WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WETM) – Starting Thursday, tourists can once again get their taste buds ready for wine tasting at the annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival.

This will be the first Wine Festival since 2019 where many local wineries can offer samples of their wine to tourists in person. Restrictions were placed in the last couple years due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re really excited to be able to get back out and talk to folks face to face,” said Alex Jankowski, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Wagner Vineyards. “It’s always a great opportunity for us to meet folks who maybe haven’t been to our vineyard in a while or maybe haven’t ever been up to our vineyard.”

Besides Wagner, other local vineyards like Hazlitt and Lakewood will be at the Watkins Glen Race Track to partake in the festival. Tourism so far this summer has been good for many wineries located along Seneca Lake.

The weather has also been favorable for many vineyards, but it may be problematic in the long run. For may vineyards near Watkins Glen, the weather has been abnormally dry in about the past six weeks, which is fine for the older plants, but potentially dangerous for the younger ones.

The older vineyards are planted immediately after wineries dig out rocks and other obstructions, leaving room for the roots of those vineyards to extend a few feet below the surface. This gives the older vineyards more time to collect enough moisture to survive a drought, whereas the younger vineyards do not have enough time because their roots are not as long.

“We’re still probably another month away though until it’s really worrisome in terms of the life expectancy of these vines, the younger ones,” Alex Jankowski added. “As long as we are able to get rain in these next three to four weeks we should be alright.”

On the bright side, vineyard owners see the benefits dry weather can also have on their businesses. This is good news for the Wine Festival this weekend as dry weather is forecasted for that time.

“People are more apt to come out when the weather is nice and visit us at the winery,” said George Nosis, co-owner of Atwater Vineyards. “The other thing is you don’t have to mow as much, so there’s a lot less maintenance in the vineyard.”

The Wine Festival starts Thursday, July 7th and lasts until Sunday, July 10th. More information can be found on the Finger Lakes Wine Festival website.