The Finger Lakes Feature

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The Wine Trails

One of the top reasons to visit the Finger Lakes is the wine. The region has three American Viticultural Areas, a federal designation. The Finger Lakes designation encompasses the four largest lakes. Cayuga and Seneca lakes, considered microclimates, have their own designations. Because of their size and depth, the lakes heat and cool more slowly than the surrounding land, moderating shore temperatures and extending the growing season.

Pinot noir, chardonnay, Riesling, cabernet franc, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon are among the fine wines produced in the region. Before the second half of the 20th century, only American Indian grapes, or vitis labrusca, which produce very sweet wines, were grown here. The belief was that the than more-delicate European vitis vinifera varietals wouldn't survive the climate. Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Ukrainian immigrant who settled in the area in the 1950s, challenged that belief and successfully started growing vinifera vines.

Today the region is home to more than 100 wineries, including Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, still considered the best by many. Although native grapes (Concord, Catawba, Niagara, Delaware) are still grown here, winemakers have been experimenting with new varieties, often with the help of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Wine Trails

Nearly all the wineries have tasting rooms and gift shops, and many have restaurants, caf├ęs, or picnic grounds with panoramic lake views. The trail associations sponsor events throughout the year. Not all Finger Lakes wineries are associated with the trails; Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle newspaper maintains a more comprehensive list and information at www.fingerlakeswine.com.

The Canandaigua Wine Trail includes just five wineries, in Fairport, Canandaigua, and Naples, and two wine centers in Canandaigua. 877/386-4669. www.canandaiguawinetrail.com.

The Cayuga Wine Trail has 16 wineries stretching from Seneca Falls down to Ithaca, with most concentrated on the western-central lakefront. Montezuma Winery, on the trail, is known for its mead (honey wine). 800/684-5217 or 607/869-4281. www.cayugawinetrail.com.

The Keuka Lake Wine Trail encompasses nine wineries. Recommended: Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, Heron Hill, and Ravines Cellars in Hammondsport; Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport; and Rooster Hill in Penn Yan. Wineries are more or less evenly distributed along the outer edges of the lake. 800/440-4898. www.keukawinetrail.com.

More than 30 wineries make up the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. Some favorites are Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan, Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee, and Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars in Lodi. 877/536-2717. www.senecalakewine.com.

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