Named by Indians or by 17th- and 18th-century frontiersmen mimicking them, we have Canandaigua, Cayuga, Conesus, Heneoye, Keuka, Otisco, Owasco, Seneca and Skaneateles, plus a few smaller ones. Their general shape gives the region the name of the Finger Lakes. It encompasses 14 counties, the remains of the Erie Canal, beaches on Lake Ontario, more than 100 wineries, a handful of breweries and distilleries, 115 museums, 160 golf courses and 14 professional theater companies.
While the Finger Lakes region has been a popular vacation spot for New Yorkers and other Easterners for many years, it often seems that non-New Yorkers don't know it and, as the opening scene in "The Music Man" points out, "You gotta know the territory!"
It isn't all rural, either, with cities like Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca and others offering their own attractions. Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, also is in the region.
I hadn't been in the area for many years, and on the way home from a drive through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachussetts, we decided to come home via the New York Thruway, the Mohawk River Valley and the Finger Lakes. And the New York wine country.
Canandaigua, Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca are the main wine lakes, and a drive along the latter (the deepest and largest, about 38 miles from end to end) showed vineyard-heavy land rolling down to bright blue water, and many wineries, all with tasting rooms. The area obviously is heavily trafficked on weekends, and tasting rooms displayed welcoming signs. On a whim and a thirst, we dropped in on Anthony Road, on the west side of the lake about a third of the way from Geneva (where the Geneva Double Curtain trellis system was devised), at the north end of the lake to Watkins Glen (where they do a lot of car racing) at the south.
Well, there were a lot of them, with the same vinifera and hybrid grapes grown throughout the region, and throughout the world for that matter. A climate that is more temperate in the winter, without the abrupt fluctuation we find in Missouri, allows for more production of vinifera grapes, like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer, and some of the more popular hybrids, like Vignoles, also popular.
We sampled a large handful, with our favorite a 2008 Gewurztraminer, which had nice lychee notes and a pleasing tingle on the tongue. A Cabernet Franc rose, pale in color, dry and with attractive fruit, also earned favor. A Pinot Gris was crisp, and a Vignoles, slightly on the sweet side, would have been nice with fruit for dessert and the pinot noir displayed cherry overtones that were excellent. A proprietary red, called Devonian, was rich and tasty, blended from Cabernet Franc (60 percent), Pinot Noir (36) and Lemberger (4), and a Lemberger (55)-Cabernet Franc (45) blend from 2007 showed promise, but needs more time in the bottle to soften the tannins.
All in all, nicely made wines with clean, orderly manners and nice flavor, helped by a gorgeous view down to the lake.