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Experience the Unique Flavors of Thousand Islands Wines

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2021-01-15 13:42:00

When you think of where your favorite wine comes from, you might think of places like Italy, California and France. Maybe your favorite comes from as close to home as the famous Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. It seems grapevines are popping up all over Upstate New York’s countryside—but if you haven’t yet tried the unique wines made in the Thousand Islands region, make sure to add it to your bucket list this year, because you’re in for a treat. 

With plenty of rich farmland in the area, conditions are generally excellent for agriculture in the countryside surrounding the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands Region. But for many years, the prohibitively cold winter temperatures in the area kept winemaking off the table. Traditional grape varieties grown in Europe, California, and even as close as the Finger Lakes simply could not withstand the plunge in temperatures--up to 40 degrees below zero at times-- that this area often sees. But that changed when local growers started to experiment with a new kind of grapes: “cold hardy” grapes. These special varietals were developed by the University of Minnesota to continue producing wine-worthy fruit even when the temperature plummets to a brisk 40 degrees below zero—perfect for this area, right below the border to Canada. These special hybridized grape varieties took root quickly in the Thousand Islands region, and a booming wine business followed in short order.

Three of the biggest wineries in the region—Coyote Moon Vineyards in Clayton, Thousand Islands Winery in Alexandria Bay, and Otter Creek Winery in Philadelphia, New York (inland a ways from the St. Lawrence River, but they have a tasting room in Alex Bay that is open during the summer) use these specialized grapes to create selections that will please every palate, many of which bear the names of the grapes that produced them-- LaCrescent, Frontenac and Marquette are just a few.

But they certainly don’t all taste the same. Each winery offers many different varieties and flavors, from red to white and dry to sweet, each crafted in its own unique way. Everything from the soil and weather conditions the grapes were grown in to the blending of varieties, choice of oak, aging time, sugar content, and more-- even the unique expertise of the resident winemaker-- will have an impact on how a grape expresses its flavor in a finished wine. That means you’ll find a ton of variety, even amongst wines made with the same grapes—and there’s a lot of opportunity to taste your way through the list until you settle on your favorite one!

If a trip to the tasting room isn’t in the cards right now—and if it is, between winter and COVID restrictions, you should definitely check with the winery first to make sure they’ll be open before you set out—you can often find these wines at many local liquor stores throughout Upstate New York. If you know what you want (or are willing to take a gamble that you’ll like something new and order before tasting), Coyote Moon, Thousand Islands and Otter Creek will all ship wine right to your door (within New York State at least, and sometimes to other states, depending on local laws). Is there any more relaxing way to get through the long winter than by warming up by the fire with a glass of your favorite wine—or maybe a mug of it, mulled? If so, it hasn’t been discovered yet!

Coyote moon wines photo credit Coyote Moon Vineyards
Grape harvesting photo credit Coyote Moon Vineyards
Wine glass in vineyard photo credit Thousand Islands Winery
Otter Creek Meadow Mist photo credit Otter Creek Winery
Grapevine photo credit Otter Creek Winery

posted at: 2021-01-15 13:42:00, last updated: 2021-04-06 20:43:43

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