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A Guide to the 11 New York AVAs

A Guide to the 11 New York AVAs

New York AVAs

New York might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine production in the United States, but in a few short decades, it’s grown to become the third most productive wine state. Across 11 New York AVAs (American Viticulture Areas), 471 wineries welcome 4.7 million tourists annually, presenting the state’s diverse landscapes and climates. 

The state is home to 35,000 acres of vines, predominantly Vitis labrusca varieties, like Concord, which goes into grape juice production. Only about 10% of grapes are Vitis vinifera, with Riesling as the most renowned, thanks to exceptional examples from the Finger Lakes area. 

Interestingly, despite New York being home to the first bonded winery in 1860, the state was far from the top of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) list when it began establishing AVAs in 1980. After regions in Missouri, California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (in that order), New York’s Hudson River became the country’s 12th official AVA in 1982. 

New York State’s viticultural landscape boasts an astonishing diversity of terroirs. Over the past five decades, the state has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving into one of the most dynamic wine regions in the United States. With a surge in wineries, proliferation of signature grape varieties, and a commitment to quality, New York AVAs have much to offer. 

New York AVAs

New York has seven primary wine-growing regions spanning all corners of the state, with many bordering bodies of water. Two of its AVAs (Finger Lakes and Long Island) are home to two additional sub-AVAs, each distinct in their micro-climates and with a unique history.

New York AVAs map - from
Map courtesy of

Finger Lakes AVA

Established: 1982

Includes: Cayuga Lake AVA (est. 1988), Seneca Lake AVA (est. 2003)

One of the most renowned wine regions in New York is the Finger Lakes, situated in the central part of the state. The region gets its name from the eleven long, narrow lakes formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake, and Keuka Lake are the most prominent among these lakes.

The Finger Lakes region is primarily known for its cool-climate grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Franc. The deep lakes moderate temperatures, creating ideal conditions for grape cultivation, particularly Riesling, which thrives in the cool climate and black shale soils. The Finger Lakes have garnered attention for producing high-quality Rieslings that rival those from traditional European regions.

Map courtesy of

Hudson River AVA

Established: 1982

Stretching from just north of New York City to Albany, the Hudson River region benefits from a maritime climate. Funnily, despite its name, the region’s valley — not the river — aids in moderating its temperature. Acting as a funnel, the valley ushers in maritime air, helping ease the growing season’s hot days and humid nights. When winter hits, however, winds from Canada lower the average temperature to 21°F (-6°C), limiting the region’s primary grapes to cold-hardy varieties.

French-American hybrids are typically the most-planted varieties, including Seyval Blanc, Cayuga White, Baco Noir, Mareschal Foch, and Traminette. However, in recent years, the region has seen increased plantings and recognition for its vinifera, including Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Albariño, Malbec, and Gamay.

Lake Erie AVA

Established: 1983

The Lake Erie wine region sits along 14 miles (22.5 km) of Lake Erie’s southern shore, spanning New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Despite its challenging climate, with cold winters and humid summers, the region has carved out a niche in the New York wine scene.

Concord, known for its use in grape juice and jelly, is the primary variety. Additionally, the region produces Catawba and Delaware, which are labrusco grape varieties suited to the climate.

Woodbury Fruit Farm was the first to take a leap to produce the AVA’s first vinifera wine in 1972, using Chardonnay. Today, wineries are increasingly diversifying their plantings, growing Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc while maintaining the historic varieties.

Long Island AVA

Established: 2001

Includes: The Hamptons, Long Island AVA (est. 1985), North Fork of Long Island AVA (est. 1986)

Long Island received its AVA designation in 2001, distinguishing it as a unique wine-producing region and becoming a “parent” to the North Fork and the Hamptons AVAs located in the eastern section of the island.

The soils of the two forks are the main differentiators; the South Fork is home to Bridge Hampton Loam, which sits on top of the sandy soils. Vineyards on the North Fork comprise more generally decomposed glacial sand.

Both forks are significantly warmer than regions upstate and can yield riper Bordeaux-style blends, often comprising Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Refreshing white wines are also produced on Long Island; Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the most common, but it’s not unusual to encounter other varieties such as Albariño and Chenin Blanc.

Map courtesy of

The Niagara Escarpment AVA

Established: 2005

Situated along the Niagara Escarpment, a prominent ridge formed during the last ice age, the region benefits from well-drained gravelly limestone and clay loam soil. This mineral-rich soil imparts distinctive flavors and complexity to the grapes grown here.

The climate of the Niagara Escarpment AVA is influenced by its proximity to Lake Ontario. As the 13th largest lake in the world, its depth (up to 800 feet/244 meters) and airflow keep the area frost-free for over 205 days each growing season. The escarpment’s elevation also benefits, offering excellent sun exposure.

Popular grape varieties cultivated in this AVA include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc.

Champlain Valley AVA

Established: 2016

As the northernmost wine region in New York, Champlain Valley AVA is defying the odds. Nestled between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains, the AVA benefits from a cool climate moderated by the lake, which extends the growing season and preserves the grapes’ acidity.

The soil composition in the Champlain Valley AVA varies, with gravelly and sandy loam soils dominating, providing excellent drainage and mineral content.

Grape varieties that thrive in this AVA include cold-hardy hybrids like Marquette, La Crescent, and Frontenac. These grapes produce wines with distinct character, marked by crisp acidity, vibrant fruit flavors, and a sense of place reflective of the Champlain Valley’s unique qualities.

Upper Hudson AVA

Established: 2018

The Upper Hudson in New York is the region’s newest official AVA and is possibly the most distinctive. It’s the only AVA in the state without a large body of water to help moderate temperatures, so most grape growers focus on cold-hardy hybrids such as Marquette, La Crescent, and Frontenac. Some traditional vinifera varieties like Riesling and Cabernet Franc are also successful in select vineyards.

The land-locked region experiences some risk with its extreme temperature variance. It’s not unusual to see -25°F (-32°C) in winter, and frost can easily damage new shoots in spring without cloud cover.

Growers have optimized the short summer season (averaging 155 days), choosing grapes suited for the climate on well-draining soil, often a mix of sandy loam, gravel, and shale.

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