Lake Erie: New York’s Least Known Wine Region
When we think of lakes in New York that contribute to the greater wine community, it’s usually the Finger Lakes and their Riesling. However, what most don’t realize is the Lake Erie AVA is a large participant in the New York wine industry.
Over 42,000 acres of vineyard exist in the Lake Erie American Viticultural Area on the coast of Lake Erie along Pennsylvania, Ohio, and western New York. The grape belt is about fifty miles long and sits five to ten miles wide from the shores of the lake to the escarpment, the long steep slope that sits about 1000 feet above the 600-foot elevation of the shoreline.
After the Ice Age, the glaciers left deep trenches of gorgeous soils full of deep, rich clay derived from the sediments of the lake that provide moisture and nutrients for the grapes to thrive. It’s these soils combined with the moderate spring and summer seasons that are the foundation for fabulous grape growing and wine production in this region.
The New York area of the Lake Erie AVA is almost entirely in Chautauqua County, which accounts for about 65% of New York State’s total wine production each year, and is the largest grape growing region outside of California. Although there are definitely fantastic grapes and wines that come out of this region, the Lake Erie grape growing region is actually known for its harvest of Concord grapes and is the headquarters of the National Grape Cooperative Association.
One of the coolest aspects of New York’s piece of the Lake Erie AVA is the Grape Discovery Center where you can learn about the history of the region, experience the grape tasting bar, and visit the various educational and delicious exhibits that are presented throughout the year.