At Bully Hill Vineyards, for example, the wines are catawba, elvira, Delaware -- hardy American native grapes that have grown along the Eastern Seaboard for centuries. The taste: grapy, simple, sweet.
At Cascata Winery, the wine is baco noir, a hybrid grape developed by French vintners around 1900 seeking better-tasting wines and vines that could withstand the frigid winters of North America. The taste: charry oak, resin, black cherries; a step up, but still unfamiliar to most American palates.
At Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, the wines are chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir. The taste: crisp, rich and dry - as main-line and familiar to American tastes as anything from California or Europe.
And it is winery events that give the area its down-home flavor. Festivals occur year-round: Chocolate and wine for Valentine's Day in February, cheese and wine in April, croquet and wine in May, pasta and wine in June, a Deck the Halls festival in late November in which wineries hand out holiday decorations.
Then there are events of purely local flavor: the annual Cardboard Boat Race, which focuses as much on staying afloat as on forward progress; the Seneca Lake Whale Watch -- no whales, of course, but a good excuse for a party.
"They try to have something going on almost every weekend through a lot of the year," Smyder says.
Accolades for Finger Lakes wines and its wine country are coming now from all around the country. Dr. Frank's 1999 Semi-Dry Johannisberg Riesling won top honors in four consecutive national wine competitions this year: the Pacific Rim International, San Bernardino, Calif.; the San Diego National Wine Competition; the Riverside, Calif., International Wine Competition and the Tasters Guild International, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Said Wine Spectator magazine: "We think some of the best riesling in the United States hails from this area."
"The emerging consensus is that the lakes are virtually certain to become North America's pre-eminent riesling domain," wrote Goldberg, the New York Times editor and wine writer.
"Winery visiting aside, tens of thousands of visitors are attracted to the Finger Lakes' inexpensive, family-oriented vacationland of waterfalls, gorges, streams, canals and rivers."
Added The Boston Sunday Globe: "The Finger Lakes and surrounding countryside proved fertile ground for truly offbeat destinations and scenery of singular beauty."