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Which vineyards in SE Seneca Lake in Finger Lakes to visit?

k
Kikim May 4, 2009 06:55 PM

In a couple of weeks we are going to SE Seneca Lake (Hector, just north of Watkins Glen) for a very brief weekend (driving up Friday morning, leaving Sunday morning), from NYC. With the driving, we will really only have one full day up there, on Saturday.
I'd like to hit the gorge in the morning and spend the rest of the day exploring vineyards and wine tastings in the immediate area, since we are short on time.
But even in this area, it seems there are lots of wineries to choose from, I was hoping someone could offer direction. We love dry rieslings but are open to all types of wines. Atmosphere is also important, part of the fun is viewing lush vineyards. Can anyone suggest a route?
In addition to the vineyard, if anyone has ideas of where to pick up supplies for a picnic, or which restaurant we should hit (I believe the choices are Dano's Suzanne's Red Newt and Stone Cat)
please advise!

  1. k
    Kikim May 24, 2009 04:36 PM

    Hi, this is the original poster reporting back. Thanks so much for all your suggestions! We had a fantastic weekend and were amazed by staggering beauty of the area (it was worth the drive to walk the gorge alone) as well as the lack of anything touristy. We stayed at a B&B right by the Stonecat, which turned out to be an ideal location for proximity to the gorge, many vineyards, and dining. Friday night, we had a relaxing dinner on the back porch of Stonecat, with views of the vineyards the lake, and enjoyed our simply prepared, but delicious meals. Because the vineyards had already closed, we then took a quick (less than 10 minute) drive to Watkins Glen to hit the only liquor in the area-- there we were able to pick up wines from Dr. Frank's and Wiemar's, which we enjoyed on our balcony overlooking the lake. After a ridiculously decadent three course breakfast at our B&B the next morning, we hit the gorge in Watkins Glen for one of the most spectacular short hikes I have ever been on-- vista after vista of spilling wateralls, easy to navigate stone steps, and only 1.5 miles of relaxing hiking. We then hit the International Center for Motorsport research in Watkins Glens (where my beau was thrilled to find a 1970 CanAm race car on display). The director Bill Green regaled us with stories of racing in Watkins Glen, beginning with the very first Watkins Glen Road race in 1948. We then followed our map and took a spin around the original 6.6 mile road circuit, which winds along the lake and through the town, marked by small signs along the way. Now back to the wine and food! After an already busy day we were thankful to travel only a few miles back to our B&B, where we were surrounded by vineyards-- I had no idea how many there would be and how close they were to each other. On the recommendation of our B&B host (a Sonoma native) we hit Shalestone Vineyard, an adorable roadside winery with hobbit-like buildings. We enjoyed the tasting experience, which was intimate and attentive. We then headed up to Lamoreux, a slightly more crowded (but fortunately devoid of tour buses and those frightening Hummer-limos stationed at Wagner and Hazlitt), but still very enjoyble experience. I especially loved the huge windows looking out over the vineyards. We then called it a day and headed out to dinner at Dano's-- again as recommended by everyone on this site as well as our B&B, who told us it's where other chefs go when in town. I was unsure what to expect with Dano's-- on the one hand I'd heard rave reviews, but I also found their website photos to be uninspiring. Turns out the photos did not accurately portray the experience-- wow. When we arrived, we walked down a gravel path by a vegetable garden. The interior was modern yet warm, with a loft-like atmosphere and a wall of glass with views out onto the lake. We were sat right by the window, and enjoyed the changing light and slowly lifting fog all throughout dinner. Our waiter made great recommendations-- for the spreads, we loved the Hotel Sacher (does anyone please have a recipe??) and the Liptauer spread. We also sampled the potato salad, hungarian sausage, smoked trout, wiener schnitzel, braised saukerkraut and spaetzle. It may sound ordinary, but everything was so freshly, simply and perfectly prepared, all of the flavor without the heaviness sometimes accompanying this type fare. We enjoyed some Austrian gruner veltiners as well as local reislings with the meal. I took a sacher torte to go, which was enjoyed later that evening. On the way out, we had the good fortune to speak with the chef's wife and the restaurant's baker, Karen, who was wonderful to chat with (and we traded stories about Jersey City and Hoboken, where she and her husband once lived). On the way out, we picked up a few jars of their Quince Reisling spreads-- I was unsure what they would be like, but as everything else was perfection I could only hope for the best (note: we've been home for a week and are already half way through the second jar-- so good with manchego!). So all in all, a great trip, I would highly recommend.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kikim
      j
      jmoryl May 26, 2009 07:50 AM

      Wow, it sounds like you packed a lot into your short visit. I'm very pleased that you enjoyed your stay - it is a great area. You were right to avoid the places with the big limos/bus tours - it sounds like the B&B owner knows the score by sending you to Shalestone. Rob Thomas is the guy behind that place, an as you have seen, he only makes red wine, which as somewhat unique in that area. He is a very cool guy and does a good job.

      1. re: Kikim
        n
        njguy99 May 26, 2009 12:51 PM

        Glad you got to Dano's. It truly is one of the most unique dining experiences we've had - and we too enjoy talking with him and Karen about their time in NJ.

        Also glad you got to Shalestone. The owner keeps pretty slim hours, because he's the chief cook and bottlewasher, but his wine is very good.

        1. re: Kikim
          t
          torooji Aug 26, 2012 10:44 AM

          Thanks for the update and for the entire thread! My husband and I are planning a weekend similar to yours - we are driving to SE Seneca on a Saturday morning/afternoon, spending all day Sunday there including a morning walk at the glen to the gorge, then leaving Monday afternoon to catch an evening flight from JFK. Your wrapup and all of the suggests on this post are a wonderful planning resource :o) I hope we're able to see/do as much as you!

        2. s
          Sop May 8, 2009 05:07 PM

          Best wineries within 15 minutes include Lamoreaux Landing, Standing Stone, Atwater, Damiani, and Bloomer Creek. Wagner has decent rieslings and tasty beer. Last Summer, we enjoyed a picnic feast with friends on the back deck at Wagner. We brought most of our food from PA &MD and bought some items at the Ithaca Farmer's Market that morning. There must be somewhere in Watkin's Glen to pick up some things. The closest Wegman's are in Corning and Ithaca. Wagner gets pretty crowded and their pourer's are sometimes annoyingly slow. If picnicing there, I'd purchase their dry riesling and head straight for the deck. For dinner, Suzanne's is the most expensive and formal; Dano's if you love Austrian/Slavic/German food; Stonecat for casual, funky food. All would need an reservation. Enjoy!

          1. j
            jmoryl May 8, 2009 12:30 PM

            Seneca Lake has a lot of good wineries, so no real need to make it over to Dr. Franks. The south east stretch of the lake (from Lamoreaux to Atwater approx.) is sometimes refered to as the 'banana belt' because of the (relatively) warm growing conditions. On that side I would recommend Lamoreaux, Silver Thread (organic), Standing Stone, Red Newt and Damiani, although some of the others are good too. Dano's or Stone Cat are in this stretch, if you want to eat.

            On the other side you should stop in at Wiemer, Shaw and Anthony Road. Less good stuff to eat on that side and most of the places in Watkins Glen should be avoided (the brewpub on the main drag might be the best bet). For a dining treat, nip over to Trumansburg for dinner at Hazelnut Kitchen (http://www.hazelnutkitchen.com), which is probably the best place to eat in the FL. There is also a branch of Gimme! coffee if you need a fix. Oh, and please post your impressions if you get a chance!

            1 Reply
            1. re: jmoryl
              s
              Scotty100 May 8, 2009 03:58 PM

              IMO the best wineries are Heron Hill and Hermann J Weimar. The latter in particular has garnered good reviews in Wine Spectator etc. Their rieslings are head and shoulders above all the others I think.

            2. k
              Kikim May 6, 2009 03:20 PM

              Thanks all for the replies so far, I am making a list of your favorites. From Hector, Dr. Konstantin appears to be about 2 hours roundtrip , so I'm not sure we will be able to make it there with barely a day for touring. I did go to their website and it does look amazing. Their tasting room appears to have burned down in a fire a week ago (they are still offering tastings). At minimum, we'll have to pick some of their wines up from the local shops-- I assume they all carry the locals? Thanks I am really enjoying all the posts!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Kikim
                The Dabbler May 7, 2009 01:37 PM

                There are a number of good wineries on the east side of Lake Seneca. Clustered pretty close together at the southeast corner is a nice selection that could keep you occupied for the day.

                My favorites are Lamoreau Landing, Atwater & Red Newt. I also like Chateau Lafayette, Leidenfrost and Wagner. Looking at the Seneca Lake Wine Trail website there are quite a few new wineries since I was last up there a number of years ago that you might want to discover.

                No need to drive all the way to Dr. Frank's given your limited time. You can easily find their wines thoughout the state anyway whereas these others are not so widely distributed.

                I haven't eaten in either restaurant yet but at a Pasta and Wine tasting a few years back Atwater had their nibble catered by Stone Cat and that was my favorite and I believe the winning vote getter.

              2. folprivate May 6, 2009 12:32 PM

                It is a shame you won't have much time. The best NY State Reislings (imho) are Dr. Konstantin Frank which is in Hammondsport. They have won many awards and the view over the lake is spectacular. There are almost too many to choose from given where you are staying. My two recommendations North of where you staying are Knapp (mostly because I like their limoncello) and Wagner because they have a brewery tasting as well. You will find good to very good Reislings at almost all of the wineries though.

                1 Reply
                1. re: folprivate
                  Fred19 May 7, 2009 05:26 AM

                  I agree about Dr Frank's. Another winery that I like is Glenora. They have very good Rieslings and a terrific Gewurztraminer.

                  ~Fred19

                2. Fritter May 6, 2009 04:56 AM

                  I'm not real familiar with NY but we did swing through the Finger Lakes region last year returning from ME. If you get a chance don't miss a visit to Mackenzie-Childs. They have some cook ware but the farmhouse tour is free and very cool.

                  http://www.mackenzie-childs.com/

                  1. w
                    whiner May 5, 2009 09:57 PM

                    I have not been to the new Dano's. But he is a brilliant chef and I ate at his former restaurant for most of my "nice" meals when in collge. (He and his wonderful wife, Karen, left to create this new restaurant just as I was leaving college). Karen seriously knows her wine and I have shared many bottles and conversations with her.

                    As far as wineries go. The best is Dr. Konstantin Frank. The others to strongly consider are (in rough desending order)

                    Hermann J. Weimer
                    Standing Stone
                    Treleavan (on Cayuga, actually)
                    Red Newt
                    Lamoreaux Landing

                    Have fun!

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