There are three official appellations in the Finger Lakes region: the Finger Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area), established in 1982; Cayuga Lake AVA (1988); and Seneca Lake AVA (2003). No other wine region in New York has more wineries than the Finger Lakes region (close to 140), and most of them hug the shores and nearby land around four of the lakes: Keuka, Cayuga, Seneca and Canandaigua.
While none of the lakes is more than a few miles wide (perhaps making them resemble finger bones, rather than actual fingers), they are still formidable bodies of water that have a significant effect on the local climate, and riesling benefits from it. The region is home to more than 9,000 acres of vineyards (not all of it fine wine grapes), with about 1,000 of them dedicated to riesling alone. Those long, narrow and deep lakes create the ideal climate for riesling, keeping the area cool in the summer and acting as a heat sink to retain warmth in colder seasons.
These dry rieslings from the region are crisp and vivacious, sometimes tangy, sometimes offering riper, rounder, less-puckery fruit. If you have ever been turned off by a riesling for being too sweet, you don’t have to worry about that here. The wines recommended below are from the region’s “dry” category. Rest assured you are reaching for the right bottle with two-telltale words: “Dry Riesling.” No specialized riesling knowledge is needed in this case — just the ability to read.
Look for Finger Lakes Dry Riesling, and you will be on track to pair it with light appetizers, shellfish and other seafood, chicken and pork. They would also make great apertifs — these bottles are vibrant and alive, a perfect way to wake up your palate before a meal.
Below are notes from a recent tasting of New York Finger Lakes Dry Riesling. They are listed in ascending order, according to price.
2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling. With notes of passion fruit, lime and other citrus, plus apple skin and peach on the finish. This wine is bright and crisp. $16
2015 Ravines Dry Riesling. Floral and full of citrus, apple, minerality, salinity and bright acidity, this wine clocks in at a manageable 12.5 percent alcohol. $18
2015 Forge Cellars Classique Dry Riesling. This one offers minerality, almond, orange zest, citrus and a whisper of smoke — soft and luscious with bright acidity. $19
2016 Red Tail Ridge Winery RTR Estate Vineyard Dry Riesling. A whiff of anise leads to notes of orange blossom, while minerality and lingering peach deliver an elegant softness. $19
2015 Red Newt Cellars Dry Riesling. Richer and weightier than the other wines but still finishing dry, this wine offers tropical fruit, lime and a tiny kiss of honey. $19.50
2016 N. Kendall Wines Nathan K. Dry Riesling. From old vines near Seneca Lake, this one tastes of apple, pear, citrus and tropical fruit, leading to a crisp finish with a lingering nuttiness. $25