The Finger Lakes Wine Region
Tucked away in the northern part of New York State is a set of long lakes carved out by glaciers that resemble fingers. While there are several lakes that make up the region, three of them primarily make up the wine region – Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka. First records of wine making date back to the early 1800s so wine is not new to this region. The popularity and recognition of the Fingers Lakes is more recent and continues to improve. For those in the northeast that want to discover a nearby wine region, Finger Lakes is definitely worthy of your time.
The Finger Lakes has over 100 wineries to discover! There are wine trails on each of the lakes (Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka) with the majority of the wineries concentrated on Seneca Lake. The focus of this region is sparkling wine and Riesling. Due to the cool climate, white wines have the opportunity to thrive, including the ability to make some awesome late harvest and ice wines. If you are looking for red wines, you have to be more selective in the wineries you visit. We had more passable red wines then good ones. But even if you are not a white wine drinker, do not miss the chance to have some of the best white wines!
The vineyards we have visited
It is not uncommon for people to come back from the Finger Lakes and be disappointed with the wine, especially if you are a red wine drinker. You have to do some research to avoid having a mediocre experience but a little work will give you some big reward! One nice thing about wine tasting in the Finger Lakes is the price – it is often $10 for a tasting of five wines so it is a great deal.
We have now visited this vineyard twice and will be a stop every time we visit the Finger Lakes. On our first trip in 2016, our Airbnb host insisted we visited here as it is one of her new favorites. The brand new tasting room still under construction but they were excited to share their wine. At the time, Boundary Breaks only grew Riesling so that they can “do one thing great”. Several different clones of Riesling to showcase visitors, as well as a late harvest, ice box wine. This experience was exceptional- the wines were phenomenal and far exceeded our expectation for Finger Lake wines.
Fast forward to our recent trip in 2020, the landscape of the tasting options was quite different! Expanded to include Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and even some reds like Cabernet Franc. Also, the outdoor patio was completed and it was just a spectacular view. We were so impressed but the additions to the wine family – we were stunned that we walked out with not bottles of Riesling but Chardonnay!
We cannot recommend this winery enough – you must stop at Boundary Breaks. And plan on staying awhile, grab some cheese and crackers, pull up a chair, take in the view and enjoy the wine.
This winery actually has tasting rooms on both Seneca and Keuka Lakes. On our most recent trip, we stopped into the tasting room on Seneca Lake located inside a beautiful open air barn. Ravines is also known for their extensive wine white collection, including their collection of sparkling wines. Kevin and I both selected the Riesling tasting so we could taste them all side by side. Wines here are very well made so definitely worth a stop as you are making your journey around the lake.
We stopped here on our first trip and boy it is a beautiful view from the tasting room is wonderful! The deck overlooks the lake to it is a popular spot. We enjoyed the wines here – was nothing ground breaking but they were well made wines.
This was a last minute add on stop on our first trip. This particular winery was on our list since it had Italian styled wine, which is still our favorite varietals. If you are looking for Italian level wines in the Finger Lakes, you will not find it – the climate is just not the same as in Italy to produce the bold tannic wine.
We selected this winery on our first trip as it boasted french styled wine that was well rated. We were given a menu of over 20 different wines you could try – kind of all over the place! Some were better than others to our taste but again, this is not like tasting in France so temper expectations
Our first trip was only a weekend so we did not have the time to drive to another lake but I had this place starred so I knew we would hit it on a return trip. Having extra time built into this 2020 trip, we made the journey to Keuka Lake and Dr Frank wines. Known for bringing the European grapes over to the Finger Lakes (“Vinifera Revolution”) and discovering the grafting of them onto American stalk (phylloxera). Also known for their sparkling wine but offered a wide variety of wine grapes including Chardonnay, Gruner, Gewurztraminer and of course Riesling. Of most of the places we tasted, these guys have the nicest red wines – again, not the best red wines but for the Finger Lakes it was good. We really enjoyed our tasting here (as well as the view!) and would recommend making the trek over to Keuka Lake for this tasting if you have time.
Since we made the long ride over to Keuka Lake, we did not want to leave without fitting another Keuka Lake winery in. A quick search brought up a small vineyard know for their Germany styled wines, including ice wines. Even though it was described as a small operation, the place was packed! We enjoyed a really lovely tasting here, again amazed at the non-Riesling white varietals and really enjoying their late harvest and ice wines as well.
I have to say on our 2016 first trip the Rieslings really stood out and impressed us but several years later on this trip in 2020, we were amazed at how much the non-Riesling white wines we loved. We walked away with all white wine and of the eight bottles we took home, only two were Riesling! I think the wine region is developing and getting to experiment more and it is paying off.
What vineyards have you visited and which are your favorites? We are looking forward to visiting again soon – over 100 vineyards is quite a task as we only just scratched the surface! Read more about wine tasting in the Finger Lakes here!