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Yates County Area Insight

  • Robert Miglioratti
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    Yates County, NY
    Finger Lakes Wine Country is the Napa Valley of the East - only better!

    When arriving from out of town, often our visitors or those new to the area hear about our long winters and endless snow. What you may not know is that the Finger Lakes are home to one of the top wine producing areas in the nation. Our climate and rolling hills, along with the complexity of being close to large bodies of water, all add to the mystique of producing international award winning wines.

    Sure, the Napa Valley gets all the credit but did you know that New York State ranks third among states in total wine production and some of the first wines for public consumption were produced in the state?

    According to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the industry (grapes, grape juice and wine) is a nearly $5 billion boost to the New York State's economy with approximately 25% of that going to the wine industry alone. There are five recognized major wine making zones in the state with the Finger Lakes being the largest, and over 120 wineries spread across the major lakes in the area.

    It's big business in the Finger Lakes and long ago the wineries, towns, businesses and leaders noticed. What makes the Finger Lakes so great for growing grapes and making wine? Riesling grapes thrive in the Finger Lakes, producing wines that range in style from bold, dry and 'minerally' to sumptuous expressions of peach and apricot. Other aromatic whites such as Gerurztraminer and Pinot Gris also excel here. Sparkling wine, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Lemberger and Ice Wine round out the region's exception wine portfolio.

    The Finger Lakes are comprised of the 11 lakes located throughout the central and more western parts of the state. A leftover from the glaciers these lakes offer a year-round recreation and fine living to all that come to stay and enjoy the lakes and surrounding beauty. Most of the wineries in the Finger Lakes Wine Country region are located on the more major lakes; Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga.

    Each of these lakes have their own unique wineries, from large to small, corporate to family owned, and it is the topography, climate, and soil that make the region ideal for growing a wide variety of grapes for wine making. Quality factors include vineyards that slope down to deep, glaciated lakes, providing favorable micro climatic and soils for the growth of premium vinifera wine grapes. These same lakes and hillsides provide the beautiful settings of the Finger Lakes region that attracts visitors and residents in growing numbers.

    Sheldrake Point Winery, located on Cayuga Lake, opened its doors in the late 90's, with the first vines planted in '97 and the first vintage released in 2001. This property has seen quite a transformation. It was originally a golf course and a dairy farm before the current owner took over and founded the winery. “What makes our site unique is our microclimate. We're insulated with gorges on each side of the property, and right in the middle of the lake, which is 420 feet deep and does not freeze. As a result we have a growing season that is about 2 weeks longer than surrounding areas", states Ruben Abramov, Marketing Manager for Sheldrake Point Winery.

    One way to truly experience the Finger Lakes Wine country is to participate in the "wine trail". To stimulate the tourism industry in the area, wineries developed a long-term program of advertising, promotion, and marketing of the region as a tourist and vacation destination by using market research to guide its efforts. By pooling the resources of multiple public and private stakeholders the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association (FLWCTMA) was born. The association spends a significant portion of its annual budget on a fully-integrated media buy, media relations campaign, and marketing program.

    Pooling resources gives the rural area of the Finger Lakes the ability to attract leisure travelers and is a value-added commodity for newcomers to the area as they can see that the region has more to offer than snow and taxes. FLWCTMA has been able to demonstrate a positive return on investment for its annual funders over the course of the campaign.

    Christina Roberts, Director of Media and Marketing Programs Finger Lakes Wine Country states, "Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association (FLWCTMA) organized as an entity in 2000 with one purpose in mind, to promote economic development in the Finger Lakes region of the state of New York". A strong tourism industry adds depth to a community, making it much more desirable to live and work. It is the belief of area employers and civic leaders that everyone benefits from a community rich in history, culture, and scenic beauty.

    Roberts concedes that a unified branding initiative with strategic marketing and promotional programs attracts tourist and newcomers to the Finger Lakes region. The target audience is the touring vacationer coming from a 150-500 mile radius. "Marketing under the brand Finger Lakes Wine Country, ‘Finger Lakes’ places us on the map in terms of geography, ‘Wine’ is our unique differentiator as the largest wine producing region east of the Rocky Mountains, and ‘Country’ conveys the message that we have a basket of disparate attractions with a broad visitor appeal", stated Roberts.

    According to the Foundation the wine related tourism industry accounts for over 5 million visits to the state each year. Additionally, its economic impact equates to over half a billion dollars in winery sales alone and winery tourism expenditures of over $400 million annually (based on 2012 statistics).

    Every July the region's wineries have produced the Finger Lakes Wine Festival. Annually, wineries and other food outlets come together for a three day event filled with wine, food and music. Presented by Yancy's Fancy New York's Artisan Cheese, the 2014 festival was from July 11-13 and it was held at the world famous Watkins Glen International Speedway. The event, which attracts thousands, included 90 wineries, food demonstrations and classes, artists and vendors for the visiting public to enjoy.

    The ancient soils of the Finger Lakes, underlain by beds of shale, produce wines with steely focus, natural acidity, liveliness and balanced alcohol. These characteristics, along with mouth-filling, vibrant fruit flavors, are a unique expression of "terroir", a sense of place that can be tasted in the wine.

    Finger Lakes wineries and region itself attract travelers from the world over, to taste wines and to sample homespun and world class hospitality to take in the gorgeous landscapes that make this region so unique to the United States.

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