An exploration into the world of wine tasting by a first-timer during the off-season. I personally think winter makes for the best backdrop for my search of the famed rieslings and ice wines in New York’s very own wine country.
Day 1 on the Finger Lakes wine trail. I am with Experience! Finger Lakes on a vinifera wine trail down the banana belt of Seneca Lake. This means the best of the grapes on the warmest part of the lands around the lake. Laura, who founded the full-service tour company with her hubby, was just amazing, extremely knowledgeable and funny. As a first-time wine taster, I’ve never learned so much from her and the people at the wineries she took me. Unlike. large coach bus tours, her’s are tailored and much smaller for a more personable experience. I really cannot rave enough! I can’t imagine starting my first ever wine experience with anyone else. Seriously! P.S. This smart lady wrote a book: Culinary History of the Finger Lakes.
Who wears white to a Saperavi tasting?! Hehe, apparently I do. It’s the darkest and most pigmented red wine I’ve ever seen. Here at the Standing Stone Vineyard, I was able to taste straight from the oak barrels while getting a lesson on the process. Then in the tasting room, I tried a few more wines with the most gooey local (Kenton) Brie, ever. It was at this winery that I learned that I have a palate for Gerwurztraminer. It has a really nice floral scent and pairs really well with spicy foods. This wine knows me so well.
Our next stop is at a much smaller winery, Silver Thread Wine. Don’t let size fool you! The winery has won many awards and accolades. There’s a lot attention to detail here, and they carry artisanal treats to go with their wines. I tried their rose at first, and then did a tasting flight paired with pumpkin seeds and cheese.
Did some say wine and chocolate? At Damiani Wine Cellars, life’s a party. When I first walked in, the music was blasting and there was a ton of people enjoying the tasting room. I’ve never thought I could enjoy a dry red, as I lean towards the sweeter side of whites. Damiani changed my mind about that. As I learned from a day of tasting, it really depends on the winemaker. I spent a lot of my time tasting and learning about winemaking, and it really is fascinating.
The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is the most romantic! I had lunch inside the hotel, with views of the pier. It was a cozy alcove away from the cold. There’s something to be said about the decor of this luxury hotel. The food? Scrumptious. The salad I had here tops the list of one of the best I’ve had in a long while. This place is the perfect starting point for the rest of Seneca Lake’s wine adventures.
Day 2 on the wine trail and I visited three tasting rooms along the Keuka Lake trail. The weather was insanely snowy in the beginning but soon melted away as the day progressed. When the sun came out, the lake’s beauty truly showed. Lake photos at the end of the post!
Point of the Bluff
I got a sneak preview of their new tasting room and totally fell in love with the decor of the place. Here are a few snaps of the place. It should be opening soon! Speaking with the talented winemaker, Michael Countryman, I could really tell that he loves winemaking and is extremely knowledgeable to top it off. As a smaller winery, a lot of the work is done by hand, which makes it so much more special. The ice wine ($60) I took home had a beautiful wooden box packaging with the top seal hand-dipped in wax. That’s love right there. Not only does it taste amazing, but it makes for the perfect gift as well. I’m all about the details. The Point of the Bluff Vineyard wines interestingly enough, can be found in London restaurants and wine shops. They have good taste there.
Dr. Frank Wines
This is New York’s most award-winning winery! Dr. Konstantin Frank was truly a pioneer in the development of the Finger Lakes wine country. This winery is renown for its rieslings (which I bought a few home!), but with new forays into the reds, I was most intrigued by their Cuvee d’Amour. I tasted quite a few of their varietals and am really impressed. The tasting room and team are world-class. You can really feel all the quality and commitment in the winemaking.
I’ve had my most memorable ice wine (2003) here at Heron Hill Winery. Thinking back, I really wish I pulled the trigger on the $100+ bottle. When I was tasting that glass, it was the most indulgent few sips, ever. Unlike many of the ice I’ve tried, its amber in color! My mom would have loved it. At the time, there were only 2 bottles left. Ah! When I was there, the atmosphere was festive with music and food in the air. Heron Hill has a large selection of wines and three locations. The best part? Plenty of events lined up, including happy hours, live bands and barbecues. Plus, it is named one of the top ten most spectacular tasting rooms in the world by Travel & Leisure.
A late lunch with a view. Bully Hill Vineyards has a restaurant perched on a hill that overlooks Keuka Lake. The best part about the restaurant, besides the great food, is the seasonal menu. After a whole day of exploring and wine tasting this vineyard was the perfect place to enjoy a big juicy burger and some pierogies!
This concludes my wine tasting experience. I came away with more knowledge and am ready for the next time I hit a wine trail (this weekend!). I’ve discovered that I’m not too fond of dry wines, added Gewurz to my list of favorites, and opened my mind about different reds. After a snowy visit up to this region, I’m ready for a summertime pilgrimage (Ithaca in June!). Hope you’ve enjoyed my foray and journey through New York’s wine country!