I am going to the Finger Lakes this coming weekend and looking to see if there are any recommendations of any new or off the beaten path wineries worth checking out.
This will be my tenth or so trip to the region so I have visited a large number of wineries already and am looking for stuff I might have missed.
I have heard about Heart & Hands so they are on my short list and I am interested in Silver Thread, they are doing some natural/sustainable farming and I have heard good things about their pinot and riesling.
Any other under the radar places, or newer wineries that I should know about?
Jim Gallagher brought a Finger Lakes wine to Berserkerfest 2.5 at Jay Hack’s place that was spectactular. I don’t remember what it was, but he served it blind, and tricked just about everybody there.
I figured something like this was coming up!
You’re off to a great start with Heart & Hands, though I’ll caution: Make an appointment for the private tasting. I’ve had friends stop by and be disappointed that Tom Higgins (owner and winemaker) couldn’t conduct the tasting, etc. It’s worth the phone call.
The challenge is that some of the best producers are far and wide; the land is gorgeous but the drive from place to place isn’t always swift. For example, the finest reds in the Finger Lakes are made at Ravines, which has its tasting room on Keuka Lake. Ravines also makes a buzzsaw Riesling, unapologetically dry and ripping.
If you’re down in the direction of Silver Thread, you might enjoy the stop at Damiani, which is nearby. They focus on reds, and while hit-and-miss, some show very nicely. Red Newt is also down that way, and Red Newt Bistro is an absolute must for lunch or dinner. The wines are very good (the vinifera, anyway).
The regional standard bearer remains Hermann J. Wiemer, which is probably not news to you. But it’s always worth the visit, and their '09 Rieslings are just now finishing their fermentations. If you can schedule a meeting with Fred Merwarth, it’s dazzling. Last month we opened a bottle of '99 Wiemer Late Harvest Riesling (about 4 RS), and it was the best Finger Lakes wine I’ve ever had.
Anthony Road (further north on Seneca from Wiemer) makes some lovely Rieslings and has a handful of dessert wines that are undeniably world-class (though not cheap. I worked on the sorting line; I know how much work went into them!)
I hope that gets you started. Cheers.
Wow, somehow I missed that this is your tenth visit. So I’ll just add:
Billsboro is new and they’re doing some nice things (owned by the winemaker at Atwater Estate on Seneca). Billsboro is in a quaint, laid-back tasting room on northwest Seneca Lake.
Hope the previous post wasn’t too obvious / redundant.
I don’t know where you are located, but with 10 trips to the region you ought to tell us some of the wineries to go to, since you must know them all already. Which ones do You like?
Not at all redundant Evan, I appreciate it!
I’ve been to Ravines once and really enjoyed it, but we won’t be over on that lake at all on this trip.
Have you ever been to Silver Thread?
I have been to Damiani a couple times now, just had my last bottle of their Riesling 2 weeks ago to cool down some Senegalese food.
I know Weimer very well as well as Anthony Road. they make a dynamite Cab franc on their high end line.
Side note, we are looking for fun non-winery stuff to do too. Probably going to rehike Watkins Glen, eat at Dano’s and Cayuga Creamery and take a boat ride on Seneca. Any other ideas?
Thanks again! You are the resident Finger Lakes expert!
I’d be happy to! I’m currently located in NYC, but make a trip up to the region at least once a year.
On Keuka I like Dr. Frank, Ravines, Heron Hill, and Rooster Hill.
On Seneca I like Wemier, Damiani, Shalestone
And on Cayuga I really like Knapp’s floral rieslings!
Plenty of other good ones too, most wineries have a few wines worth trying. Do you ever visit the wineries?
Silver Thread is hit-and-miss for me, but I’ve been surprised before, so I’m always willing to taste again.
Dano’s is good; our favorite restaurant down there is Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, and the Newt is tremendous.
My wife and I have a cottage on Keuka Lake, and our renters love renting kayaks. We got into the act last year and are considering purchasing a pair instead of constantly renting. Your other ideas are very good, too - hiking is always a good time.
I still have some 06 Ravines Keuka Village White in the cellar. Not a bad Summer wine.
I visit when I can, but since the wife isn’t into wine, it’s kind of difficult to convince her of an hour trip to taste wines. Usually I go when I have a like-minded friend to do the same. You’ve mentioned ones I’ve liked. Perhaps my favorites are Weimer, Dr. Frank, Ravines, Anthony Road,…I’d give a nod to Billsboro as well, and Damiani. It seems new ones are popping up all the time: even Canadaigua Lake has a wine route now(!). As for things to do, have you ever hiked the Finger Lakes National Forest? Good for a quiet walk, as it gets little used from the state parks like Watkins Glen and the 3 in the Ithaca area (Tughannock Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and Treman). The trails are in the southern Senca Lake area I think just east of where Silver Springs is.
There’s the NYS Food & Culinary Center in Canadaigua, Corning Glass Museum in Corning if you haven’t yet been, Mark Twain’s former study (now housed at Elmira College), also in Elmira you can take a ride in a glider, and if you are driving through Binghamton, you owe it to yourself to try a spiedie sub from either S&S Char Pit (Binghamton) or Lupo’s in Endicott.
Red Tail Ridge Winery on Seneca Lake (http://www.redtailridgewinery.com/)
Owned and operated by Nancy Irelan and her husband Mike Schnelle. Nancy did her Ph.D. under my supervision at UC Davis some years ago and then went to work for Gallo, eventually becoming VP of Viticulture and Enology R&D. And then she chucked all that, bought land in New York and started a vineyard and winery. Just saw her a couple of weeks ago and she’s happier than ever. The Red Tail Ridge wines that I’ve tasted are really good and I recommend that you give them a try.
Carole is absolutely right. Not only will you find precise, clean winemaking, you’ll see a gorgeous vineyard site that is beautifully managed. Nancy’s husband Mike essentially manages the vineyard, and he has done an excellent job. Given Nancy’s research background, she has already begun experimenting with some plantings here - Teroldego! - but I’d give the nod to her river rock / lime-dominated Rieslings and a sneakily impressive Pinot. Good sparkling, too.
Red Tail Ridge sounds pretty good. And thanks Markus, we are looking into the Finger Lakes National Forest. Can’t wait for the weekend!