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The Case for Local Wine

I buy fresh, local food whenever possible; I like supporting farmers in my area, and love to explore the seasonal bounty of New York. Last week I volunteered at a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) and somewhere between munching on deliciously ripe peaches and doling out cartons of fresh eggs, I began to wonder: Could the same principles of the local food movement – promoting neighborhood cohesiveness, finding better growing practices, fostering entrepreneurs and stimulating variety – actually be applied to wine?

Just as there is unique variation in regional produce, there’s actually wine made in every state. Like other types of agriculture, there are some regions that have better products than others, but also buying local wine allows you to explore what’s being made nearby, visit your wineries and meet the winemakers, and discover what your region has to offer.

Food and (especially) wine are both remarkably reflective of the local environment: soil, alluvial, calcerous or schist; the topography, hilly, mountainous or flat; and the geography, Mendoza, Coonawara or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Wine is the ultimate expression of terroir. This makes it fun to explore globally, but also offers a good reason to see what’s in your backyard.

West Coasters are particularly lucky – there is nothing quite like sipping a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir steps from the source – but with increasingly good wine cropping up all across the country more and more Americans have the opportunity to explore local viticulture.

If you find yourself far from wine country, join a small wine club’s mailing list to support entrepreneurs or use your vacation to visit local tasting rooms. If you live in New York like me, though you might be far from Napa Valley, you can still take a drive upstate to Canandiagua, New York this weekend (August 12-13) for the annual Finger Lakes Riesling Festival and see what the Empire State has to offer.

Finger Lakes Riesling Festival

Nestled on a pier on Canandaigua Lake just one hour from Ithaca in the Finger Lakes region, the Finger Lakes Riesling Festival features local wines and a farmer’s market. You can also run a 5K, join in on crafts, enjoy live music, explore an antique auto show and participate in educational seminars.

Hardly new to the scene, New York State wine has a long history. There’s been viticulture here since 1829, and its winemaking Renaissance began in 1976 with the New York Farm Winery Act. Today it is the third largest wine and grape producing state, with an average annual production of 20 million gallons, and the fourth most important wine growing state as gauged by the number of producers.

In the last decade, New York, in particular the Finger Lakes region, has reinvented itself, catapulting onto the fine wine scene by making its name in innovation, quality and delicious Rieslings. So join me this weekend in exploring local wine!

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