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FINE VINES: 20 things you didn't know about the Finger Lakes wine industry

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Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2011 10:12 pm | Updated: 2:08 pm, Tue Sep 13, 2011.

The Finger Lakes wine industry means business - big business - for the area. But it's not all business and no fun. Even for the serious FL wine connoisseur, there are bound to be some tidbits that are brand new.

Whether you've been wondering about the benefits of pinot noir or how many gold medals New York wines won last year, there are sure to be some facts that will pique your interest and increase your wine knowledge.

Some local folks in the industry offered up 20 fun and interesting facts about wine in the Finger Lakes, letting you in on some little known - or maybe just unusual - information that makes this region what it is.

Here you go:

Fun Fact No. 1 from Deborah Drago-Leaf, winery marketing manager at Belhurst: Red Dwyer once ran Belhurst as a speakeasy and casino in 1933. The canal on Seneca Lake was used to smuggle the alcohol.

Fun Fact No. 2 from Brad Phillips, director of marketing at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards: Hazlitt in Hector recently opened a wellness center for winery staff, which includes a pool. "Trying to encourage people to be overall healthy as far as mind and body," Phillips said.

Fun Fact No. 3 from Laura Lee Wagner, one of the owners of Wagner Vineyards: Wagner in Lodi has more than 50 acres of riesling planted and makes six different wines from its riesling grapes.

Fun Fact No. 4 from Tom Prejean, owner of Prejean Winery in Yates County: People can taste and smell things in parts per trillion. So if someone takes a bathtub full of a certain liquid and it dissolves evenly across Seneca Lake it could be tasted. "A lot of the off-flavors that you taste in wine are some of these vegetative characters that you can taste in parts per trillion," Prejean said.

Fun Fact No. 5 from Ted Marks, owner of Atwater Estate Vineyards: Atwater in Burdett has a wine called "riewürz," a mix of riesling and gewürztraminer.

"The reason behind it was we did not have - due to weather about six years ago - we didn't have enough gewürz to make our own gewürztraminer, which we usually do, and so we kind of wondered, what are we going to do with it?" Marks said.

The winery ran into similar trouble last year, a somewhat rough year for its gewürztraminer but with extra riesling.

After the initial vintage about five years ago, the winery continued to get inquires about it from customers. In 2009, it made it again.

Fun Fact No. 6 from Tim Miller, winemaker at Chateau Lafayette Reneau: With Seneca Lake not freezing and being deep and cold, the Hector winery gets a lot more circulation, which helps to have a longer ripening season on Seneca Lake.

"The longer the growing season, especially for red grapes, the riper you can get them, the better wine it's going to make," Miller said.

Fun Fact No. 7 from David DeMarco, tasting room worker at Fruit Yard Winery: A 6-ounce glass of the Dundee winery's blueberry wine comes from about 10.6 ounces of blueberries.

"So, you can have three-quarters of a bottle of blueberry [wine] and get your daily fruit requirements and antioxidants, and have a relaxing time," DeMarco said.

Fun Fact No. 8 from Josh Wig, co-owner of Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars in Lodi: The number one fruit crop in the world is grapes, with 20 million acres planted around the world.

Fun Fact No. 9 from Sean King, marketing manager at Bully Hill Vineyards in Hammondsport: Finger Lakes pinot noir has been known to have high levels of resveratrol, in fact, some of the highest levels in the world. According to the Mayo Clinic website, resveratrol, "helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces ‘bad' cholesterol and prevents blood clots."

Fun Fact No. 10, also from King: Bully Hill Vineyards founder Walter S. Taylor lost the right to use his last name on his wine labels.

Fun Fact No. 11: The first U.S. bonded winery was a Finger Lakes winery, the Pleasant Valley Wine Co. in Hammondsport.

Fun Fact No. 12: There are more than 100 wineries in the Finger Lakes that draw nearly 5 million tourists each year.

Fun Facts Nos. 13-16 from Jenna LaVita, winemaker and vineyard manager at Ventosa Vineyards in Geneva:

- The Finger Lakes is the largest American Viticulture Area in the state.

- The Geneva Double Curtain Trellis system was invented here.

- New York is the third largest wine producing state in the country.

- There were 63 wineries in New York in 1985. There are more than 212 today.

Fun Fact Nos. 17-20 from the New York Wine and Grape Foundation:


- There are 90 bonded wineries in the region.

- The Finger Lakes grape growing season is between 190 and 205 days.

- New York wineries earned 153 best of class awards, 127 double gold medals and 531 gold medals in various wine competitions in 2010.

- New York wine, grapes and grape juice benefit the state's economy to the tune of $3.76 billion a year.


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