Taste Date:


Our featured Finger Lakes wine expert is Shannon Brock, Wine Coordinator at The New York Wine & Culinary Center

The New York Wine & Culinary Center is located on the north end of Canandaigua Lake in the city of Canandaigua in Finger Lakes Wine Country. In addition to offering recreational classes in wine appreciation and culinary arts, the New York Wine & Culinary Center features a tasting room with New York wine and beer, a restaurant focused on local ingredients, and a gift boutique with local products.

On cold days, those of us who live in Finger Lakes Wine Country like to cozy up to the fire with wines that warm the body and soul. Here are some tips for how to enjoy some specialty Finger Lakes wines with food. Cheers!


Ports and other fortified wines are made by adding grape brandy to increase alcohol content. Most ports are made from red grapes, and are sweet and strong. Typical aromas include fig, dried cherry, caramel, hazelnuts, and chocolate. Here are three ideas for how to pair port wine:

  • Dark chocolate. Try a piece of dark chocolate broken from a large bar (I recommend 70% cocao or higher for best results). A dark chocolate brownie, chocolate truffle, or flourless chocolate cake are wonderful partners for port, as well. Port is one of the few wines with the body and intensity to stand up to chocolate.
  • Spiced nuts. Add some whole mixed nuts to a pan on the stove with a little butter and brown spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove). This is a simple and healthy dessert that will bring the spiciness and nuttiness of the port to life.
  • Make a sauce. Port makes a beautiful reduction sauce when simmered and concentrated on the stove. You can pour the thick and syrupy sauce over meat for a main course, or over fruit, ice cream, or cheese for dessert. When you add the wine directly to the dish, you are assured of a great pairing.

Many delicious ports can be found in the Finger Lakes region. Seek out Fox Run, Goose Watch (which make a rare white port), Hazlitt, Lakewood, and Red Newt.

ice wine

Another delicious winter time treat is ice wine. Traditionally, ice wine is made from grapes that are frozen on the vine prior to harvest. This means that ice wine harvest takes place under severe conditions in December or January. In addition, many Finger Lakes producers make ice-style wines from late harvest grapes that are artificially frozen in the winery. Both types of wine are characterized by intense fruit and honey aromas, high levels of sweetness, and high levels of acidity that make the wine feel light on the palate.

Ice wine makes a great dessert all by itself, but here are some pairing suggestions for that “wow” moment.

  • Fruit tarts, especially those made with apples and pears, are delicious with ice wine. This is truly a synergistic pairing in that the taste of both dessert and wine are enhanced when combined. The wine suddenly has a spicy, cinnamon aspect and the dessert becomes light and luscious. Make sure the tart is a simple expression of fruit, and not overly sweet.
  • Crème brulee and other custard desserts. The concentrated acidity of ice wine will cut through the rich creaminess of custard. It also complements the nutty and caramelized flavor of crème brulee. This is a surefire way to wow your guests—two of the most delicate substances on the planet, combined!
  • Blue cheese. The tang and saltiness of blue cheese is a strong flavor. What better to combat it than a sweet and luscious ice wine? Be European for the evening by ending your dinner with a cheese course. You will not be disappointed.

Many superior ice wines can be found in the Finger Lakes. For traditional method ice wine, try Heron Hill, Sheldrake Point, Hunt Country, Castel Grisch, and Casa Larga. For ice-style wines, look for Standing Stone, Atwater Estate, Lakewood, Lamoreaux Landing, Wagner, Fulkerson, and King Ferry.