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Exploring Finger Lakes Wine Country

Whether you’re looking for a way to relax mid-winter or late summer, the Finger Lakes Wine Country is a wonderful place to explore. The Wine Country has nearly 100 wineries, many of which are open year-round. During the peak season in the summer and fall, most of the wineries are actually open seven days a week, giving you ample opportunity for tasting and touring around the lakes. With so many options, though, planning a trip to the Wine Country can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your trip to the Finger Lakes Wine Country, as well as some suggestions for which wineries you should visit.

Photo by:

Photo by:  Ethan Oringel

Timing Your Visit

The Wine Country is truly a year-round destination so the best time to visit depends on your personal preference. Summer and fall are the busiest times of year in the Wine Country, as these are the peak seasons for the Finger Lakes. If you’d like to tour the Wine County but also bring the rest of the family, it’s important to consider what those under 21 will be able to do while you sample vino.

In winter, it’s popular for families to go skiing or snowshoeing, but in the summer you can swim, canoe, waterski and attend a number of seasonal events. For example, the Olde-Tyme Rhubarb Festival and Classic Car Cruise-In takes place in June. At the festival you’ll not only see amazing classic cars, but you can also sample local fare, sip wine and enjoy live music.

Another summer highlight, the official Finger Lakes Wine Festival, takes place a month later in July. If you’d prefer to travel as the leaves are changing, there are also numerous harvest festivals and similar events during the fall. Semantics

Food, Transportation and Accommodations

It’s important to plan ahead whenever you’ll be drinking. If you plan to swallow your samples instead of using the spittoons — which is perfectly acceptable — you’ll need to take a few precautions. Hire a driver in advance, so you don’t have to worry about choosing a designated driver. Be sure to eat a big breakfast before a day of wine tasting and stop for meals between wineries — there are a number of lovely cafés and shops located around the wineries.

Also, it’s generally a good idea to schedule accommodations near the vineyards you want to visit most. Fortunately, there are several options for where you can stay. There are numerous bed and breakfasts, hotels/motels, campgrounds and private cottages available. Insiders tip: opt for a hotel or B&B with a hot tub or fitness pool. Taking a soak is the perfect way to unwind after a day of tasting!

Choosing Wines and Wineries

Unless you plan to spend the whole summer in the Finger Lakes, there’s no way you’ll be able to visit all of the wineries in the region. It’s best to do a little research beforehand to see which spots you’ll be most interested in visiting. Many vineyards specialize in particular kinds of wine, so a Riesling fanatic would probably want to visit different tasting rooms than a Merlot lover.

If you’re not sure what kind of wines you like or want something to please a large group, you might consider one of these seven wineries. They’re all located close to the action in either Seneca Lake or Keuka.

Glenora Wine Cellars

Photo By: Marco Varisco

Photo By: Marco Varisco 

Located in Dundee, Glenora was the first winery to open on Seneca Lake. It has been producing award-winning wines for nearly 35 years. Tours at Glenora are available from May to October, but the tasting room, restaurant and shop are open year-round.

Heron Hill

Heron Hill is another award-winning winery specializing in Riesling, Chardonnay and Vinifera reds. The winery is located in Keuka and also sells handcrafted pottery.

Fulkerson Winery

The Fulkerson Winery opened 25 years ago as an extension to the Fulkerson Farm, which was established over 200 years ago in 1805. The winery focuses on Riesling but also has over 20 other wines. Part of what sets Fulkerson apart is that it also offers home winemaking classes and sells freshly pressed grape juice.

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards

Photo By: Katie Wheeler

Photo By: Katie Wheeler

Hazlitt was established in 1985, but it’s called 1852 because the family has been growing grapes and similar fruits for that long. Hazlitt has been voted one of the top 25 tasting rooms by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Wagner Vineyards

Photo By: Steve Palmer

Photo By: Steve Palmer

Located on Seneca Lake, Wagner Vineyards has over 30 types of wine, including an award-winning Riesling. Tastings and tours are available year-round.
Red Newt

Red Newt Cellars Winery and Bistro is not only located on a picturesque hamlet — it was also voted Wine & Spirits Magazine’s 2011 Winery of the Year.
Dr. Frank’s

Located in Keuka, Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Winery was the first winery in the United States to produce European varieties of wine.

When sampling wines at any vineyard, it’s important to follow the 7 Ss of wine tasting — see, swirl, smell, sip, savor, spit/swallow and score. This will help you remember which wine you liked best. No matter what kind of wine you like, the Finger Lakes Wine Country is a great destination for sampling and purchasing your favorite New York State wines.

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