Wine may not be what you first think of when someone first mentions New York state the way it might when you hear Northern California — but the Finger Lakes region in New York State is actually the second-largest wine-producing region in the United States. In fact, the region has been producing wine for over 150 years and is home to over 100 wineries and vineyards. The Finger Lakes region has been named a “Top 10 Wine Destination for 2015” by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
If you have been following our travels for a while, you’ll know that we like to visit wine regions (like Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Long Island) and show how families can enjoy winery visits together. So when Hannah and I took our road trip through New York state this summer, wine tasting in the Finger Lakes was a must-do on my wish list.
Where to go Wine Tasting in the Finger Lakes
The Corning and Southern Finger Lakes tourism board put together a fun wine quiz to help people decide where to go wine tasting in the Finger Lakes, guiding through choices based on taste, views, and the winery amenities. You can also pick a trail, like the Keuka Lake Trail, and stop to taste along the way. One of the best ways to get around is by water taxi. OnKeuka Water Taxi offers wine tasting tours pairing a boat taxi and land transportation to get the best of what the region has to offer, without even needing a car!
I prefer dry wines and since this was a mother-daughter road trip, I needed to find options that were kid-friendly. We ended up at two winners.
Dr. Frank is a pioneer in the viticulture industry and his wines continue to receive awards and accolades. In 2016 alone, they have been named one of Wine & Spirit Magazine’s 2016 “Top 100 Wineries” and in July 2016, nine of their wines received a 90+ rating by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. In an area known for its Rieslings, Dr. Frank’s Gewurztraminer also stands out. The tasting room itself doesn’t have anything that is exceptionally kid-friendly, but they don’t make you feel unwelcome either. The large outdoor deck with sweeping views of Keuka Lake below gives plenty of room for kids to move around.
Even without any of the typical things I might seek out when visiting a winery with kids, I still knew that Dr. Frank’s had to be on the list because of the rich history of this winery. Dr. Konstantin Frank came to the United States in 1951 from Europe, armed with a Ph.D. in viticulture. His growing and grafting techniques truly changed the course of wine growing in the United States, and he is recognized as elevating the quality of the New York wine industry to the point where today it receives world attention.
The winery is situated in the former home of Dr. Konstantin Frank, on a hill overlooking Keuka Lake. The main tasting room features large windows to enjoy the view, and there is also a separate tasting room for wine club members. The staff was very knowledgeable and welcoming, and very helpful in suggesting foods that would pair well with each of the wines I sampled.
Dr. Frank’s tasting room is open year round Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 12-5, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and New Year’s day. They are located at 9749 Middle Road Hammondsport, NY 14840,
Ravines Wine Cellars is my local wine merchant’s favorite producer in New York State, and possibly the entire east coast, so I knew we were in for a treat! Ravines actually has two tasting rooms, one in Seneca Lake and the other in Geneva. In addition to wine tasting, they also offer the Ravinous Kitchen, a wine-centric, farm-to-table restaurant offered in both tasting rooms with options such as a pork belly sandwich, squash ravioli and baked Hudson Valley camembert. And the food-wine pairings extend into the tasting room.
We visited the tasting room in Hammondsport, with beautiful views of Keuka Lake. This was the kind of place where I could stay for hours because they craft a very special tasting experience. It isn’t just about quickly pouring wine and dashing off a short explanation. Not at all. Our attendant spent so much time with me explaining the different wines and their pairings. There isn’t anything I love more about visiting a tasting room than when someone takes the time to talk with you and understand your tastes. They get excited when they find what lights your fire and happily suggest something else from off the typical flight based on what you are enjoying. It makes for such a personal experience and you end up finding so many wines that you really love.
What Hannah and I both loved about Ravines were the cheese and chocolate pairings. They offered a unique selection of locally made cheeses and chocolates that really brought out the flavors in the wines. We couldn’t carry back any wines with us in the car (although I’m debating joining their wine club), but we did purchase Red Jacket quince jam, the Yancey Fancy “steakhouse onion”, Shtayburne tomato basil curds and Muranda “Dilly Girl” cheeses to fit into our cooler for the trip home — so delicious! Plus you know from our experience at Shale Oak in Paso Robles that I love how a food pairing can involve kids in the tasting process.
Looking back at my tasting notes, I see that I tried a very wide variety of wines at Ravines — good thing my contact from Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes tourism was driving. Some of my favorites were the 2014 Dry Riesling (received 90 points from Wine Spectator Magazine), the very clean 2014 Jeff’s Field Dry Riesling, the 2013 Pinot Noir (great with chocolate!), the 2009 Sparkling Brut Rosé (89 points from Wine Advocate), the 2013 White Springs Vineyard Chardonnay (90 points from Wine Advocate), and the 2014 Gewürztraminer (90 points from Wine Advocate.)
Ravines Wine Cellars is located at 400 Barracks Rd, Geneva, NY 14456. Wine tastings are $3.00 for five wines and $6.00 for a cheese or chocolate tasting tray. The tasting room is open daily 10-5, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter.
Beyond Wine: Cider and Beer Tasting in the Finger Lakes
It is not just about wine in the Finger Lakes! The Finger Lakes Beer Trail showcases 85 craft brewers and cideries across 210 miles from Rochester down to Corning.
Cider Creek Hard Cider is well worth the drive out to Canisteo for a day in the countryside. Started in Boston, head cider-maker Kevin Collins brought Cider Creek back to his home in the Finger Lakes, where they now service distributors throughout the east coast. The tasting room is everything you would hope it would be. Reclaimed wood, stylish design, large fireplace, casual seating, and a warm welcome from Rocky, the cider dog. Outside, Cider Creek hosts weekend events featuring music, food trucks, corn hole, and bocce — making it fun for the whole family.
Inside, you can taste a flight or stop in to pick up cans or growlers of your favorite flavors. With no sugar added, the Cider Creek ciders are clean and crisp, without that lingering sweet aftertaste that I sometimes get from ciders. They also don’t stop with just your standard cider. Cider Creek features a Saison Reserve, Cran Mango Saison with cranberries and mango, Hopricot with local apples and apricot puree, Blood Orange, and other seasonal flavors. They were all delicious and my only regret was not having a large cooler to bring some home with me.
Cider Creek Hard Cider is located at 6459 Cunningham Creek Rd, Canisteo, NY 14823. The tasting room is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4p-10p, Saturdays from 12n-11p and Sundays from 12n-6p.
Since we were visiting the Finger Lakes during a NASCAR race weekend, we stayed one night a bit further out in Hornell, New York and visited the Railhead Brewing Company. This is a small local brew pub, and the type of place where “everyone knows your name.” Each person walking in the door was greeted by staff or guests as they came in for their dinner, drinks, or just for a growler refill. If you visit at dinner time, you’ll want to stop by early as it fills up quickly.
Everything is brewed on-site and the selection changes frequently — from Altbier to Saison to IPAs, Kolsch and seasonal brews like Watermelon. Railhead Brewing also offers some delicious wood-oven pizza options like the margherita and “Truffle Shuffle.” Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area!
Railhead Brewing Company is located at 40 Park Drive in Hornell, New York 14843. They are open Thursdays 3:00pm to 11:00pm, Fridays 3:00pm to 12:00am, and Saturdays 12:00pm to 12:00am.
When to Visit the Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes Wine Festival in July is one of the largest wine festivals in the East, featuring over 70 wineries, great food, and exciting entertainment. There are many other annual events including the Seaplane Splash-In, Wine on Ice, Tapas and Wine Weekend, GlassFest, Wineglass Marathon weekend, and more.
Plan your Trip
- There are many lakeside vacation rentals available for families and groups. We stayed at the Gulfstream House in Hammondsport, which was just a half a block from the Keuka lakefront or the town square.
- For the comfort of a hotel, we stayed at the Staybridge Suites in Staybridge Suites Corning, which was walking distance to the Corning Museum Of Glass Welcome Centeror downtown Corning.
- Getting there — Corning is a four-hour drive from New York City.
- If you are staying in town you can walk or take a water taxi from OnKeuka water taxi to dinner and wineries or you can rent a car.
- There are plenty of other activities to do in the area including:
- Stand up paddling boarding, kayaking and biking with Keuka Watersports at Keuka Lake
- Hiking in Stony Brook State Park
- Taking a glider ride at the National Soaring Museum in Elmira
- Blowing glass at the gorgeous Corning Museum Of Glass Welcome Center
- The Rockwell Museum – A Smithsonian Affiliate — Upstate New York’s only Smithsonian Affiliate Museum with a world class collection of traditional western and contemporary Native American art
- Glenn H Curtiss Museum — Glenn H. Curtiss held the title of ‘Fastest Man on Earth’ for four years of his life. The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum revolves around teaching the world about his accomplishments and ranks among the top aviation museums.
- If you are looking for where to eat, I’d recommend:
- The Waterfront on Keuka Lake (take the water taxi for great views and leave room for the caramel apple pie!)
- Keuka Bakery Company on the Village Square in Hammondsport with delicious baked goods, sandwiches, and coffee in a fun and funky atmosphere
- The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn in Hammondsport with great salads and classics like kielbasa
- Jenkins Farm Market & Deli in Arkport
Have you been to Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes? Do you have any favorite wineries to recommend?
Note: Our trip was hosted by Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes Tourism. All opinions are my own.