In honor of National Finger Lake Wines Month (yes, there’s a month for that), we’re diving into one of our favorite Eastern U.S. producers, Ravines Wine Cellars. With its top-notch Riesling and Cabernet Franc, Ravines is proving that New York’s Finger Lakes region has something that even the prolific West Coast doesn’t: a viable location for true cool-climate viticulture.
And we’re not the only ones singing Ravines’ praises: Wine & Spirits named it one of the top 100 wineries of 2017. Run by husband-and-wife team Morten and Lisa Hallgren, they craft elegant sparkling, still, and dessert wines from Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Gewurztraminer. Owner/winemaker Morten Hallgren was raised in Provence, and his family owned Domaine de Castel Roubine, where he was raised in the vineyards and cellar. He trained at Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux before moving to the States.
Ravines is on 17 acres of glacier-carved hillside above Keuka Lake. The lake here is key: it provides a moderating influence that is crucial in Upstate New York’s frigid climate. As Jancis Robinson puts it: “Since the lakes retain their summer warmth in winter, cold air sliding down the steep slopes is warmed by the lake and rises, permitting more cold air to drain from the hillside. Conversely, in spring, the now-cold water of the lake retards budding until the danger of frost is past.” The vineyards are also situated between two deep ravines--the winery’s namesake--that drain cold air during the winter.
Though New York is home to the oldest continually operating winery (Brotherhood), and has a long history of winemaking, the Finger Lakes AVA has only been official since 1982. Today, New York is America’s third largest producer of wine by volume--not to mention a leading producer of Manischewitz (though whether that adds to its vinous cred or not is dubious). Eric Asimov of the New York Times writes: “Nowadays, top producers are not simply making good Finger Lakes Rieslings, or good American Rieslings. They are making seriously good world-class Rieslings, in a multitude of styles.” (NYT, 10/2011)
- Kate Soto