From A to Z on the CLWT

cayuga_wine_trail_logoby Cassandra Harrington, Executive Director, Cayuga Lake Wine Trail
America’s First Wine Trail. The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is the first of its kind in the country, formed in 1983 as a nonprofit, membership-based organization to help promote wineries located within the Cayuga Lake American Viticulture Area (AVA) as a collective, offering handcrafted and home-grown beverages in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Breathtaking. Cayuga Lake is home to some of the most stunning views of vineyard-clad lakesides, rolling hills and waterfalls. Carved by glaciers, it’s the longest and second-deepest of the Finger Lakes, at 38.2 miles long and 435 feet deep at its deepest point. It reaches 53 feet below sea level, and along with Seneca Lake, it is among the deepest lakes in North America. The 87-mile loop around the lake was named a New York State Scenic Byway in 2002 by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Cayuga. It’s pronounced kay-oo-guh, and ought not be confused with our crooked neighbor to the west, Keuka Lake.

Dogs. All 16 member wineries are pet-friendly and invite you to bring your furry companions along.

Eau-de-vie. Swedish Hill Winery produces one of the very few premium grape brandies in the United States. It is made with a traditional pot still using a double distillation process such as that used for French Cognac.

Farm wineries. A majority of the members are registered Farm Wineries, meaning that they produce less than 150,000 finished barrels of wine a year made exclusively from ingredients grown in New York State.

Glacial. Hundreds of millions of years ago, this area was under water. Over time, sediments and skeletal remains formed layers of hard ground. Later, during the Ice Age, successive waves of glaciers over a mile high carved out the Finger Lakes as they receded to Hudson Bay.

Horizontal tastings. Travel the Trail tasting Rieslings from the same vintage, but grown in different vineyards and produced by different winemakers.

Ithaca. This diverse city is the southern gateway to the Trail, making it a great place to call your home-away-from-home for your next visit.

Jackpot! For anyone who loves wine – this is the place for you!

King Baldwin. Found at Bellwether Hard Cider & Wine Cellars, the Trail’s first cider producer.

Late harvest. For those of you who like very sweet wines, you should try late harvest wines that are made from grapes left on the vine later than usual. Typical varieties are Riesling, Vignoles and Chardonnay.

Mead. The Martin family started out as beekeepers and eventually began producing honey wine, or mead. It is still a major focus of their product line.

New world. Per the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, our state is the new world of world-class wines.

Oenology. Studying winemaking is readily available with programs at both Cornell University and Finger Lakes Community College.

Premium wines. The Trail’s profile of winemakers is very diverse, ranging from self-taught to highly trained, some who have been in the industry for decades and some who are recent graduates from local viticulture programs. Each of them is capable of producing premium wines.

Quality. We guarantee a high quality product and experience.

Residual sugar. Some wineries will list or tell you the RS in each wine. This is the sugar that remains in the wine after fermentation completes. The higher the RS, the sweeter the wine will be.

Spumante. Goose Watch Winery’s Golden Spumante and Swedish Hill’s Spumante Blush are great sweet bubbly wines that are particularly refreshing garnished with a piece of fruit.

Terroir. The steep hillsides, rich soil content and distinct microclimates create a prime grape-growing terroir that result in vibrant wines.

Upstate New York. The Trail is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region.

Vertical tastings. At Hosmer Winery’s Spring Barrel Tasting this year, sample Riesling from their collection of library wines alongside a current release and a barrel sample. Swedish Hill Winery will offer vertical tastings of their Optimus at their 30th Anniversary Celebration in June.

Water. We have lots of it, which makes for great growing conditions.

Xtended. (Ok, I had to reach for that one) The Finger Lakes region has an extended growing season of about 190-205 days due to the radiant heat that the lakes provide the hillside vineyards into fall.

Years. Thirty-three years ago, a small group of fledgling winery owners joined forces to market themselves as the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail.

Zinderella. Long Point Winery puts a slight twist on traditional Zinfandel by adding sugar to create a sweet light-bodied red with hints of raspberry and watermelon. They serve it chilled.

Cassandra Harrington is the executive director of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. To learn more, visit

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