Cayuga Lake AVA

Cayuga Lake AVA

42° 41' 0" N


76° 42' 0" W




about this subregion

Nestled in the heart of New York's picturesque Finger Lakes region, the Cayuga Lake American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a true gem for wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse terroir, this AVA has earned its reputation as a thriving wine-producing region.

The unique environmental factors of Cayuga Lake AVA contribute to the cultivation of some exceptional grape varieties. Among these, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling thrive in the cool climate, fertile soils, and ideal microclimates. The cool waters of Cayuga Lake itself play a pivotal role in moderating temperatures, ensuring the grapes ripen slowly, preserving their vibrant flavors and balanced acidity.

The picturesque vineyards, perched at elevations of around 380 to 400 meters (1,250 to 1,320 feet) above sea level, benefit from an average of 30 to 36 inches of rainfall annually, providing just the right amount of moisture for healthy vine growth. This, coupled with the region's unique combination of soils, imparts distinctive characteristics to the wines produced here.

Visitors to the Cayuga Lake AVA are not only treated to exceptional wines but also to breathtaking landscapes, making it a must-visit destination for wine aficionados seeking a serene and authentic wine-tasting experience.


vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares





Discover Terroir

The Cayuga Lake American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a captivating wine region nestled within the Finger Lakes AVA of New York, in the United States. Its landscape is characterized by the stunning natural beauty of Cayuga Lake, one of the eleven long, narrow glacial Finger Lakes that give the region its name. The AVA stretches along the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, offering vineyards picturesque views of the pristine lake waters and the rolling hills that surround it.

To the west, Cayuga Lake AVA borders the western shore of Cayuga Lake, while to the east, it is enclosed by the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which contribute to the region's unique climate. To the north and south, the AVA extends along the lake's shoreline, creating a microclimate with a moderating effect from the deep waters of Cayuga Lake. This temperate microclimate plays a pivotal role in the successful cultivation of grape varieties, allowing for a longer growing season and the development of complex flavors in the wines produced here.

While Cayuga Lake AVA primarily encompasses the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, it is also a neighbor to the other Finger Lakes AVA,  the Seneca Lake AVA, to the west. Together, these AVAs form a mosaic of unique wine-producing regions within the broader Finger Lakes, each with its own distinctive characteristics and terroir.

Overall, the Cayuga Lake AVA's breathtaking landscape, defined by the tranquil lake, rolling hills, and proximity to neighboring appellations, creates an ideal environment for the cultivation of high-quality grapes and the production of exceptional wines that capture the essence of this remarkable corner of the New York wine region.

The climate of the Cayuga Lake American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a complex and fascinating interplay of factors that contribute to the unique terroir of this wine-producing region. Located in the heart of New York's Finger Lakes, the Cayuga Lake AVA experiences a continental climate with a significant influence from its namesake lake, which imparts a moderating effect on temperatures throughout the year.

One of the defining characteristics of the Cayuga Lake AVA's climate is its coolness. Winters can be harsh, with frigid temperatures and occasional heavy snowfall, creating a picturesque winter wonderland. However, this chilliness is crucial for the region's vineyards, as it ensures a period of dormancy for the grapevines, which is essential for their health and development.

Spring in the AVA is a time of awakening, as temperatures gradually rise, and the vineyards come back to life. The proximity of Cayuga Lake plays a pivotal role during this season. Its deep waters retain heat, which is slowly released, preventing late frosts and extending the growing season. This phenomenon is crucial for grape ripening, allowing for the production of high-quality wines.

Summer in the Cayuga Lake AVA is marked by comfortably warm days and cool nights. The lake's cooling influence prevents extreme temperature swings, preserving the acidity in the grapes while promoting sugar development. These conditions are especially favorable for white grape varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer, which thrive in the region.

As autumn arrives, the Cayuga Lake AVA experiences a riot of colors as the grapevines prepare for harvest. The moderate temperatures and ample sunshine during this time ensure that the grapes achieve optimal ripeness, resulting in wines with balanced acidity and expressive fruit flavors.

Overall, the climate of the Cayuga Lake AVA is a harmonious blend of seasonal diversity, with the lake's moderating influence playing a crucial role in mitigating extreme weather events. This unique climate provides winemakers with the ideal conditions to craft wines that reflect the region's terroir, characterized by crisp acidity, vibrant fruit profiles, and a true sense of place. It's a climate that beckons both the grapevine and the wine lover to savor the beauty and flavors of this remarkable corner of the Finger Lakes.

The Cayuga Lake American Viticultural Area (AVA) boasts a diverse range of soils, each contributing to the unique characteristics of the wines produced in this captivating region. These soils have been shaped by geological history and glacial activity, creating a rich tapestry of terroir that is a treasure for winemakers and wine enthusiasts alike.

  1. Shale Soils: One of the dominant soil types in the Cayuga Lake AVA is shale. These soils are formed from ancient marine sedimentary rock and are well-draining, making them ideal for grape cultivation. Shale soils often impart a distinctive mineral quality to the wines, contributing to their complexity and character.
  2. Clay Soils: In certain areas of the AVA, clay soils prevail. These soils retain moisture more effectively and can help mitigate drought stress for grapevines. While clay soils can produce grapes with different characteristics than those from shale, they are equally valuable in the region's terroir expression.
  3. Silt Loam Soils: Silt loam soils, a blend of fine particles, are also found in the Cayuga Lake AVA. These soils offer good water retention and drainage properties, allowing for a balanced supply of moisture to the vines. Wines grown in silt loam soils often exhibit a harmonious balance of fruit and structure.
  4. Gravelly Soils: Some vineyards within the AVA feature gravelly soils, which are characterized by their excellent drainage. These soils can help regulate water availability to the grapevines, leading to wines with concentrated flavors and well-defined structure.
  5. Limestone Deposits: Limestone deposits are scattered throughout the Cayuga Lake AVA and can significantly influence the pH levels of the soils. Wines produced from grapes grown in limestone-rich soils often exhibit pronounced minerality and a crisp acidity, particularly favored for certain grape varieties.
  6. Alluvial Soils: Near the lake's edge, alluvial soils can be found. These soils are deposited by the flow of water over time and tend to be well-suited for grapevines due to their fertility and drainage characteristics. They contribute to the diverse terroir of the region.
  7. Glacial Till: As a result of past glacial activity, glacial till soils are present in parts of the Cayuga Lake AVA. These soils are a mixture of various rock fragments and sediment, and their composition can vary widely. They offer unique conditions for grapevines, adding to the complexity of the wines produced here.

The rich diversity of soils in the Cayuga Lake AVA provides winemakers with a palette of options to choose from, allowing them to match specific grape varieties to the soil types that best enhance their desired characteristics. This variety of soils, combined with the region's climate, contributes to the exceptional quality and distinctiveness of the wines crafted in this captivating wine region.


The grape varieties of Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling thrive in the unique terroir of the Cayuga Lake AVA, each displaying distinct characteristics shaped by the region's diverse climate and soil conditions.

  1. Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc grapes in Cayuga Lake AVA typically feature medium-sized clusters of dark, thick-skinned berries. They require a longer growing season and prefer well-drained soils. The region's average Growing Degree Days (GDD) of 2,000 to 2,500 annually provide the necessary warmth for these grapes to ripen fully.
  2. Chardonnay: Chardonnay vines in Cayuga Lake AVA produce small to medium-sized clusters of golden-skinned grapes. They are adaptable and can thrive in various soil types, benefiting from the AVA's moderate rainfall and high-altitude vineyard sites. Cool nights and warm days help maintain acidity while allowing the grapes to mature.
  3. Gewürztraminer: Gewürztraminer grapes showcase an aromatic and distinct profile. They require well-drained soils and benefit from the AVA's cooler climate and adequate rainfall. The Cayuga Lake AVA's unique microclimates allow Gewürztraminer to develop its signature spice and floral notes.
  4. Pinot Gris: Pinot Gris vines yield small to medium-sized clusters of grayish-blue grapes. These grapes flourish in the region's diverse soils, including shale and clay. The AVA's cool climate and elevation contribute to Pinot Gris' refreshing acidity and balanced sugars.
  5. Riesling: Riesling grapes are known for their versatility and adaptability. They thrive in Cayuga Lake AVA's cool climate, well-drained soils, and high-altitude vineyards. The region's ample rainfall and moderating influence of Cayuga Lake help Riesling develop its characteristic acidity and vibrant fruit flavors.

Each of these grape varieties benefits from the unique environmental factors of the Cayuga Lake AVA, resulting in wines that reflect the terroir and climate of this exceptional wine-producing region.

Wines from the Cayuga Lake AVA, situated in New York's Finger Lakes region, are celebrated for their unique characteristics that reflect the region's terroir and climate. These wines encompass a wide range of styles and flavors, offering a diverse tasting experience to wine enthusiasts. When exploring the wines of Cayuga Lake, you'll find offerings that vary in body and visual aspects, but all share a common thread of exceptional quality.

  1. Riesling: Cayuga Lake's signature Rieslings are renowned for their vibrant acidity and refreshing nature. These wines typically burst with citrus and green apple aromas, accompanied by floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. On the palate, expect flavors of zesty lemon, crisp pear, and a mineral-driven finish, making Cayuga Lake Rieslings an excellent choice for those who appreciate bright, aromatic white wines.
  2. Chardonnay: Chardonnays from Cayuga Lake often showcase a balanced profile with subtle oak influences. Aromas of green apple, tropical fruits, and hints of vanilla greet the nose. The flavors are characterized by crisp apple, pineapple, and a touch of buttery richness, creating an elegant and well-rounded palate.
  3. Cabernet Franc: Cayuga Lake Cabernet Francs are known for their medium to full-bodied structure and aromatic complexity. These wines offer aromas of red berries, herbal notes, and a touch of black pepper. On the palate, you'll find flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry, and subtle earthiness, making Cayuga Lake Cabernet Francs a favorite among red wine aficionados.
  4. Gewürztraminer: Gewürztraminer wines from the region are highly aromatic, featuring intense floral scents of rose petals, lychee, and exotic spices. The palate is marked by flavors of tropical fruits like mango and passionfruit, complemented by a characteristic spiciness, making them an intriguing and flavorful choice.
  5. Pinot Gris: Cayuga Lake Pinot Gris wines often exhibit a crisp and lively profile. Aromas of pear, apple, and citrus zest greet the senses. The flavors are typically fresh and fruit-driven, with notes of green apple, lemon, and a touch of mineral character, resulting in a clean and enjoyable white wine experience.

These common wines from the Cayuga Lake AVA reflect the region's commitment to quality and the unique influence of its climate and terroir, offering a delightful array of options for wine enthusiasts to savor and explore.