Even though it is close to home and at a fair driving distance from many major cities, the Finger Lakes might just be America’s best-kept wine secret. But not for long! It was awarded Best Wine Region of 2018 by the USA Today while many of its wines have been given 90 points or over by the prestigious Wine Spectator magazine.
Indeed, the wines are amazing. But so are the families who welcome you to their land and their vineyards. The region seems to be constantly evolving and on top of being really accessible, the Wine Route is dynamic and lively. Most of the 200 and so vineyards are located along the long and narrow lakes, aligned next to each other like the fingers of a great big welcoming hand and most of them are located around Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka Lake.
A Little History…
The Finger Lakes are located just under Lake Ontario, in New York State close to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, at about 5 hours drive from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York and Cleveland. The wine region is still young even though they have been growing grapes since the late 1800 for Taylor, a major distributor at the time. The first experiences with vinifera such as Riesling started after prohibition was over in the 1950’s with researches conducted by Dr.Konstantin Frank. This is when wine activity as we know it today started for the region, supported by the 1976 New York Farm Winery Act which allowed winemakers to sell their wines to customers directly from their vineyards.
The Heritage of Dr.Konstantin Frank
Forced out of his native country of Soviet Ukraine during the Second World War, Konstantin Frank was amazed by the terroir when he landed in the Finger Lakes. Despite popular belief, he was convinced that European vinifera grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir would do very well on the New York soil, which is indeed the ending of the great Niagara Escarpment. Dr.Frank passionately pursued his project and his experiments are the foundation of the great wine region Finger Lakes is today. You will probably have to go to there to taste their wines as most of them are only available in private import in Canada, except for Forge and Ravines’ Riesling and Chardonnay that are at the SAQ.
Going to Finger Lakes is such a treat! Here are some ‘incontournable’ for your visit:
Mother and daughter Ann and Liz Martini work together in the tasting room at Anthony Road. This label is from a painting Ann did in high school.
Anthony Road is a fantastic family owned vineyard with great wines and a beautiful gallery of local artist.
Boundary Breaks is the retirement project of Bruce Murray who found his great passion for Riesling while dining in a Thai restaurant in New York City. He excels in delivering his passion to customers and is often found pouring and sharing stories at the tasting counter.
Tasting Rooms are open all year round
Fox Run Vineyards is fabulous, they organise wine pairings and they have a cafe that serves light lunches on the terrasse overlooking the lake.
If you are lucky at Wiemer, you will be tasting with the great Wanda who has been with the winery for 18 years!
Hermann J.Wiemer’s wines are absolutely outstanding. Their tasting room is in the original renovated barn and the list includes some biodynamic wines.
Everything is amazing but watch out for the pan fried mac n’cheese! OMG!
Red Newt Cellars is a great tasting spot for the wines and the atmosphere. They have guest musicians and they serve a great ‘farm to table’ lunch on the patio overlooking the lake.
Ravines has an amazing line-up of great wines, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, a Must visit.
For the Deck the Hall weekends in November and December, it is customary to go wine tasting wearing fun and funny Christmas outfits! How great is that!
Dr.Konstantin Frank Winery, amazing wines, still family owned for 4 generations.
You will also find some microbreweries along the lake and do not miss the Bloody Mary bar at Krooked Tusker Distillery on Sundays.
Thank you to the amazing Tracey and the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for organizing this great tour of the Finger Lakes Wine Region for me.
There are many wineries around Cayuga Lake and in the summer you can tour them by boat. I only had time to visit Sheldrake Point Winery which offers old vintage tastings as well as a great Gamay. They are the only one to grow Gamay in the region.
Where to eat and drink in Seneca Lake
Kindredfare, Ports Café, Stonecat Café, Microclimate Wine Bar in Geneva, Graft Wine Bar in Watkins Glen and many original American Dinners.
Where to sleep
A big thank you and hug to Dani and Todd for welcoming me in their amazing home.
New Vines B&B where your hosts Dani and Todd will take great care of you. Great rooms, hospitality and amazing breakfasts made with love and fresh local produce. Todd is also a winemaker and he will welcome you with a nightcap of his own great cuvée!
What to do other than winery hoping?
Fishing, boating, skiing, hiking in the National Parks though the ravines, gorges and waterfalls.
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