California is the U.S. state best known for it’s wine production, but the lesser known wineries located clear across the country in New York State make a wonderful alternative to those seeking a perfect wine tour holiday. Not only is there great wine, but there’s many other things to do in Finger Lakes.
The best vineyards are placed in the lush Finger Lakes area, which boasts nearly a hundred wineries set upon the breathtaking landscapes surrounding the Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes. Here’s where you’ll find some of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes district.
Wine production here is mostly focused on complex white varieties like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, but the terroir also supports growth of many varietals, including cool climate reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
The terroir of the Finger Lakes is unique due to the climate conditions created by the lakes; frigidly cold weather in the winter is avoided, and the limestone glace soils and moderate weather in the summer helps ripen the grapes to perfection.
Wine tasting in Finger Lakes Wine Country
Wine tasting in Finger Lakes Wine Country is a delight for both the novice and the connoisseur, and there’s an almost European feel to it’s old country atmosphere.
Most wineries charge a nominal tasting fee, usually five dollars or less, and that’s often applied to the purchase of wine should you take some home with you. Usually the wineries are open to the public year round for tastings, but if you’d like a full tour check with the individual winery, as you may need a reservation. Anyone with even the slightest interest in wine production will probably enjoy a few tours in addition to tastings, so it’s worth a nit of advance planning.
It’s a good idea to see if there will be any special events while you are there, too-and take advantage of them!
A few wineries do close for a week or two for vacation in the winter, so it’s a good idea to call ahead regardless before you head out.
As mentioned above, special events based around food and wine tasting are frequent and take place throughout the year. With activities that run the gamut from small guided wine trail events along the winding lake trails, to one of the largest wine festivals in the country, held every summer on the grounds of Watkins Glen International , there’s bound to be something special going on to enjoy during your visit.
In addition to the world class wineries and scenic countryside, the region has no shortage of rich cultural experiences.
Best wineries in Finger Lakes
A few of the best wineries in Finger Lakes Wine Country include:
- Bully Hill Vineyards – this is one of the oldest wineries in Finger Lakes and one with the most to do (including a visitor center, an art gallery, a museum, vineyard tours, and a gift shop).
- Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars – famous for their Chardonnays.
- Sheldrake Point Winery – accessible by boat.
- Heron Hill Winery – the scenery reminds us of Napa Valley.
- Wagner Vineyards – centrally located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake.
Seneca Lake Wine Tasting & Tour
Keuka Lake Winery Tour
Canandaigua Wine Trail Experience
Other things to do in Finger Lakes Wine Country
Apart from visiting the Finger Lakes wineries, there are a few other things to do in Finger Lakes Wine Country.
There are several top museums, including the Corning Museum of Glass, the Rockwell Museum of Western Art and the renowned Arnot Art Museum, to name just a few. History buffs will especially enjoy Newtown Battleground State Park or one of the several living history museums in the area. In Elmira, theater beckons, offering top touring Broadway productions in the beautiful fully restored historic Clemens Center downtown.
Besides winery hopping, there is plenty more to do outdoors. There are lovely state parks like the one in Watkins Glen which features an amazing nineteen waterfalls, from gentle to majestic, and there are campgrounds should you wish to spend some time communing with the natural wonders of the park.
If a bit of action is more your speed, check out Watkins Glen International, one of America’s most famous raceways, which hosts GRAND-AM and NASCAR events as well as the famous Watkins Glen Grand Prix in September. If there is no racing during your stay, you can still have a unique experience there – tour the road course in your own vehicle or rental car and shop for some cool memorabilia on-site.
While you’re in the mood for adventure, you can explore many scenic roads perfect for hiking or biking, or enjoy swimming, canoeing or kayaking in one of the lakes. You can take to the sky for an aerial tour, and you can even take a glider ride, a thrilling way to take in the remarkable views.
Food in the Finger Lakes District
The rich terrain is responsible not only for the fine wine and scenic landscape, but also a sumptuous local food scene.
There are several restaurants on-site at the wineries that are surprisingly good, and there is a great synergy between local farmers and local chefs all over the area that make it a fantastic place to find great dining experiences, from the simple winery bistros and local farm fresh markets to upscale fine dining, as well as several kid friendly lakefront eateries. At almost every restaurant in the Finger Lakes, you can count on world-class wine lists and excellent local food pairings that are well crafted and seldom pretentious.