Keuka Lake: A Wine Story
Hammondsport, NY – In 2018 and again in 2019, the Finger Lakes was named the "Best Wine Region" in the United States by USA Today. For 2019, VinePair Magazine named the region #2 of “The World’s Top 10 Wine Destinations.” The region has been earning a lot of accolades over the past several years and with good reason. The Atlantic wrote: “. . . no up-and-coming domestic region has received as much serious attention as the Finger Lakes of upstate New York.” You might not realize it, but this is an “up-and-coming” wine destination that has been about 200 years in the making.
Believe it or not, New York’s premier wine region and one of the world’s top wine destinations got its start near Keuka Lake in the small town of Hammondsport. Twice! Back in 1829, the first grapes were planted by a minister intent on making sacramental wine, but he encourage locals to plant grapes as a crop. By the end of the 19th Century there were over 22,000 acres of grapes around Keuka Lake. For comparison sake, today, the entire Finger Lakes AVA (largest wine-producing region in New York State) has about 11,000 acres. In 1860 the region’s first winery was founded in Hammondsport and nearly 100 years later the Vinifera Revolution which forever changed winemaking in the northeastern U.S. started on the west side of Keuka Lake.
“Keuka Lake was the birthplace of the Finger Lakes wine industry pre-prohibition,” says Meaghan Frank, Vice President at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. “And later in the 1950s was the first spot to successfully grow the European grape varieties in the Eastern United States. Keuka Lake is where the Finger Lakes wine story begins.”
The impact of the region’s most unusual lake and the wineries around it have played a dramatic role in the growth and acclaim of the region not just from an historical perspective, but with the quality of wines being made today.
In December, 2021 the Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Steuben County CVB in collaboration with the Steuben’s Cornell Cooperative Extension and Yates County Chamber of Commerce launched a new video about this special story called Keuka Lake: A Wine Story. You can find the video on the Steuben County CVB’s YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3EZtLcR_I8).
“As viewers will learn in the film,” adds Kevin Costello, President of the Steuben County CVB, “grapes have been grown along Keuka Lake for centuries and the wine industry has survived many hardships and evolved into what is today due to innovation and collaboration. I think that lesson is one we can all learn from today, that in times of hardship we need to think outside the box and work with one another to achieve common goals and success.”
From an agricultural perspective, the story is also relevant. “Growers are constantly learning new methods and working with new technologies to improve their techniques and flavors of the grapes and wine,” says Tess McKinley, Executive Director Cornell Cooperative Extension Steuben County. “There is such a science to agriculture, and we are grateful to have support from Cornell University and other entities to provide to grape growers and wine makers the education they need to help them make a living.”
To learn more about the wineries around Keuka Lake and their impact not merely on the history of exceptional winemaking in New York State’s acclaimed Finger Lakes wine region, but also with wineries like Dr. Frank’s and Ravines Wine Cellars—both named by Wine & Spirits to the “Top 100 Wineries in the World” multiple times over the past decade—as leaders in helping put the region on the map as an international destination for wine, request the Steuben Wine Guide at ExploreSteuben.com. And watch the Keuka Lake: A Wine Story video on YouTube.
“On Keuka Lake,” adds Meaghan Frank, “you will find history, innovation, and an excited next generation of winemakers ready to take the Finger Lakes region to the next level.”
Photo: Keuka Lake and Vineyard courtesy Luke Petrinec
Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes (aka Steuben County Conference & Visitors Bureau) was established in 1994. As Steuben County’s official tourism marketing agency, our mission is to stimulate the tourism economy through authentic storytelling, supporting & developing destination amenities, and connecting visitors to the Southern Finger Lakes. Steuben County is home to the World’s Most Beautiful Wine Region (Budget Travel), America’s Coolest Small Town: Hammondsport (Budget Travel), and one of the Most Fun Small Towns: Corning (Rand McNally). It has also been recognized as a top value destination (ShermansTravel).
Contact: Dave DeGolyer, Communications Manager
Steuben County Conference & Visitors Bureau
1 W. Market Street, Suite 201
Corning, NY 14830