This Is a Wine Lovers' Paradise (and It's Not Napa!)
Pack your bags, because it’s time to plan your visit to the ultimate wine lovers' destination. This East Coast haven boasts luxurious bed and breakfasts, elegant farm-to-table restaurants, and over 130 wineries to tour and sample. There’s really no better place to indulge your wine-loving side than the Finger Lakes. The region is comprised of 11 lakes scattered along 9,000 square miles and across 14 counties in upstate New York.
The fall in particular brings a brilliant grape harvest, and visitors flock to the wine trails canopied by the colorful autumn leaves. Christina Roberts, director of marketing and public relations for Finger Lakes Wine Country, says fall is also a spectacular time for foodies to tap into the impressive locally-grown foods. But what really makes this majestic region travel-worthy is the distinctive, European style wine.
In recent years, wine makers discovered that the area's climate was strikingly similar to that of Germany, and they began to plant European grapes to bring truly quality wine to America. Cooking Light’s Social Media Manager, former Finger Lake resident, and wine enthusiast Rochelle Bilow says it’s one of the best places to get authentic, German-style Riesling. She loves how the region’s wineries offer affordable tours and tastings, and she says the stuff is delicious.
Wine production began in the Finger Lakes region with grapes native to North America called Labrusca and Catawba. This sparked the revolution of Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars' wine that is still sold and is the predominant moneymaker for wine in this region. But these grapes aren't ideal for growing in the region, and typically produce overly-sweet wine. Bilow explains this is because the climate isn’t quite right for the red grapes used in production of the wine. Vinifera grapes, in varieties like Riesling and Chardonnay, are much better suited for the cold climates and started to pop up and cultivate a more superior array of wines.
If you’re ready to hit the road (we know we are!), here are our top recommendations for where to stay, eat, and taste the spectacular wines of the region for your ultimate fall getaway.
Places to Go
Easily one of the best-known wineries in the region, Wiemer is known for outstanding Riesling. With influences from the winemaker's German background, it's a must try.
Also from Germany, this winemaker’s production comes in three varieties; Sonero (light, refreshing), Kemmeter (best possible), and Sansan (reserved for rare highlights). Be sure to try the Riesling inspired by the German family roots.
The vineyard is the first winery to open on the east side of the Seneca Lake, and winemaker Ann Raffetto is the first female winemaker at a farm winery in the Finger Lakes.
This family-owned business is now managed by the sixth generation of Hazlitt siblings. Though they are most famously known for their Red Cat sweet red wine, they also produce award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Gewurztraminer. Their tasting room is a bit more casual than others, but it’s a definite place to stop in.
Try the farm winery on Keuka Lake or visit the tasting rooms on Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes for family-inspired flavors.
Once a fine dining restaurant, Suzanne’s has recently moved into hosting wine dinners, cooking classes and special events. Be sure to check their calendar and reserve a spot in one of the coveted activities and tastings.
Places to Eat
Hailing from Vienna, this farm-to-table restaurant has a unique style of dining called Heuriger. Food is ordered à la carte and is meant to be shared. Food can be viewed at a display counter, and of course you can order a local wine to enjoy with your meal.
This wine-focused, farm-to-table eatery provides the true flavors of the Finger Lakes. Step into the tasting room for local cheese and charcuterie boards, artisan chocolates, and fresh bread or dine at the full kitchen for an exquisite wine-paired feast.
Snack on late-night bites, sip local wines, and enjoy live music and events at this restaurant focused on organic, regional cuisine. Dine with Stonecat for lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch.
Focusing on a wide selection of wine and cider, this dining location serves local and seasonally-driven dishes in a casual atmosphere.
Places to Stay
Located on the west side of Seneca Lake, the stunning winery was the first to open on the lake in 1977. Be sure to stop in to Veraisons Restaurant, a gourmet and locally sourced restaurant right on the property.
This award-winning hotel is located right on Seneca Lake and offers a luxury wine country experience. Take a taste of Blue Pointe Grille and the Cold Water Bar while you’re staying, and snag a seat on the patio for lakeside dining and views.
Bring the entire family along and rent a lakefront home in the Finger Lakes. Snag a cute cottage or fishing cabin and you’ll foster family memories to last a lifetime.