Finger Lakes Wine Country

Ice, ice, baby. These 11 glacial lakes support 100-plus wineries. Even designated drivers will enjoy looking at rolling hills, long lakes and farm animals. Five bucks someone in the car points and says "Look, cows."

It's pouring out here

Wine Enthusiast lists the Finger Lakes on their top “wine travel” destinations. So do crowd-sourced listings like Tripadvisor.com. In CNY, a great wine-tasting tour is less than an hour away. That's why Central New Yorkers like to get a designated driver or hire a party bus to head out for an afternoon of tasting. They might stop at wineries ready for a crowd. Or they might pull in at a small vineyard to stand around a crackling fireplace while the owners describe their latest harvest. Vineyards and wineries are spread along all 11 lakes, but Cayuga, Seneca and Keuka lakes have the greatest concentration of wineries and the three best-known wine trails.

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The beauty of the Finger Lakes is flanked by the lakeside charm of Skaneateles on its eastern side, the breathtaking views at the Grand Canyon of the East in Letchworth State Park on the western side, and the roaring waterfalls of Watkins Glen on the south. U.S. News & World Report put the Finger Lakes on its list of the world's best wine tours. The magazine said the best wine tours promise not only a distinguished wine culture but spectacular scenery. CBS in New York summed it up this way: When adults wish to take a break from wine tasting, the Finger Lakes is a scenic family-friendly region with farm tours, water parks, railway rides, boating, and science museums. Watkins Glen State Park offers spectacular hiking, 19 waterfalls, and impressive gorges clawed out by Mother Nature.

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Want some cheese with that wine? While they might look like they've come right out of a painting, the dairy farms dotting the Finger Lakes aren't just for show. They produce artisan cheeses and you can mingle a wine trail tour with stops on the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. Food entrepreneurs and chefs spreading out from Ithaca make restaurants along Cayuga Lake a destination for fine dining. You'll also find shopping hot spots like the iconic MacKenzie-Childs studio, store, and headquarters located on a picturesque farm overlooking Cayuga Lake in Aurora.

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A little thing called terroir. What makes the hills rising so beautifully above the Finger Lakes a special place for vineyards and wines? Glacial soil, diverse minerals and the water temperature of the lakes all come together to affect what wine and foodies refer to as terroir. Finger Lakes Wine Country says: The terroir of the Finger Lakes is special because of the microclimate created by the lakes – extreme cold is avoided and the warm breezes of summer help to ripen the grapes. By the way, The Finger Lakes are known for white wines, but don't overlook cool-climate reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. They have become highly regarded Finger Lake wines.

When you move to Central New York, all this wine, dining, shopping, and natural beauty is an easy and nearby day trip. It won't cost you nearly as much as living near similar destinations elsewhere.

Ice, ice, baby: Tradition vs. innovation in Upstate New York's vineyards

Fingerlakes named America's top wine region in USA Today poll