When you want to get a little off the beaten path as a wine lover in the US, I’ll usually recommend coming down to my neck of the woods in Virginia. But upstate New York has its own winegrowing region in the Finger Lakes, where a cool waterfront climate creates the perfect ground for crisp Rieslings and other German and Austrian wines. After a couple years working in the wine industry (one of my many part-time gigs before quitting my job to travel), I didn’t realize how rural and under the radar the Finger Lakes would feel. After a long weekend chock-full of tastings, I can highly recommend these 10 wineries in the Finger Lakes as a great addition to any itinerary.
Table of Contents
- 1 10 Wineries in the Finger Lakes You Have to Visit
- 1.1 Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard
- 1.2 Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars
- 1.3 Tabora Farm & Winery
- 1.4 Keuka Spring Vineyards
- 1.5 Wagner Vineyards
- 1.6 Weis Vineyards
- 1.7 Domaine LeSeurre Winery
- 1.8 Ravines Wine Cellars
- 1.9 Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
- 1.10 Pleasant Valley Wine Co.
10 Wineries in the Finger Lakes You Have to Visit
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard
Best Starting Point
Founded in 1979 on Seneca Lake, Hermann J. Wiemer is one of the best known wineries in the Finger Lakes. Personally I didn’t think they offered the best tasting experience, but it is a good intro to the wines you’ll find in this region, so it’s worth making Wiemer your first stop.
Like most wineries in the Finger Lakes, tastings are build-your-own to accommodate individual tastes. But unlike any winery I’ve seen before or since, Wiemer doesn’t just pour individual tastings. Instead you choose from a variety of pour sizes presented in carafes and pour your own glass. They recommend sharing a 2.5 oz pour between 2 people and a 5 oz pour between 4 people.
This is so much more math than I wanted to do at a wine tasting – figuring out who is interested in which wines and then divvying up your own pours from the carafe. Total headache. And if you’re visiting the Finger Lakes as a solo female traveler? Pass the spitoon, I guess.
Fortunately, the wine is good. They have a wide variety of Rieslings – the Finger Lakes’ signature grape – dry, semi-dry and late harvest. You can also compare Rieslings from different vineyard blocks or from older vine plantings. In my tasting, the 2019 HJW Riesling from vines planted in 1977 was the absolute highlight.
They also have a handful of other whites – Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer – and a few light reds. Their Field Red blend was a particular favorite with my family, and their dry rose was the first bottle I opened for myself when I got home.
Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars
Best Family-Run Joint
This humble little tasting room, just a few minutes south of Hermann J. Wiemer, is easy to miss. But Wine Enthusiast magazine took notice of their winemaker a few years ago, and you should too. This was a much more friendly, intimate tasting experience than Wiemer’s carafe calculations and the wine is just as good.
The 2019 dry Chardonnay is so full of warm apple and brioche notes it’s basically like drinking a hug.
Tabora Farm & Winery
Best Lunch Stop
A proper wine tasting at Tabora is still on my list, but it was such a great lunch stop, just a stone’s throw from Hermann J. Wiemer and Hickory Hollow, I can’t not mention it.
The market shop next to the winery is packed with homemade baked goods, a drool-worthy bottle display and various foodie souvenirs. The deli counter’s menu is so good it’s hard to choose just one sandwich. I went with chicken salad alongside a bottle of crisp, almost effervescent rose and have no regrets.
Keuka Spring Vineyards
Overlooking Y-shaped Keuka Lake (pronounced like the start of “cucumber”), I never did find a more picturesque vineyard in the Finger Lakes than Keuka Spring.
The tasting room didn’t quite live up to its surroundings. They had sweeter styles of wine overall, and the dry whites I tried were mostly lacking in flavor. I found their sparkling rose from Zweigelt palatable, but that’s sadly the best I can say.
Regardless of lackluster wines, the view is beyond worth a stop.
Best for Beer Drinkers
Overlooking the larger, more popular Seneca Lake, Wagner Vineyards is the only winery in the Finger Lakes that also has its own brewery. Whether you need to appease a beer loving travel companion or just need a break from wining and dining, this is a solid stop to include in your Finger Lakes itinerary.
Camp out on the huge patio Friday night for live music and a more local feel.
Best for Red Wine Lovers
In the span of just a few years, this winery has exploded from a one-room schoolhouse to a large, beautifully modern tasting room overlooking Keuka Lake. Winemaker Hans Peter Weis (pronounced like “vice”) was born in Zell Mosel, Germany – a region known for its own Rieslings – and studied under Dr. Konstantin Frank (more on him later).
You may have noticed most wineries in the Finger Lakes don’t have a lot of strong reds. The cool climate and shorter growing season isn’t quite suited for the bold, full-bodied tannic wines that put California wine on the map in the 1960s.
I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes too high – the red wines at Weis are still on the lighter side – but they were some of the best red wines in the Finger Lakes. I went home with a bottle of food-friendly Blaufrankisch (aka Lemberger) and wish I had also gone ahead and bought their smooth, rich Cabernet Franc.
The truly special wine here though is one I’d never even heard of before: Saperavi! This is a grape native to the country of Georgia, the world’s cradle of winemaking. Aged 40 months, the wine is a dark, almost purplish ruby with an earthy, leathery nose, lots of raisin notes, and very silky, focused tannins building mid-palate.
Domaine LeSeurre Winery
Best Tasting Room Staff
Right next door to Weis is the charming Domaine LeSeurre, run by a French winemaker from the Champagne region. This was one of the best tasting experiences I had at a winery in the Finger Lakes. The staff were super knowledgeable. Like Hermann J. Wiemer, Domaine LeSeurre has some older vines so you can compare a typical dry Riesling to one from vines planted in the 1970s.
This is also a good place to stay a little longer. There’s a super pretty terrace overlooking the lake and a good cheese selection for pairing with a bottle of wine.
Ravines Wine Cellars
Best Overall Tasting
There are so many great wineries in the Finger Lakes, but none of them brought everything together quite the way Ravines Wine Cellars did. The tasting room, just a few minutes up the road from Weis and Domaine LeSeurre, is beautiful with a nice view over Keuka Lake. The staff are knowledgeable and passionate, but also the most hospitable of any staff I experienced in the area. There were some solid food pairings available for purchase. And this was perhaps the only tasting I had all week where every single wine poured was great.
I could wax poetic for a while about this tasting, but I’ll stick to mentioning a couple particular highlights. The Maximilien red blend (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot) was the best red wine I tasted all week. A dark chocolate pairing brought out a brighter fruit core from the well balanced, earthy blend. And a sparkling Riesling would have been unique by itself, but this particular pour also had a honeyed aroma and a deep gold color from botrytis or noble rot. Mid-palate brioche notes paired really nicely with a gouda and caramelized onion flatbread.
This was definitely the best winery in the Finger Lakes to indulge and get a little bougie. (Ok, a lot – I got a lot bougie here.)
Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
Best for Advance Planners
Dr. Frank was basically the godfather of wine in the Finger Lakes. He planted some of the first European grape varietals here in the 1950s and many acclaimed local winemakers got their start in his winery.
This historic spot on Keuka Lake is at the top of many visitors’ must-see lists. Just make sure you reserve your tasting in advance! I added this to my itinerary at the last minute and missed out.
Pleasant Valley Wine Co.
Best Historic Hidden Gem
This unassuming, industrial building with no lakeside views doesn’t seem like a must-visit, but it’s one of the most unique wineries in the Finger Lakes. Because this is one of the only places in the world you can get actual Champagne outside France!
I’ve always heard that because of labeling laws, Champagne cannot be produced outside the Champagne region of France. And that’s true today. But those labeling laws date back to 1917 – the very same Treaty of Versailles that ended the World War I included provisions that only sparkling wines from Champagne could be labeled Champagne. But here’s the catch: wineries that were already producing Champagne got grandfathered in and could keep using the label.
Because Pleasant Valley has been in business since 1860, their award-winning Great Western Champagne gets to take advantage of this labeling loophole!
And you can tell in the tasting that they’re still using a very old-school recipe. There are several sparkling wines to choose from, but the classic Brut Champagne has a toasty, nutty flavor that just isn’t like modern American bubblies.
In addition to tastings, Pleasant Valley has a small museum about their own history and the general history of winemaking in the Finger Lakes. Plus, this is some of the most affordable quality wine in New York – that Brut Champagne goes for just $12 a bottle!
From the classic dry Rieslings that put the Finger Lakes on the map to that secret loophole American Champagne, this is an amazing, slightly off the beaten path destination for wine lovers. Any one of these top 10 wineries in the Finger Lakes is sure to add something special to a weekend getaway or a long East Coast road trip.