|SNOW ON VINEYARDS: The vines along the Seneca Lakes Wine Trail (Ted Crane/tedcrane.com)|
With more than 100 wineries and endless networks of trails winding past splashing waterfalls and cavernous gorges, New York's Finger Lakes region during the winter is a sipping, snow-covered mecca for outdoor-obsessed oenophiles. Almost all of the allure can be attributed to the area's geography; 11 finger-shaped lakes, each dubbed with Native American names, define the landscape to create a natural playground that has drawn the active-obsessed, 365 days a year, for as long as humankind has known it exists. And vineyards have been there since the 1860s, naturally fortified by the sunshine that reflects off the lakes onto the vines. The deep lakes also absorb considerable amounts of heat, which is then released during the winter to maintain moderate microclimates and prevent early frost in hillside vineyardsgeographically unique conditions that help produce a variety of award-winning wines, from Riesling and Gewürztraminer to chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and a grab bag of indigenous varietals.
This fledgling wine country stays close to its roots, and winemakers are often on-hand to discuss their favorite varietals and blends. Each grape-growing area has its own characteristic feel and crafting style that's as different as the wine's they produce. Some vineyards have gift shops that sell locally made mustards or maple syrup in addition to bottles of their finest product, while others run lake-side restaurants, terrific for refueling after a morning of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the nearby trails.
Boasting the largest concentration of wineries (covering nearly 11,000 acres), outside of California's Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes is broken into four sections: Seneca, Cayuga, Keuka, and Canandaigua, with wineries open year-round; most from 11 to 5 daily.
Give yourself a week to explore this region, and you'll leave wishing you'd planned for an entire month. But then, there's always next winter...
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication