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Skaneateles's sole winery wins gold in California and Michigan

"Wine is a story, and there are endless fascinating tales to discover," says wine writer Evan Dawson. And one unique wine story that not everyone may know is right here in Skaneateles: Anyela's Vineyards.

Anyela's, the only vineyard on Skaneateles Lake, opened only three years ago, and yet already owners Jim and Patti Nocek have amassed a large collection of awards, including four gold medals in two recent international competitions.

"There is no shortage of wine in the world, so you have to be unique," said owner Jim Nocek. "We did not want to be one of 30 wineries on a trail. We are a destination winery, and so we do things a little differently."

Anyela's may have opened in 2008, but winemaking has been in the Nocek family for generations, back to Jim's grandparents in Eastern Europe. In fact, Anyela's is named after his grandmother, whose picture hangs in the tasting room, surrounded by the numerous medals her namesake has delivered.

The Nocek family has vineyards in Fredonia, but in 1995 Jim and Patti came out to the Finger Lakes region and bought their hilltop lands off West Lake Road. As any winemaker will tell you, the proper land for a vineyard - what the French call terroir - is one of the most important aspects of wine making.

In Fredonia, the soil is sandy and the vineyards on a lower elevation, while in Skaneateles the ground is composed more of shale and limestone, which offers better drainage, is on a hillside that catches not just the sun, but also the breezes off Skaneateles Lake. These breezes help keep the grapes cool in summer and warm in winter.

The Finger Lakes region produces grapes that make crisp, clean white wines, particularly Riesling, and delicate, subtle, more drinkable reds, such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. In the three years that Nocek has been producing wines, one of the most important lessons he has learned is to be true to your region. For this reason he has eschewed the better known warm-weather grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and instead planted his vineyards with more "winter hardy" grapes such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc that can endure the harsh seasons and higher elevation of the Finger Lakes.

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