Finger Lakes visit: Day 1

Having experienced a slice of the pie, called the Finger Lakes, it is no surprise that this picturesque wine region was featured in Wine Spectator’s May 2006 edition. Every considerable wine region has at least one variety that successfully marries their soil type, climate, and other environmental factors and produces consistently good fruit from year to year. For the Finger Lakes region the bride’s name is Riesling.

On June 29th we arrived in New York’s idyllic and scenic Finger Lakes region for a couple of days of wine tasting and pleasure. The Fingers Lake wine country is centered around four main lakes with Native American names: Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga. Amongst the four Lakes there are over 80 wineries and growing.

Front of Glenora Winecellars

We were staying directly off of Seneca Lake so that is where our travels began. On the West Side of Seneca there are currently 23 wineries. Our first stop landed us at Glenora Wine Cellars. Glenora is one of the largest producers of the Finger Lakes region and boasts one of the most stunning views of the lake as well. Glenora is also an Inn and gourmet restaurant. Glenora produces over 25 different wines, but I jumped straight into the Riesling. Refreshing, pears, lemons, limes, apricots, perfumed aromas, are terms that came to mind, and these terms would be a staple for the greater percentage of my Riesling adventure, with slight shifts in taste along the lake trail.

Vineyard and Lake view from Glenora Winecellars

The second stop was Anthony Road Winery. At this point it was apparent to me that the Finger Lakes wineries produce just as many Native American varietals, as European and French-American hybrids; this would explain most wineries producing over 15 different types of wine. Everything was as advertised here, with a 2005 Vignoles standing out. Vignoles is none other than Ravat 51, invented by French hybridizer J.F. Ravat. This varietal is produced by several Finger Lake wineries and displays light tropical and citrus flavors with floral aromas. The Vignoles were tasty and less than $10 at most wineries making the varietal a ‘good value’ in my book. What stood out to me at this winery was a 2004 Reserve Vignoles dessert wine. This dessert wine was made from botrytis affected Vignole grapes. This wine was a deep golden color and displayed intense rich flavors of apricots and honey with slight citrus characteristics.

Third stop of the day would be a sweet wine lover’s dream. From the road I spotted this beautiful winery, and as you see below it is as nice on the inside as outside. The Earle Estate Meadery produces over 20 fruit, grape and honey based wines. Niki enjoyed several of the wines here, and I was in admiration of the beautiful pine and oak woodwork on the inside.

Earle Estate Meadery - above exterior, below interior

The fourth and agreed upon last stop took us to Fox Run Vineyard and Café. We had a great time talking with the tasting associate who was familiar with Virginia wines, and of course enjoyed our tasting as well. The Riesling and Lemberger, an Austrian red with light jammy flavors and black pepper stood out here, but everything was done well. The tasting associate had lived in VA many years ago and I think I left him craving a bottle of the states Cabernet Franc.

Sipping on the tasty Lemberger

To summarize the first day, we ran into some very good, reasonably priced Rieslings, and tried some Native American varietals that were fruity, light, uncomplicated and good quaffing wines. Prices and tasting fees were very reasonable, and all wineries appeared to adhere to a $1 tasting fee for the first 5 to 6 tastings, and $1 more for 2 additional tastings of your choice. The Finger Lakes reds, due to the short growing season, were for the first day, light to medium in body, as well as color, and as long as you were not looking for California you might enjoy them. Common European reds produced are Merlot, Pinot Noir, some Cabernet Sauvignon, and Virginia’s preeminent varietal, Cabernet Franc.

After the first day we managed four wineries in 4 hours, and there are over 23 wineries on the West Side of Senca Lake. There is yet another side (east) to this lake, and 3 more lakes with a number of wineries. This gives an idea of how these wineries are densely populated, all having wonderful views of the lake on which they reside. The second day was a lot of fun, stay tuned.

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