But there is a region much further
west that too few “downstate” folks
know about: Niagara… on our side of
the border. These are wines you need to
Nestled between Lake Ontario and
the Niagara Escarpment, Niagara is a
region of varied soils—everything from
gravely silt near the lake to heavy lime-
stone. Proximity to the lake and unique
geography provides a long growing sea-
son and the second-warmest conditions
of any wine region in the state, second
only to Long Island.
So why is Niagara USA the next big
thing in New York wine? Diversity, dis-
tinctiveness and value.
The area is too young to have settled
on “signature variety” yet, so producers
are basking in the possibilities. You’ll find
everything from Catawba and Siegfried
to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to
Pinot Noir and Syrah. A few varieties
have shown the most promise, but that
hasn’t stopped the experimentation.
Of the more than a dozen winer-
ies in the region, many rely heavily on
tourism—rather than wine quality—to
succeed, but there are a handful focus-
ing on making the best wines possible.
Some rival anything else being made
on the East Coast.
You won’t hear top wineries com-
paring their wines to those from Napa,
Willamette or the Loire. Instead, they
are driven to make the best wines they
can—wines that best express their
own sense of place.
Four in Focus
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards.
band-and-wife owners Robin andDuncan
Ross grow the grapes and make the wines,
respectively. Much like his neighbors just
across the river in Ontario, Duncan is
making some expressive, beautifully bal-
anced Chardonnay—but the stars of his
portfolio are the 2010 Syrah, which just
might be New York’s best Syrah, and the
under-$20 2010 Pinot Noir, which out-
classes many New York Pinots at twice
the price. Another value is the 2009 Ar-
rowhead Red Meritage, also under $20.
Chardonnay shines bright in the port-
folio—both oaked and unoaked—but
the real jewel is the 2010 Cabernet
Franc. Ripe and plump, it oozes with
blackberry, plum and spice flavor with
subtle notes of chocolate and mint.
Best of all, it’s under $25.
Freedom Run Winery.
door to Arrowhead, Freedom Run bal-
ances tourism with making some of
the region’s top wines. Don’t bother
with the sweet rosé or the other wines
targeting the bachelorette parties. In-
stead, focus on the Pinot Noir, Cab-
ernet Franc and Meritage blends—
including the 2010 Appassimento
Meritage—especially if you’re looking
for some nearly-Left Coast heft and
intensity. Their Cab Franc makes per-
haps the strongest case for the variety
in the region.
Leonard Oakes Winery.
eye on young winemaker Jonathan
Oakes. He brings tremendous energy,
enthusiasm and creativity to the re-
gion. Though best known for his deli-
cious Steampunk Cider—which can
be found in a few shops in Manhat-
tan—his unoaked Chardonnays and
reserve whites, particularly the Ries-
ling and Vignoles, all shine at the
dinner table and offer tremendous
value in the $15-$20 range.
The Wild West of
New York Wine Country
Niagara Could be the State's
Next Big Thing
By Lenn Thompson
he Finger Lakes region of New York is the darling of the
New York City wine trade these days—and with good
reason. The wines, particularly aromatic whites like
Gewürztraminer and Riesling, can be stunning. Many are
similarly familiar with the quality wines being made on Long Island’s
East End, right in their own back yard.
Robin and Duncan Ross