At its heart are the four deepest Finger Lakes, part of a group of 11 long, narrow lakes in central New York. There, nestled among Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes, farmers began planting vineyards in the 1830s. In 1860, the Pleasant Valley Wine Company became America’s first bonded winery, turning Keuka Lake into a busy shipping hub for fresh grapes and award-winning champagnes. Other wineries soon followed, as did railroads and basket factories. Early 20th century business was good until Prohibition forced wineries to reinvent themselves. In the 1950s and 1960s, innovators like Charles Fournier, Dr. Konstantin Frank, and Walter S. Taylor experimented with hybrid and European vinifera grape varieties. But by the 1970s, local grape growers faced extinction; it would take a grassroots movement and landmark legislation in 1976 to bring about a Finger Lakes wine renaissance.
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