An Afternoon in Canandaigua, NY

New York is the 4th largest producing wine region in the US; behind California, Washington and Oregon. New York is known for producing a lot of Riesling and sweeter style wines. My fiancé is from the Finger Lake region and in the past 3 years we have yet to visit NY wine country. Bummer :(

That changed over the weekend. On a spur of the moment trip to Western NY, we took a few hours out of our Saturday to travel to Canandaigua Lake. One of the Finger Lakes, about 30 minutes southwest from Rochester, Canandaigua is a picturesque lake with only a few wineries scattered about. We chose Canandaigua strictly because of it's location to Rochester.

Our first stop was Wilhelmus Estate Winery. The tasting room is rather small, only able to host about 10 people at a time. The vines were also a little bit hidden so the view wasn't what I expected. Wilhelmus produces 10 wines and the tasting allowed you to select 5 to taste. I selected the Cayuga White, Traminette, Cabernet Franc, Corot Noir, and the Noiret. I chose those wines because I really wanted to taste what NY was all about.

Cayuga White is the variety of grape, a hybrid made by Cornell University's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. (You will see this is a trend in NY wines). Cayuga White is a hybrid of Sevyal Blanc and Schuyler. Wilhelmus' Cayuga White was crisp but had a little too much acid for me to enjoy it.

The last two reds really grabbed my attention as well. Corot Noir and Noiret are both hybrid grapes made by Cornell University. Corot Noir is a hybrid of Seyve Villard and Steuben, crazy I know. The employee told me its a hybrid of hybrids, consisting of DNA from about 27 different varieties. This wine has the characteristics of a northern French red with depths of flavor and this was what I ended up leaving with.

The last red is the Noiret. Again, another hybrid made by Cornell University of numerous hybrids. Big tannin structure with bright red fruits and a hint of spice on the finish, this makes for a great pizza wine or a tomato based dish. He explained this wine as a "fruity Sangiovese".

After leaving Wilhelmus, we ventured to the New York Wine and Culinary Center. Wow, what a place! One building consisting of a tasting room of New York wines, beers, AND spirits; a large cooking classroom, dining rooms to host events, gift shop and also the upstairs was a bistro overlooking the lake. Great concept to promote local wine.

Inside the tasting room, there was a wrap around bar with retail shelves surrounding the perimeter of the room. Not only could you taste wines from all over the state, you could also buy the wines right there!

The tastings were divided among white flights, red flights, sweet flight, beer flight or spirit flight. I gravitated towards the dry white flight which consisted of 5 wines from all over NY.
 The wines in the flight were Martha Clara Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Long Island), Eveningside Vineyards Dry Riesling 2011 (Niagara Escarpment), Salmon Run Pinot Grigio 2010 (Finger Lakes), King Ferry Winery "Treleavan" Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Cayuga Lake) and Leidenfrost Sonata NV (Finger Lakes).

I enjoyed all of the whites, however, the Chardonnay was too oaky for my taste. The Sauvignon Blanc was a favorite; light, crisp with grapefruit and stone fruits on the palate. Perfect pairing for a summer afternoon.

After taking a stroll through the gift shop, I just had to pick up this little souvenir :)

All in all, it was a short trip to NY wine country BUT marrying into a family of NYers in the Finger Lakes, I'm sure it won't be my last. I'm excited to try wineries around Seneca and Keuka lake as well. Until next time...


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