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Finger Lakes, NY - Wines and Vineyards

My husband and I are visiting the Finger Lakes wine region for the first time and would love to hear from others about the area. Can anyone recommend a favorite (regional) wine, a preferred Vineyard or perhaps a great place to eat? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you

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  1. I'm not sure what ambiance you and your husband would be looking for or what lake you'd prefer to visit, but I recently went on a bachelorette wine tour a few weekends ago around Seneca Lake. I visited the Three Brothers vineyard first, with their sibling War Horse Brewery, for the first time. There are three separate wineries on the premises that all carry a different feel. I would rank Stoney Lonesome as it's more "sophisticated" and upscale vineyard, with Passion Feet following, and then Bagg Dare as it's risque/fun/quirky vineyard (all the wines have silly names and the staff is young and energetic). I'm 25 years old and liked the 3 Brothers Wineries the best. I'm not sure if your husband is into his brews, but War Horse Brewery makes a fantastic Riesling Ale that I believe can only be made in the Finger Lakes of NY. After all, the are is notorious for their Rieslings.

    I also visited Fulkerson Vineyard and Earle Estates whose wines were all pleasant, as well as Fox Run Winery which I preferred second behind the 3 Brothers. At the end of the wine tour, I visited Glenora which is said to be the Finger Lakes' oldest vineyard. The view from the property over Seneca Lake is breathtaking, although the actual construction and architecture of the building is dull. I didn't care for the tasting rooms either, although I feel as though our group (large, of 16 women), were probably placed in a backroom that's rarely used for most customers.

    I'm a very large fan of the Niagara grape, who's residual sugar levels are innately high. As I stated before, the Finger Lakes region has some of the best Rieslings in the world for this reason. If you're looking for dry reds, don't be disappointed if you don't find many that you like, or even at all. However, the vineyards around Keuka Lake are a bit more popular for Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon's compared to vineyards around the other lakes. But I'd save tasting those for a trip out to Napa Valley, CA (Sterling Vineyard!).

    I also visited the Finger Lakes Wine Festival at Watkins Glen Raceway for the first time this summer and tasted a Traminette from Bagley's Vineyard that I thought was out of this world. Americana Winery makes a great white called Apparition as well. Other types of wine to keep an eye open for are the Gewurtztraminers and honey meads.

    Hope I helped! :)

    1. Wine: Whites best, riesling, gewurz, vignoles. Reds OK in a warm vintage, esp. Cab Franc and Pinot Noir. Eat at Dano's, Red Newt or Stone Cat on the east shore of Seneca or Hazelnut Kitchen if you are over by Cayuga. Please do a search on Finger Lakes on this board and you will get many opinions about wineries, etc. Oh, I don't agree with much that r0xyyyy says above!

      1 Reply
      1. re: jmoryl

        Not sure which parts you didn't agree with. It was mostly personal opinion based on a summer filled with first-time experience of the Finger Lakes. However, attending the Finger Lakes wine festival did vastly broaden my horizon in a very, very hands-on way. The majority of facts that I stated above were based entirely on and/or taken straight from winery staff around the Finger Lakes.

      2. Both r0xyyyy and jmoryl make some fine points. "Best" is so personal. No two people will have the same list.

        Here are a few of my suggestions...

        Keuka Lake:
        Dr Konstantin Frank - Rkatseteli
        Hunt Country - Late Harvest Vignoles and Valvin Muscat

        Seneca Lake:
        Chateau LaFayette Reneau
        Anthony Road - Vignoles
        Hermann J. Wiemer - Riesling
        Lamoreaux Landing - Chardonay
        Earle Estates Meadery - Honey meads, melomels, and pyments

        Cayuga Lake:
        Bellwether Cidery - awesome varietal ciders

        I'm sure I am forgetting more favorites and a few friends, my apologies.

        To Eat
        Ithaca NY:
        Just A Taste, or Maxies
        Trumansburg:
        Hazelnut Kitchen

        If time allows:
        the Corning Glass Museum is wonderful.

        Search this board for more threads. Also there are a few tourism sites like
        http://www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com
        http://senecalakewine.com/jc/
        http://flcb.org/web/

        -----
        Just A Taste
        116 N Aurora St, Ithaca, NY 14850

        Maxie's Supper Club & Oyster Bar
        635 W State St, Ithaca, NY 14850

        Hazelnut Kitchen
        53 E Main St, Trumansburg, NY 14886

        1. It would help if we had more info - the FLX is a pretty large area. Where are you staying and how long? As a whole, Keuka Lake has generally the best wines (Ravines & Dr. Frank's are a must for both reds & whites). Seneca has the most wineries, but one third of them should be avoided. For reds, we like Kings Garden, Lamoreaux Landing, Chateau Lafayette Reneau, Damiani's, Shaw, and Bloomer Creek; for whites, it's Lakewood, Atwater, and Standing Stone. Around Seneca, our favorite restaurants are Suzanne's, Stonecat Cafe, Dano's, Red Newt, Ports Cafe, and Halsey's. BTW, typically the best white and reds are rieslings & cab francs. As for Cayuga Lake, the preferred wineries include Sheldrake Point (which also has a wonderful bistro - Simply Red) and Six Mile. Ithaca has tons of dining options. Our faves are Just a Taste, Maxie's, Za-Za's, Fine Line Bistro, and North Star Pub. Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg is excellent also. Those are the big 3 lakes - haven't ventured to Canandaigua or Skaneatles yet.

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          Stonecat Cafe
          Hector, NY, Hector, NY

          Keuka Restaurant
          12 Main St, Penn Yan, NY 14527

          Sheldrake Point Cafe
          7448 County Rd 153, Interlaken, NY 14847

          North Star Restaurant
          85 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge, NY 10576

          Fine Line Bistro
          404 W State St, Ithaca, NY 14850

          Hazelnut Kitchen
          53 E Main St, Trumansburg, NY 14886

          1. Glenora is my favorite. I like their Reisling and Gewurtztraminer.

            I enjoyed lunch at Bluewater Grill in Skaneateles. Food is great and the ambiance is terrific. It is like eating on the deck of a cruise ship since it is based on a wide jetty extending into the lake.

            ~Fred19

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            Bluewater Grill
            2 Oswego St Ste 102, Baldwinsville, NY 13027

            1. Since I used to live in Ithaca I've spent more time at the Cayuga wineries than the Seneca ones, but I do feel that overall the quality of the Seneca wineries as a whole is a bit above the Cayuga ones. However, my favorite winery around Cayuga is Lucas, if you're staying in Ithaca it's only about 20 minutes away, and I always enjoy all of our their wines!

              As for varietals, as others mentioned, Riesling!! I also am a fan of Baco Noir.

              1 Reply
              1. My DH and I are also planning a trip this autumn, are any of the wineries prominent in reds?

                5 Replies
                1. re: GIOny

                  reds are challenging in this climate - the growing season is so short. Some wineries try, but this is not really a red wine region. So taste critically and watch the vintage dates. That being said, for reds I would taste:

                  Keuka: Dr Konstantin Frank, the premiere winery in the region. You wait at the velvet rope until your turn at the tasting room - you get a very leisurely and knowledgeable tasting. $$$ but worth it.

                  Seneca West:
                  Belhurst
                  HIckory Hollow
                  Hermann Wiemer (reds aren't his specialty but I had the best Cab Franc in the Finger Lakes there)

                  Seneca East:
                  Shalestone - an old hippie who's dedicated his life to reds.
                  Red Newt - already mentioned above. the restaurant is good also.
                  Silver Spring.

                  Cayuga:
                  Cayuga Ridge. Try the Chancellor, a hybrid. They also do small quantites of Cab Sauvingnon and Cab Franc.

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                  Keuka Restaurant
                  12 Main St, Penn Yan, NY 14527

                  Belhurst
                  4069 W Lake Rd, Geneva, NY 14456

                    1. re: Dave_in_PA

                      Rob Thomas at Shalestone isn't exactly an old hippie!

                      1. re: Dave_in_PA

                        I wouldn't say Dr Frank's is $$$, plus there's no tasting fee. Red Newt has a great restaurant, but the wine (especially red) is lacking. Silver Spring isn't FLX grapes. The best reds on the east side of Seneca are at Chateau Lafayette Reneau, Damiani, Bloomer Creek, Lamoreaux Landing, and Kings Garden.

                        1. re: Sop

                          I wouldn't go to the FL specifically for the reds, but there are some decent ones. Where I disagree with you is Red Newt: some of there reds are actually quite good for the area, especially the Cab Franc. Mind you, they totally overprice their higher end cuvees...

                          Being diplomatic, just let me say that the proprietor of Silver Springs has a very strong personality that won't appeal to everyone. Can't say I want to patronize his business.

                    2. We loved, loved, loved Stonecat Cafe in Hector. Best smoked BBQ anywhere, great salads, sandwiches and entrees, and the desserts are to die for, made on the premises. The people are great but don't go when it's crowded. The Bully Hill Cafe was yummy too, also good BBQ and lots of other stuff, and they can handle a crowd. We ate at Suzanne's and were disappointed; it's fine (especially the local vegetables) and friendly but overambitious and overpriced. (And we hated the music, mostly Andy Williams, but that's just us.) Muar House Cafe has homemade ice cream -- my husband has been back three times in one week. His favorite was the green apple ice cream. Yes, really. El Rincon in Canandaigua is now Rio Tomatlan and we enjoyed it quite a bit. It's authentic Mexican (owned by a Mexican family, I understand) in that the beef, chicken and pork are all stewed and pulled, and have lovely flavors, though the chili peppers are dumbed down for the local taste and the tortillas are merely adequate. The mole sauce was sophisticated, though. The music was great! (That's just us, again.) Taste of New York restaurant in the non-profit Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua is trying to be the CIA and failing, but if you consult the friendly waiters and choose carefully, you can get an outrageous meal for a reasonable price. Some of the best lamb chops I've ever had (local, of course). We loved a local pub called Two Goats in Hector. They make two fine ales (cream and IPA) and have a good selection of others. We loved the music. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

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                      Stonecat Cafe
                      Hector, NY, Hector, NY

                      Rio Tomatlan
                      5 Beeman St, Canandaigua, NY 14424

                      Muar House Cafe
                      169 Lakeshore Dr, Canandaigua, NY 14424

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: alsojanet

                        p.s. re Taste of New York. The chef who taught one of our cooking classes at the Culinary Center trained at Bouley and Taillevent in Paris so we ain't talkin' chopped liver here. (Well, maybe fois gras!)

                      2. EXCELLENT! Great value, exceptional food - highly recommended!

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                        Moosewood Restaurant
                        215 N Cayuga St Ste 70, Ithaca, NY 14850

                        1. On the west shore of Cayuga, we can also recommend Sheldrake Point and its bistro Simply Red. We had a delicious lunch there in early August, and enjoyed their Reserve Riesling. I also note it's a short drive from there to the Cayuga Lake Creamery, for some excellent ice cream.

                          -----
                          Sheldrake Point Cafe
                          7448 County Rd 153, Interlaken, NY 14847

                          Cayuga Lake Creamery
                          8421 State Route 89, Interlaken, NY 14847

                          1. Just wanted to add a few thoughts following a recent extended weekend with the girlfriend.

                            Food:
                            Bandwagon in Ithaca: Cozy little basement brew-pub, this place had hearty well prepared, home-cooked style dishes and a funky beer selection. Definitely recommend.
                            Hazlenut Kitchen in Trumansburg: Classy, comfortable bistro. They served up an excellent codfish stew, and a lovely hazelnut butter cake for dessert. Quality on par with the best of philly.
                            Stonecat Cafe on Seneca: Full menu seemed a bit overwrought, but worth a pop in for pulled pork at the bar
                            Crystal Cafe at Americana Vineyards. We stopped here for Sunday brunch, probably the best meal of the trip. The biscuits and gravy were excellent as was the french toast. I was literally salivating at all the dishes that passed our table...
                            Glen Mountain Market in Watkins Glen: Grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee on your way to hike the falls' at the SP
                            Beer:
                            2 Goats in Hector: Agree with earlier post. Like your favorite divebar only in a beautiful space overlooking the lake.
                            Roosterfish: nothing memorable
                            Wagners: Terrible beer, seems to cater to the booze-guzzling limo crowd

                            Vineyards: Certainly to each his/her own. My favorites:
                            Standing Stone: across the board excellence
                            Dr Frank: best sparkling
                            Red Newt: their reserve was probably the best gewurtz we tasted, but at $35 a bottle...
                            Hunt County: Lovely late harvest and ice wine

                            All and all, its a lovely place with fun wines and food to match.

                            -----
                            Stonecat Cafe
                            Hector, NY, Hector, NY

                            Glen Mountain Market
                            200 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891