New York is one of the largest wine regions in the United States. Let's explore this region in more detail to find its best wines.
Getting a Lay of the Land
You can be in New York wine country in as little as an hour from the bustle of New York City. Vineyards grow all around the state, and most sit close to the waterways, including the Hudson River, the state's major lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Although New York sits at the same latitude as Northern Spain, the climate here is much cooler. Most wines, including popular ones like Riesling and Cabernet Franc, are known for elegance and acidity. This is also why you'll find many hardy native and hybrid grapes like Concord and Cayuga.
New York Wine Region Facts
- New York has 35,000 acres (14,164 ha) of vineyards.
- There are six wine-growing areas with 11 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
- Commercial wine production started in 1829 and the first AVA was established in 1982.
- The primary wine varieties in New York include Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
- Most vineyards grow hybrid grapes like Concord and Catawba – not commonly used in winemaking.
- The largest wine region in New York is the Finger Lakes, with approximately 11,000 vineyard acres (4452 ha).
- There are around 450 wineries in New York.
- Even though New York sits between the 40th and 45th parallel (south of Bordeaux), it's a cool to cold climate wine-growing region.
New York Wine Label Language
When you pick up a bottle of wine from New York, you'll see it labeled in a specific way. We can learn a few clues by looking at that label.
- A New York wine blend lists the grapes and must state the percentage. If a wine features a vineyard name, 95% of the wine must come from that vineyard.
- Wine labels that include both the vintage and AVA must contain 95% from that vintage.
- "Estate Bottled" means the vineyards must be owned or leased by the producer and made/bottled on site.
- "Reserve" isn't a legally defined term and may or may not indicate superior quality.
- A single varietal wine (e.g. “Merlot”) must contain at least 75% of that variety unless it is a native grape, like Catawba or Concord; then only 51% is required.
New York Wine Regions to Know
There are six major wine-growing areas that every self-respecting New Yorker (or wine enthusiast) ought to know!
New York's idyllic upstate lakeside wine country destination.
This group of 11 glacial lakes creates special conditions making it possible to make fine wine. You'll find award-winning Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc here and a myriad of other rare and unique varieties well worth exploring.
Finger Lakes created two sub-AVAs in 2018: Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Read more about this region and explore the wineries below.
Exciting things are happening by the Hamptons.
The proximity to New York City has helped Long Island wine country improve rapidly over the past decade. This area has impressed critics with its Bordeaux-style blends and Sauvignon Blanc (among others).
Long Island features two additional sub-AVAs: The Hamptons, Long Island and North Fork of Long Island. You can explore wines and wineries on Long Island at the link below.
Hudson River Valley
The original American wine pioneer.
Wine grapes have grown in the Hudson River Valley as early as the late 1600s. In fact, the oldest, still operating US winery, Brotherhood Winery, started here in 1839 (then known as Blooming Grove Winery).
There are two AVAs in the river valley, Hudson River Region and Upper Hudson. You'll find more natives and hybrid wines in Upper Hudson, where the climate is colder.
New York's largest grape-growing region that nobody knows about.
This wine region spans the entire southern coast of Lake Erie through New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In terms of sheer size, Lake Erie is the largest wine region, with nearly 18,000 vineyard acres (7284 ha). So, how come no one has heard of it?
Even though Lake Erie is sizable, the majority of its grape production isn't for wine. Native and hybrid varieties dominate and there are just over 20 wineries in the entire region (11 of which are in New York!).
Tiny but intriguing region with limestone soils and elegant Pinot Noir.
An escarpment is an uprising between two plains. In Niagara, this uprising creates special conditions between 400–600 feet (122-183 m), making it possible to grow fine Vitis vinifera grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc.
Champlain Valley of New York
The coldest climate wines from New York, creativity abounds in this tiny wine region.
Lake Champlain sits in the Northernmost region next to Québec and Vermont. Today, this area is the new frontier of winemaking, experimenting (with great success) in cold climate wine varieties and cideries in New York and Vermont.