New York Finger Lakes: Wine For Summer Pairings

Trio from Lamoreaux Landing

Photo credit: Jill Barth

For two years running, New York’s Finger Lakes wine region has pulled off a spectacular achievement. It has won USA Today’s 10Best Readers Choice award for best wine region in the United States.

The award called this spot “stiff competition” for California: “New York’s picturesque Finger Lakes region is home to three distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Visitors to the area will find more than 130 wineries, many specializing in Riesling.”

Lakewood Vineyards

Photo Credit: Jill Barth

Full disclosure: I’m on the nominating panel for the award, but ultimately the readers make the final choice. And for two years it’s been the Finger Lakes!

This is down to a combination of hospitality, quality, natural beauty, and a keen sense of terroir from skilled growers and vintners. I had the chance to taste through a few new releases recently and every bottle was truly delicious. Most, if not all, were estate grown and sustainably produced by family wineries. There is nothing lacking when it comes to quality and, ultimately, value, in the Finger Lakes. In fact, after my tasting I made plans with my mom (a Riesling lover) because I had to share them with her. These wines are the ideal pairing for a range of summer meals, from outdoor grilling to in-the-air-conditioning sautées.

Lakewood Vineyards has seven decades and three generations of heritage in the region, now producing 15 varieties on 85 acres, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. I sampled Lakewood Vineyard’s 2018 Dry Riesling, with elegant orchard perfume and a stony finish, and 2018 Riesling, with sweetness in the middling range, a succulent balance of acidity and white fruit flavors.

These two wines are good lighthouses when it comes to the waters of New York Finger Lakes. Riesling was commercially planted in the region starting around the 1950s. It is a signature for the growing area, and is produced in a range of sweetness. In fact, every bottle of Riesling that I sampled included a sweetness scale on the back label, and the glass color is also an indicator:


For many drinkers, sweetness level is a useful tool in deciding what appeals to ones general preference, but when it comes to Riesling in particular, I find that it’s best to enjoy the range, regardless of ones preconceived ideas.

Sugar is also what makes Riesling such a perfect pairing partner for so many foods. A touch of sweetness is a dream with spicy Asian food, and dry versions are perfect for seafood and veggies. And while food-friendliness is key to Riesling’s plus side, these wines do quite well on their own as a cocktail or a summer sipper. Some Rieslings, when given the time, age so well that their complexity is nearly indescribable.

In other words: even if you don’t like sweet wines, give an off-dry (slightly sweet) Riesling a try. A bit of sugar on the tongue brings out a balance of fruit and acidity that can’t be beat. You are honestly missing out if you stick to one style, particularly when it comes to the bounty in cool-climate Finger Lakes region.

I also had the opportunity to try Lamoreaux Landing‘s 2018 Dry Riesling with its mineral build and citrus pop and 2018 Round Rock Vineyard Riesling, which had a touch of smokiness on the nose, like chipped flint, with a thread of acidity that presents as freshness. Of the four wines, this last is the only one that will put you back more than $15, a steal at $24.

Three Brothers Zero Degree

Photo Credit: Jill Barth

I discovered Lamoreaux Landing’s 90+ rated six-pack, available online, for less than $100. This is a seriously high-quality steal. No, I’m not paid to say this (I should add here that I am never compensated, paid or monetized for anything you read on L’Occasion, though I frequently write about media samples) but this is a purchase I’d recommend.

Rounding out the Riesling flight was 2019 Zero Degree Dry Estate Riesling from Three Brothers Wineries & Estates. This wine had tip-top acid, zesty in the true tone of the word, with a slice of stone. Super refreshing. I love the bottle’s artistic look and the useful “4 Degrees of Riesling” slider scale on the back label. Also cool: the Three Brothers family includes a brewery and coffee company. For some of us, that’s all we need in life.


Photo Credit: Jill Barth

I also had the opportunity to sample two bottles of rosé, both made with gorgeous Cabernet Franc in a dry style. Again, “dry” was indicated on the label by both. These wines are widely versatile and fresh, perfect for roasted chicken with an herbal sauce such as chimichurri. Also: grilled veggies, fresh salad and my favorite rosé pairing, salted almonds.

Wagner Vineyards has a impressive range, and 2019 Dry Rosé of Cabernet Franc is the first and only wine I’ve sampled from it’s portfolio. Available for $15, (so many of the wines I tasted were right at that price point) this wine is an excellent value. One swirl of my glass and the red fruit florals jumped out. Like all of my favorite rosés from around the world, this one balances acidity nicely.

Next up, was the 2019 Dry Rosé from Lamoreaux Landing (mentioned above). This Cabernet Franc blusher offers herbal notes (something in stony vein, not quite garrigue) and red fruit flavors that hit on the finish with pop of tart freshness. Available for $17.

Finger Lakes Wine

Photo Credit: Jill Barth

I’m not alone in my quest to cover Finger Lakes Wines. Our Wine Pairing Weekend group have joined together to write about, pair with and chat over #FLXWine. Join us on Saturday, June 13th, 2020 at 10am central time. We’ll be on Twitter and you are invited with the hashtag #WinePW.

Here’s what has happened behind the scenes:


11 thoughts on “New York Finger Lakes: Wine For Summer Pairings

  1. Great post – love this region that makes world-class Rieslings. I love their Rose too – a lot more complex and textured to pair more weighty food!


  2. On top of world class riesling and beautiful rosé, this region looks like a perfect place to go hiking and enjoy the lakes. They also are growing so many of the French American hybrids that I have not had an opportunity to taste.


  3. What a wonderful lineup of wines. I think really reflects well the breadth of delicious options available!


  4. Very impressive that the Finger Lakes wine region has won USA Today’s best wine region in the USA for two years! The region sounds beautiful and the wines I have tasted from the Finger Lakes are amazing!


  5. I love how we got such a great selection of wines to taste and share with each other. This event has given me the bug to get back to the region for another visit.


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