Keuka Terroir

a vineyard in context

Here is a fourth post from a trip Pam and I enjoyed to the Dr. Frank Winery on the west side of Keuka Lake.  The previous posts are “Keuka Lake Winter I”, “Iron Grace”, “Keuka Lake Fall Winter”.  Let’s talk about the environment of these vineyards.

For this photograph I came down from the overlook building, right next to the vines, where it all starts, each plant growing from and clinging to the soil.  Genetics play an important role, particularly the epigenetics, the expression of a crop’s genetic traits as affected by the context of the local environment.  Here we see row after row of vines on the west side of Keuka Lake, the land sloping enough so the lake is clearly visible below.  On the other side the land is clearly forested with few, if any, vines, on a steeper slope.  There is more sunlight on the west side, the land tilts a bit to the southeast and northwest on the east side.  In the northern hemisphere, a southern exposure means more sunlight.    

There is a geological reason for this topography.  In this part of New York State sequential, long plates of land aligned on a general north-south axis each sloping to the east causing longer, more gradual slopes on the east side and, one the west shorter, steeper slopes as we see in this photograph.  The crease where the plates meet is where each of the Finger Lakes formed.  It is the combination of the lake water holding of warmth and the long slope exposure to sunlight that creates a microclimate favorable to the vines.  

Click this link for another posting about the Finger Lakes.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

11 thoughts on “Keuka Terroir

  1. Thank you for the explanation about where and why grapes are grown in that region. We have a few vineyards in New Jersey and now that I think of it most are oriented to benefit from a Western exposure.

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  2. That’s a good explanation of why the Finger Lakes region is conducive to growing grapes.
    Many people are surprised to learn that central Texas is also, and increasingly, a grower of grapes. I don’t know why this area is conducive, but it is.

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    1. There are parallels between New York and Texas in the timing and development of vineyards and wine making. I am not familiar with Texas wines, they are not featured in our wine shops, at least not in Ithaca.


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