Located within driving distance of several major East Coast cities, the Finger Lakes makes a great weekend getaway. Hitting a wine trail or two while in the area is the perfect escape-within-an-escape, and is a must-do on any visitor’s Central New York bucket list.
The Finger Lakes is famous for producing divine wine. The region’s lakes soak the soil to create ideal grape-growing conditions, and the waterfront offers breathtaking views to boot. Growers and sommeliers are knowledgeable yet unpretentious, and the region’s many family-run vineyards offer an upscale yet welcoming atmosphere. The Finger Lakes is home to over 100+ unique wineries, and choosing which ones to try on a limited timeline can be tricky. We compiled a list of nine neat wineries and vineyards with features that locals love. Read on for the insider’s scoop to New York wine country.
This hidden gem has much more to offer than its punny name. Ports of New York is run by a husband and wife team, the former of which hails from France. The wines here are made in French tradition, and the owners are happy to explain the techniques and history of the craft. While sipping, you can also browse the winery’s museum artifacts and exhibits. The location is a major plus. Ports of New York is within walking distance of downtown Ithaca and accessible to public transportation, meaning no need to rock-paper-scissors over whose turn it is to skip the tasting to be designated driver.
Treleaven boasts a spacious patio and pavilion that take center stage during various summer festivals. The winery hosts weekly live music along with trivia, happy hours, and the occasional outdoor movie. Food trucks visit during events, and at any given time the shop stays stocked with local artisan goods like gourmet cheeses and handmade decor. Yelp Elite Siobhan shares, “The blue sky, white clouds, and country setting is just beautiful. Everyone was having a great time dancing, eating, drinking, and visiting with friends and neighbors. I cannot wait to go back!”
If your Finger Lakes travels take you towards Syracuse, consider driving a few minutes north to check out Strigo Vineyards in Baldwinsville NY. This young tasting room has a massive self-serve wine wall stocked with local blends and imports from Italy. Tasters swipe electronic cards to dispense pours, like a room-sized wine vending machine, and cash out at the end of the experience. Plus, the farm-to-table kitchen serves up scrumptious and sustainable snack boards and small bites.
Must-try wine: All of them! This winery is set up for sampling, and it would be a shame not to take as many swigs as possible. If looking for a local wine alongside the Italian imports, then consider Mindy’s Giggle Juice from Colloca Estate Winery, as the name alone merits a try.
Scenic Skaneateles Lake is the backdrop of Anyela’s Vineyards, and reviewers revel in the views. The winery sits on rolling hills and has near unlimited afternoon photoshoot potential, both inside and outside. Plus, the yards are dog-friendly! The winery serves red or white flights, as well as the option to build-your-own. For those too faraway to visit or those looking to relive the NY wine country experience, Anyela’s also offers virtual tastings.
Three Brothers Winery is one of the larger vineyards in the area. The grounds include three separate wineries, a microbrewery and cidery, and a coffee house cafe. A visit to this establishment is like writing a beverage-themed choose-your-own-adventure story. Sip wine in a cellar, saloon, or wine barn, or order up craft beer and soda flights at the brewery. For the hotter months, Three Brothers serves up wine slushies, a mainstay of CNY summers. Yelp Elite Andy C raves about the friendliness of the staff and suggests, “Take their private tour. It is well worth it to be able to go behind the scenes.”
Snack lovers rejoice! Yelp Elite Cyndi H dishes, “Varick swine tasting includes complimentary samples that will tantalize your taste buds and enhance the flavors of the wines.” The usual spread includes nibbles of oils, dips, jams, honey, and chocolate, all of which are available in the gift shop. This winery also hosts a unique form of entertainment in the form of seasonal tater, punkin, and apple chuckin’, where guests can slingshot produce across the lawn for a chance to win a free bottle of wine. During the summer, cherry picking is also a possibility.
If you are seeking the kind of vineyard where the owners might join guests for a drink, then Keuka Spring may be the spot. Reviews consistently say that the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and that the views of Keuka Lake are stunning. The spot is also known for its selection of ice and dessert wines. Keuka Spring occasionally invites live musicians and food trucks to entertain guests, and also hosts regular educational events.
Wine tasting can work up an appetite, and sometimes, a cheeseboard just doesn’t cut it. Tabora Farm and Winery’s from scratch bakery and deli serves up a slew of hearty sandwiches, salads, quiche, and pastries to satisfy the wine-tummy-rumblies and re-energize visitors for those hilly lake country hikes. The deli offers a convenient online ordering option, however leisurely lingering is also encouraged. The winery offers up a variety of reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines, and the staff customizes tastings to visitor’s preferences. Yelper Ana A describes the spot as, “The definition of “made from the heart.” A big hug from gramma rolled up with love!”
Scenery is Six Mile Creek’s claim to fame. The winery’s desk overlooks the vineyards, and the backyard includes a pond with docks, a fountain, and a gazebo. The warm service makes all guests feel welcome, including pooches! Six Mile Creek offers a robust selection of wines with an emphasis on dryer blends, as well as homemade aperitifs like grappa and limoncello. Yelp Elite Jenna shares, “I was told you can bring your own picnic and have lunch with your wine….We sat on the deck overlooking the field and had a mini wine party. It was gorgeous and so relaxing!”
Must-try wine: The Quintessence (a Bordeaux blend) or Seyval Blanc
Before venturing out to the vineyards, check winery websites for events, rules, and reservation instructions. Wineries tend to be far apart and reachable only by automobile, so be sure to secure a designated driver or hire a car service to indulge responsibly! And finally, leave space in your luggage to take a bottle or two home, or stay on the lookout for which sites ship to other states. Cheers, Yelpers!