Book Review: Wines of the Finger Lakes

We’ve been looking for a book that tells us everything we need to know for a road trip to the Finger Lakes, and in Wines of the Finger Lakes, author Peter Burford delivers.

We’re into wine here, so we want more than a simple winery guide – we’re curious about the grapes, the soils, how New York’s “lake effect” is different from Ohio’s and how it affects the grapes, and how all those factors come together in quality wine.

Most of the grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region would be familiar to Ohioans: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Riesling. Some, such as Lemberger (also called Blaufränkisch) are less well-known, and a few – Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Aurore, Rougeon – are downright obscure.

So, what sets Finger Lakes wines apart? “The wines here have the cool-climate complexion of freshness, acidity, fruit, and minerality…a quality that makes the wine more flavor-faceted in general,” Burford writes. They pair well with food grown in the region, often organically, “in small farms tended personally by the farmers who will sell you their bounty and are pleased to talk about their land, their animals, and the region they love.”

And, for readers who don’t need scholarly details, Burford does include a winery guide. The listings are organized by lake, focusing on the three largest – Cayuga, Seneca and Keuka – but the winery section is more than a trip planner. Burford writes about the people behind the wine, their backgrounds and specialties, how they became part of the Finger Lakes wine community, how much wine they produce, and what you can expect to pay for the finest bottles.

Reading Wines of the Finger Lakes, it’s easy to imagine myself on a deck, overlooking the water, munching on a light summer supper of artisanal cheeses and sipping a glass of perfectly chilled rosé. I think I just planned that road trip.

-Mary Mihaly

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