By Finger Lakes Correspondent Jason Feulner

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture, nearly 60% of wine sales in the Finger Lakes occur at the winery site by visiting consumers.

These sales statistics are reflected in the strong regional alliances between wineries, wine routes, businesses and restaurants. The Finger Lakes has long sold itself as a scenic destination with wine as the main attraction. Visitors, enamored with the beauty of the area, are often inclined to purchase what they taste.

This story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle by Deborah Alexander reports that visitors with more spending money are coming to the Finger Lakes. While the article emphasizes that vacationers nationwide are choosing to take shorter trips by car, there is little doubt in my mind that the recent press in various wine publications about the consistent quality of Finger Lakes Rieslings has helped boost the area’s image.

It’s not just about the pretty scenery and tranquil countryside: there are some serious wines to be tasted.

The Elmira Star-Gazette has also noticed the upward trend in tourism in both this editorial and an article by Ray Finger.

Winery owners have taken notice as well. Scott Osborn, owner and operator of Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake, has followed the trend closely.  "We saw an increase of over 5,000 visitors last year," Scott tells LENNDEVOURS. "We do over 50% of our wine sales in our tasting room, and the cafe and gift shop contribute greatly to our income." Scott has also noticed a change in the type of visitors who come to Fox Run. "Visitors are getting younger and are more interested in learning about wine, and the number of visitors from over 200 miles is increasing in the summer."

How will all this surging tourism affect the wine?  It’s probably too early to tell, but tourism is always a double-edged sword. Wineries that have always emphasized quality will undoubtedly benefit. The money flowing around will probably attract new start-ups, and it remains to be seen whether these will be promising wineries run by consumate profeessionals or lackluster operations started by entrepreneurs who want to cash in but don’t know anything about quality wine.

Time will tell.  In the meantime, it’s fun to see more and more people enjoying the Finger Lakes and its wine.