reflect our region but the growing season…. As a Finger Lakes native, I am proud of the fact that we are producing cool climate varietals that are on par with any region in the world.”
Notes: Thirsty Owl Wine Company. 2017 Traminette (cross between Gewurztraminer and Joannes Seyve 23.416).
To the eye, highlights of golden yellow. The nose finds apricots, peaches, pears, honey and fresh lemons as well as florals (especially roses and tulips) and a bit of spice. The palate is entertained with citrus and lemons, oranges and a bit of earth. The finish brings light acidity making it an interesting dessert wine.
Pair with spicy/sweet and sour sauces on chicken, pork and veal and Cheddar, Fontina and Gruyere cheese.
- Benmarl Winery. 2015 Baco Noir. Hudson River Valley
Benmarl (slate hill) Winery is located in Marlboro, NY and covers 37-acres and is considered to be the oldest vineyard in America (it holds New York Farm Winery license no.1). It was owned by magazine illustrator turned vintner Mark Miller from 1957 -2003. In 2006 Victor Spaccarelli purchased the vineyard and Matthew Spaccarelli is currently the winemaker
In the 17th century, wine was being made by the French Huguenots in New Paltz, New York. Andrew Jackson Caywood started his vineyard in the early 1800s. The community was incorporated as the Village of Marlborough, a cluster of grapes carved in its seal commemorated its major crop (1788).
Caywood became an important viticulturist and leading authority in the development of new grape varieties. The Miller family bought the Caywood property in 1957 and renamed it Benmarl. It was purchased in 2006 by the Spaccarelli family. They replanted many abandoned vineyards, refurbished the estate and carry on the tradition of experimentation, planting new hybrid varieties like Traminette as well as Old World vinifera.
Notes: Benmarl Winery. 2015 Baco Noir. Hudson River Valley
The Baco Noir, made from estate-grown fruit, brings dark plum hues to the eye, and delivers the aromas of dark plums, cedar and sage to the nose. On the palate are flavors of blackberry with hints of spice. Tannins give it a structure that is delicious and the finish delivers spice and black berry fruits. Benmarl has been producing Baco Noir for 50 years. Pair with pork roast, pasta with meat sauce, beef burgers with blue cheese.
The NY Drinks NY Event
The elegant Rainbow Room @ Rockefeller Center was the venue for the New York Drinks New York event. As an important wine trade events, many hundreds of wine buyers, sellers, sommeliers, wine educators, and writers convened to experience a wine-range of quality wines produced in New York State.
Wines of Distinction included:
Brotherhood Winery is the oldest continuously operating winery in America, producing wine for 180 years in Hudson Valley. It features one of the most modern bottling facilties for wine on the East coast, with a capacity of 1.5 million cases er year. A wine current featured focuses on low calories (approximately 90 calories per glass).
Glenora Wine Cellars
Glenora Wine Cellars produces award-winning Finger Lakes wines for over 40 years with a focus on sparkling wine and Riesling, sourcing grapes from 13 growers across four of the Finger Lakes. Glenora opened the first winery on Seneca Lake (1977).
Robin McCarthy is the owner and winemaker at Saltbird Cellars that started in 2014 and, based on the unique maritime terroir, developed Stainless Steel Sauvignon Blanc, Migratus Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc and Stainless-Steel Chardonnay.
Hosmer Winery is located on Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes. Grapevine plantings date back to the 1970s and early experiments with plantings of classic Vinifera started in 1985. The 70-acre estate includes Rieslings, Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs as well as French-American hybrid varieties.
For additional information: @NYWineGrapeFdn and NYWineGrapeFdn
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.