The Best Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit

My family and I have spent 31 of a 35 year career in the upstate New York Finger Lakes Region, and despite growing up in the southeast; I can’t imagine a better place to live. So you can imagine we are quite familiar with this region and its wine country.

The last few years my career took me to short term assignments in California, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado, all places with some established wine industry that we visited on several occasions. At the conclusion of these assignments it was time to retire … a good time to spend the summer getting reacquainted with the Finger Lakes Region  (to include it’s growing wine industry). As a result, we are writing several articles on our research and resulting travels.

We recently posted two articles on Finger Lakes getaways:

5 Tips for a Finger Lakes Wine Trail Getaway

Finger Lakes Getaway … How to Select the Best Wineries to Visit

Today we’ll discuss our favorite Finger Lakes wineries and why we liked each. A note before we start … there are many good wineries in the 100 + in this region. We toured more than a majority this past summer and our inputs are based on our selection criteria and our travels. We have not ranked our selections … we like and recommend them all. Let’s get started:

Bully Hill Vineyards

Why not start with one of the oldest and one with perhaps the most interesting history?  While Bully Hill is not the most convenient to get to (located on the Western side of Keuka just north of Hammondsport), it definitely has the most to see and do … including a visitor center, an art gallery, a museum, vineyard tours, and a large and diverse gift shop. Of course the variety and quality of wines is very good also. They have a nice restaurant on the property which offers a daily lunch menu and serves dinner on Friday and Saturday night (we found no other winery restaurants that served dinner).

Dr Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

Located a few miles north of Bully Hill is another of our long term favorites with a variety of great wines, with many, many award winners. In fact, their chardonnays are the tops of New York wines, hands down, in our opinion. They celebrated their 50th anniversary this year by being selected as New York’s Winery of the year.

Thirsty Owl Wine Company

Good wine selection and quality, but we really love two other elements of this winery … its Bistro (and particularly its chef) and its gorgeous patio overlooking the vineyard and Cayuga Lake. It is the perfect setting for lunch from the Bistro. If you have a boat, you can tour this vineyard from the lake by tying up to their dock and giving them a call to pick you up for the drive up the hill (short golf cart drive, but too distant to walk). There are 3 other Cayuga wineries that can be toured by boat … this will be a subject of a future article, as we gave it a go this summer.

Sheldrake Point Winery

Another of the 4 Cayuga Wineries accessible by boat, Sheldrake Point Winery is located a mere stone’s throw from its boat dock. This is a very nice property with great wine options and several nice patios and great garden and lake views. They were the New York State winery of the year in both 2009 and 2010 … with a great staff not afraid of trying new ideas. Late in the year they started offering wine boxes which included a bottle of wine with a selection of wine snacks for the patio.

Heron Hill Winery

Another of our Keuka Lake Winery selections in the area of Bully Hill and Dr. Frank … so while these are a drive for most in the region, the threesome is a good collection to visit together. This winery property is nestled on a hillside, includes a café, and reminds us of Napa Valley scenery the way it sits above its vineyard. Too bad the lake is a little distant. Its wines and views are certainly worth the trip.

Glenora Wine Cellars

Another of our long term favorites for 2 reasons … its great location just up the road from Watkins Glen and its great wines. It now is integrated as part of a nice resort and restaurant. Its cellar tour is also of note to see.

Belhurst Winery

Part of the Belhurst Castle Resort, this property is another attached to one of the region’s best resorts, that has two restaurants. Very top notch wines, wine tasting room, with a neat gift shop, and gorgeous back yard gardens overlooking Seneca Lake. This location is a must see in our opinion, even if you are not staying at the resort.

Wagner Vineyards

Located on the eastern side of Seneca, Wagner Vineyards has several advantages besides its good wine. First it has a very good brewery and offers tasting of its brew varieties (all of which are very unique). It also has a nice restaurant for lunches and Sunday Brunch (until 5 PM) and a large deck overlooking the vineyard and Seneca Lake.

Hosmer Winery

Another of our long term favorites located about 20 miles north of Ithaca on the western side of Cayuga is Hosmer Winery. This family run business was a grape producer for 15 years before it added its wine production in the mid 1980’s. They make excellent Rieslings among its award winners. On our trip to Hosmer last month we found a very good, yet economical, Merlot that we took home with us in addition to several Cabernet Sauvignons. They have a very personable and knowledgeable staff.

Casa Larga Vineyards

This vineyard is located between Lake Ontario and Canandaigua Lake near Rochester. Its location proximity to Rochester and the Eastview Mall (only 1-2 miles) lends itself to its popularity with us. Rarely do we visit Eastview Mall without visiting Casa Larga for a tasting. On the flipside, their location does not lend itself to be part of a normal lake wine trail tour stop. They have a great special events facility and offer weekend public tours. They are only one of a few we found to offer wine flight treys as part of their menu.

Our Takeaways

If you are planning a Finger Lakes Getaway, selecting from the regions 100+ wineries and planning your trail stops ahead of time will ensure you get the best out of your wine tasting tour. We have visited 70-80 % of the regions wineries and always try a new stop when we are in the neighborhood. It is our opinion, however, that there are many reasons to notice the great wineries from the good to average wineries … and much has to do with things other than the wine. You won’t be disappointed by picking from this list of wineries. In the coming weeks, we will also cover some other awesome activities for your Finger Lakes Getaways.

Have any selection criteria or winery recommendations for Finger Lakes Getaways of your own to offer?

Stay tuned … please bookmark our blog page or send us an email for copies of future posts on these subjects.  

Read more:

Hydroponic Food Production … the Story of the Finger Lakes’ Strawberry Fields

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The Finger Lakes Tourism Industry’s Best Discriminator

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