VinoTripping Blog

Wine Tripping Around the Finger Lakes, Upstate NY

horse heaven hills

The finger lakes are world renowned for their Reislings and are quickly becoming a food and wine destination. The region is gaining notoriety as well for their Cabernet Francs, Meritage’s (red blends) and for success with hybrid cold weather varietal clones.

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With the establishment of Isabelle Godatke and Christopher Bates’ (Master Sommelier; #1 Sommelier by Wine Enthusiast, 2016) farm to table restaurant FLX Table in Geneva,NY, as well as their casual eatery, FLX Wienery, this area is quickly becoming a wine and food vacation destination. With the views from the wineries of the lakes and the rolling hills, I felt like I was in Burgundy. Driving by the farms and quaint carriages of the Mennonites, takes you back in time. Cheers to Upstate New York!

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Drive times:  From Boston: 6 hours; From NYC: 4 hours; From Cornell: 2 hours; Philadelphia: 1.5 hours; Buffalo: 1 hour; Niagara: 1 hour; Syracuse: 30 mins; Montreal: 1.5 hours

Places to stay: The Hampton Inn in Geneva, NY is centrally located and a great place to start your trip. It is at the northern tip of Seneca, near Ravines Winery, but it is about 45 minutes from the Banana Belt, one of the best growing/ winery areas of the region. I also rented a condo from VRBO with friends on one of the trips I took.

There are eleven finger lakes in upstate New York, and many have wineries on them. Seneca Lake has the most wineries and Keuka has the first modern winery of the region. The two are only 10-15 minutes apart by car, so I chose to visit both lakes with only two days for wine tasting.

Seneca Lake

Kemmeter – Johannes:  Award wining winemaker, Johannes, is the former multiple award winning wine maker from Anthony Road. He opened his own winery, Kemmeter, just down the street from Anthony Road. Johannes is one of the best things about the Finger Lakes wineries. His tasting room seats 5-6, though he can fit a few more with a special request. Johannes spends about an hour with you sharing his beautiful range of Reislings as well as his stories and information about making his wines. This is a highlight, a shouldn’t miss if you truly enjoy learning about wine and a great way to kick off any wine trip.

Shaw: If you are a red wine fan, Shaw makes a substantial Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and some good red blends. The winery has a rustic feel and you will probably find the owner hammering the door or constructing something or other if he isn’t out in the fields. The atmosphere is very casual and down to earth, no frills and you may have to wait. Depending on who serves you, you can have a jovial conversation or none at all. (Nothing for the kids to do here and NOT limo or bus friendly). Barnstormer: The wines here were okay, but the atmosphere is collegial and lively. The building itself is beautiful and most of the staff were really fun. Try to do your tasting in the front room, as that seemed to be more of a fun atmosphere. I purchased the Jenny Red to make mulled wine in the cooler months and it was really tasty with their included mulled spices.

Weimer: When we got out of our car we were greeted by an older gentleman who treated us like royalty. We were escorted into a small store where we were then greeted by Oscar, one of the owners, who guided us to the back tasting room. There, we were set up with another couple at a tasting bar with our wine guide. We were greeted with humor and an enormous amount of information from our wine server. The wine was spectacular. We started with a Blanc de Blanc and a Sparkling Rose, and both were extraordinary. I couldn’t decide which I wanted to purchase, so another taste was poured. (It turns out our greeters were the owners!). We proceeded with the tasting and education and learned about wine making and food pairing. Our wine guide was their chef. By then end, we were in such great spirits that we made our way to the store and bought a case of wine. I have enjoyed all of my purchases from Weimer, especially the hand turned Blanc de Blanc made in the Methode Champanois, hand-turned… yum! Not really kid friendly. Would enjoy touring their property.

Tasting: $5, sparkling additional $5, buy a case -10%, wine club – 20% off and free shipping

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Ravines – Seneca: This is another stand out winery. We went here twice in one trip, it was so good. The owners are a husband and wife, the husband is from Germany. This tasting room is decorated in a rustic, beautiful décor. The lights strung above serve to make it a romantic setting, one where I would certainly host an elegant affair. The servers here were very friendly and funny. It is not a party atmosphere, but they definitely enjoy themselves. In the back, the owners keep their pigmy donkeys which are adorable! (not sure if the kids are allowed to visit them). They also serve these olive oil crackers which are to die for! They gave me the recipe, but I have yet to make them. I wish they sold them separately. The wines were excellent. I particularly enjoyed their Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Their chardonnay and their hermitage (rhymes with heritage).

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Bloomer Creek Winery:  This was a very special place.  Their reds were some of the best I have had in the Finger Lakes and I love their White Horse Blend!  While some of us went in and tasted, the rest of the ladies sat outside to enjoy the view.

 

Atwater: Immediately when you walk in the atmosphere is electric here. The servers are fun, but educational. Great balance. The wines, the Red Blend and the Cab Franc were very good. We typically end our day here because their deck and view are so beautiful and it is just fun to hang out.

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These are additional Seneca wineries of note: Chateau Lafayette Reneau; Damiani Wine Cellars; Glenora Wine Cellars; Hazlitt; Hector; Wagner

Keuka Lake

Keuka Spring Vineyards: We booked a last minute Chardonnay tasting here and the views were beautiful. They set a tent up outside overlooking Keuka lake and we tasted with two of the winemakers, Franz and Allie. This event was well done, but I found the wines to be just okay. I wish the pairings were stronger, but it definitely warrants another visit. The tasting room is also beautiful and the kids can play out on the lawn while you taste.

 

Ravines – Keuka: I loved the atmosphere here. The pourer was great, the views outstanding and the same great wine!

Dr. Konstantin Frank:  This is a must-see vineyard to stop in. It is located about 40 minutes from Seneca Lake and is purched on top of a hill with 180 degrees of stunning views. It must be unbelievable in the fall with the fall foliage. Dr. Frank was the first winemaker in the area and was truly the pioneer in this region. We found some of the wines to be outstanding, like the sparkling rose, the cabernet franc and the Eugenia wine bottle was beautiful. The staff was fairly knowledgeable but not quite as fun as some of the other tasting rooms and certainly was not an educational experience. I think it must greatly depend on who is there serving you.

Additional Keuka wineries of note: Domaine LaSeurre; McGregors: the White Russian red blend was outstanding!

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About Author

After graduating from Brandeis University, Alison worked as a teacher at two of the top high schools in the country and spent her summers traveling the world. On one of her adventures, she visited Stellenbosch and Paarl in South Africa, which ignited a lifelong passion for learning about wine. In 2004, she worked as a Wine Consultant for the Traveling Vineyard and began to study wine more intensively. While working as a high tech recruiter, she completed her Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in the UK in 2018. Her wine travels have taken her to the wine growing regions of the US, Europe, Africa and Australia. Alison is a member of the Boston Sommelier Society, a member of the Guild of Master Sommeliers and is a Wine, Travel and Lifestyle Media Influencer. Currently, after leaving her recruiting career, Alison is running her business, Artisan Wine Group, teaching wine courses, running private and corporate wine events and organizing wine tours.

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