Although when it comes to wines made in the U.S., West Coast wine regions tend to get all of the love, New York State is giving those popular areas a run for their money. While California, Oregon, and Washington State produce the most domestic wine, New York State is creeping up close in fourth place. And if you’re skeptical about the quality of wines made in New York State, rest assured there are some absolutely amazing wines coming out of the Empire State. From the Finger Lakes to the North Fork and beyond, it’s worth getting to know New York State wine.
Where Is Wine Made in New York State?
New York’s two major wine-producing regions are the Finger Lakes, located roughly between Syracuse and Rochester, and the North Fork of Long Island. Small amounts of wine are also produced throughout the Hudson Valley, though the majority of these wines are not widely available outside of the state.
How Are Wines from New York Made?
Wines from New York are made in a variety of styles and colors, ranging from bone-dry to pleasantly sweet, and in both still and sparkling formats. The final flavor profile of a New York wine is highly dependent on the region from which it comes, the grapes used to produce it, and the vinification choices imparted on the juice.
Which Grapes Are Used in New York Winemaking?
New York’s Finger Lakes region is best known for its wines made from riesling, chardonnay, cabernet franc, and pinot noir, as these varieties thrive in the area’s cooler climate. Additionally, saperavi, gewurztraminer, and local hybrids including catawba, seyval blanc, vidal blanc, and more, are also making waves across the area. Further south, the North Fork is home to a plethora of varieties, with merlot, cabernet franc, and chardonnay as its key players.
What Is the Terroir Like In New York?
New York State is fairly large, and the Finger Lakes and North Fork of Long Island are located far from each other. As a result, they have extremely different climate conditions and, therefore, very unique terroirs. The Finger Lakes experiences a relatively cool climate, and its unique mosaic of soil types—shale, limestone, gravel, and silt—are a product of thousands of years of glacial activity. The North Fork, on the other hand, is coastal, humid, and dominated by loam-heavy soils.
What Does New York Wine Taste Like?
As with any region, the flavor profiles of New York wines are very dependent on the individual producer and area from which they come. Generally speaking, wines from the Finger Lakes tend to have higher acidity and lower levels of tannins based on the grapes used to produce them and the climate in which the fruit grows. North Fork wines tend to be more full-bodied and have a higher alcohol content, as they come from a warmer area and are generally riper.
What Are Good Food Pairings with Wines from New York?
New York wines are incredibly versatile, which is reflected in their ability to pair with countless foods. Dry sparkling wines make ideal aperitifs and pair well with fried favorites, whereas crisp whites and refreshing rosés are perfect with seafood, salads, tapas, and beyond. Earthy red wines from the Finger Lakes are delightful with roasted meats and veggies, whereas fuller-bodied red blends from the North Fork are no-brainers with juicy burgers, steaks, and beyond. Try pairing a sweet or off-dry Finger Lakes wine with your favorite dessert.
These are eight New York State bottles to try.
Chepika Catawba Pét-Nat
For fresh, fizzy, and impeccably made bubbles, look no further than this pét-nat. Spearheaded by winemaker Nathan Kendall and master sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier, this Finger Lakes venture was founded in 2016 and highlights the relatively untapped potential of hybrid varieties in New York State. On the palate, this organically farmed wine shows flavors of lime leaf, white flowers, and green apple. Best of all, the wine’s relatively low ABV, around 10%, ensures you can sip this easy-drinking pick all day long.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Old Vine Pinot Noir
Originally from Ukraine, Dr. Konstantin Frank moved to New York’s Finger Lakes during the 1950s and is credited with igniting the modern-day viticultural revolution within the region. Today, the winery is one of the most respected estates in all of the Finger Lakes. In addition to its lineup of world-class bubbles and still white wines, this old-vine pinot noir cuvée is not to be missed. Earthy, floral, and laden with flavors of cherries, mushroom, and potting soil, this bottle promises to please Old World wine lovers and even convert skeptics of the region.
Empire Estate Dry Riesling
Empire Estate was founded by sommelier Thomas Pastuszak, a New York native with a passion for the overlooked high-quality wines in the state. This bone-dry, budget-friendly riesling exudes flavors of lemon zest, tart green apples, and crushed rocks. Bright fruit-forwardness and racy acidity lead to a long, mineral-laced finish that shines along oysters, raw bar favorites, and fresh salads of all sorts.
Fox Run Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling
When the craving for something sweet arrives, grab a bottle of off-dry Finger Lakes riesling. Well-made expressions—like this one from Fox Run—show a beautiful balance between sweetness, fruit flavors, and acidity. Crafted entirely from estate-grown riesling, this semi-dry wine oozes with flavors of honeyed stone fruit, guava, and lime zest. You may want to grab two bottles: one to drink now and one to cellar and revisit in a few years.
Lieb Cellars Pinot Blanc
Founded by Mark Lieb in 1992, this label has since expanded from a small 14-acre vineyard to three vineyard sites, two tasting rooms, and a custom crush winery on the heart of Long Island’s North Fork. Farming is done sustainably, and all operations are executed by this family-run estate. Deemed its signature cuvée, Lieb’s pinot blanc is crafted from first-press juice and vinified entirely in stainless steel, leading to a fresh, fruit-forward wine laden with flavors of white peach, green pear, tangerine rind, and a hint of cream. The wine’s mouth-coating palate remains bright and vibrant, thanks to ample amounts of zingy, lip-puckering acidity.
Macari Life Force Cabernet Franc
The Macari family is one of the most forward-thinking and influential winemaking families on Long Island’s North Fork. In the vineyard, farming goes beyond sustainable, with organic, biodynamic, and homeopathic methods incorporated into the estate’s regimen. Its lineup of wines has garnered the attention of top industry critics and restaurants alike, who all consider its wines a must-try. While it’s tough to choose a favorite in the lineup, this bottle is always a delight. Vinified entirely in concrete, the 100% cabernet franc is juicy, structured, and super easy to drink. For another concrete-vinified wine from their lineup, try the Life Force Sauvignon Blanc, and for a more classic bottle of North Fork red wine, check out the estate’s velvety and versatile Merlot.
Nathan K 'Primeur' Cabernet Franc
In addition to his joint venture with Pascaline Lepeltier at Chepika, Nathan Kendall crafts his own line of organic and sustainable wines in New York’s Finger Lakes. While his dry riesling and gewurztraminer always please, this varietal cabernet franc is essential for fans of the grape. The wine is produced from hand-picked and destemmed fruit vinified in neutral barrels, followed by two short months of aging prior to bottling unfined and without added sulfites. On the palate, the wine drinks lively and fresh—think of it like fruity, peppery New World glou glou in one of its finest forms. Now 11 years into the winemaking game, Kendall is undoubtedly putting out some of the region’s most dynamic and exciting wines.
Paumanok Dry Rosé
Paumanok Vineyards is a small family winery located in Aquebogue, New York. Founded by Charles and Ursula Massoud in 1983, the estate is now under the direction of their sons Kareem, Nabel, and Salim. The family’s 32 hectares of vines are sustainably farmed and dedicated entirely to vinifera varieties. The exact assemblage of its dry rosé changes every year, with the most recent blend crafted from 60% cabernet franc and 40% cabernet sauvignon. The wine’s flavors of strawberry, red apple skin, watermelon, and lime leaf pair perfectly with veggie skewers, salads, and Mediterranean-inspired mezze.