Monday, February 28, 2011

Lake Champlain Wine Region Newest Expanding Region in New York

Lake Champlain is the newest emerging wine region in New York State and, like the Thousand Islands, an area few ever would have suspected would grow grapes and wine. But here they are, working together (the key), organizing a conference, and creating a wine trail.
Fifty of New York's 62 counties now have wineries, and that will soon be 51 with a new one in Madison County, home of Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee, a strong champion of our industry. The wine industry is truly a growth industry in more than one way.


Jim Trezise

Lake Champlain Wines Arrive
New York Wine Press
February 19, 2011
by Jim Tresize
If you travel north out of New York City and continue well beyond Albany, eventually you'll reach New York State's newest winegrowing region: Lake Champlain.
The expansive lake forms the border with Vermont for many miles, while in the opposite direction, to the west, loom the Adirondack Mountains which provide significant benefits to the region's micro-climate by funneling cold weather patterns to either the north or south. Still, it is unmistakenly a (very) cool climate region, and the wine pioneers there seem to be doing everything right.
A few years ago, there was one winery, now there are five, with another five or so expected to open by the end of this year. Current wineries include ELFS Farm Winery and Cider Mill, Vesco Ridge Vineyards, Amazing Grace Vineyard and Winery, Stone House Vineyard, and Hid-In-Pines Vineyard. In addition, there are several independent growers without wine production facilities.
The Champlain Valley has long been a major apple-producing region, with popular apple wines and hard cider, along with other specialty products like vegetables, fruits, breads, cheeses and meats, making grape wines a logical fit in an area with a strong locavore movement.
As with the Thousand Islands region along the St. Lawrence Seaway bordering Canada, the Lake Champlain growers and vintners are wisely focusing on cold-climate "Minnesota" varieties like Frontenac and Marquette which can withstand severely cold temperatures that would damage other types of grapes, especially cold-sensitive Vinifera (European) vines like Chardonnay, Merlot or Riesling. Lake Champlain Wines has organized a winemaking workshop, "Making Quality Wines from Cold Hardy Grapes", on March 11 that will feature Cornell's Chris Gerling (Enology Extension Associate) and Anna Katharine Mansfield (Assistant Professor of Enology), who actually came to New York from the University of Minnesota.

On another front, we're working with the group's president, Natalie Peck, to get legislation in place to define a Lake Champlain Wine Trail, hopefully before this year's tourist season gets into full swing.
It's great to see a new wine region blossom, and we wish them all the best. For more information about the conference and other matters, visit