2020 was the year Alex & I were supposed to explore France — from the beautiful vineyards of Provence, to the French-German countryside in Alsace & the city of light in Paris, but alas, Coronavirus. Social distancing & close-to-home vacations are now our new norm — until it’s safe to travel & explore a new destination on our ever growing bucket list.
Craving a mid-summer getaway, we realized how lucky we were to be located in New York City — just a 4 hour drive from the Finger Lakes region. The Finger Lakes is a world-class wine producing region, specializing in white wines like Riesling & Gewürztraminer. The region is also becoming increasingly known for their cool-climate reds, like Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir. Seeing how much the Finger Lakes has to offer — wineries & breweries, hiking & outdoor adventures — we booked an AirBNB, rented a car, & set out on our first ever New York State road trip. Here’s everything you need to know on how to make the most of your Finger Lakes wine tasting experience!
Cayuga, Seneca, & Keuka Wine Trails
The Finger Lakes is home to three distinct wine trails — with over 140 wineries! Seneca Lake Wine Trail is the largest & most popular wine trail, with numerous award-winning wineries. We spent most of our time exploring wineries on Seneca Lake, but we also dabbled in several Cayuga wineries that left us craving more! We’re hoping to make a trip back to the Finger Lakes, hopefully during the fall, to explore the Keuka wine trail.
The wineries are fairly spaced out, requiring at times, significant driving distance. (You cannot walk from one winery to the next.) We spent our mornings hiking (more on this later!), before visiting one to two wineries in the afternoon. Wine tours with transportation are available, but all of the quotes we received were almost $1,000 for just several hours.
During COVID, reservations for wine tasting are highly encouraged, but as we were traveling mid-week, we had no problem with tastings or being seated in vineyards.
Where to Stay
The Finger Lakes is a very large region, with several well-known towns offering great accommodation — Ithaca, Seneca Falls, Geneva, & Watkins Glen. We booked AirBNB in Ithaca for several reasons — proximity to day hikes & wineries, night life, & ability to walk the downtown area & Cornell University.
We absolutely loved Ithaca — there are multiple gorges within the city limits to explore; Cornell University is absolutely beautiful, especially at sunset; & there were multiples restaurants & breweries open with outdoor seating. Ithaca had everything & more that we needed.
Our Favorite Wineries
Hosmer Winery was our favorite winery along the Cayuga wine trail. There is plenty of outdoor seating with beautiful views of the vineyard, & the wine was absolutely delicious. We visited just before closing, but the sommelier was extremely kind & patient in explaining all the wines & grape varieties.
Standing Stone Vineyards has amazing wines & even more amazing views. The winery is currently not offering formal tastings, but they sell half glasses of wine, making it easy to order a few & create your own tasting. Reservations are required!
Atwater Estate Vineyards was my favorite winery along the Seneca Lake wine trail. While there were no available reservations for a formal wine tasting, we were able to grab Adirondack chairs in the garden overlooking the vineyard & lake. Their rosé was my absolute favorite from the Finger Lakes region!
Zugibe Vineyards was beautiful! We were seated outside, overlooking the vineyards & Lake Seneca, & the wines were fantastic. The winery also offers a mimosa flight tasting if that’s more your thing!
Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery had fantastic reviews online, but this was our least favorite wine tasting experience. It felt rushed, wasn’t tailored to our taste palates, & the wine was just so-so.
Our Favorite Breweries
The Finger Lakes is not only known for its wines, but also its breweries! To thank Alex for driving me to & from several wine tastings, I was his DD to several breweries!
There are several breweries located within Ithaca — Ithaca Beer Co (great outdoor space for social distancing, plus the food is great!), Liquid State Brewing Co (another great brewery with outdoor space), & Lucky Hare Brewing Company (a small tasting room off State Street downtown Ithaca). If you’re out exploring the Finger Lakes & need a break from wine tasting, don’t miss War Horse Brewing Company. The tasting room is themed as a British town during World War II & all beers are uniquely named — Lt. Dan, Breakfast with Churchill, Bombshell, etc. etc. We also enjoyed Grist Iron Brewing Company — there was a great outdoor space with beautiful views of Lake Seneca.