Roads Less Traveled

Billsboro Winery offers vertical tastings, where you can sample five library (past) vintages side by side. Tasters discuss the role climate played in each particular vintage, its agreability and wine-making techniques.

Wine trails are a great way to promote Finger Lakes Wine Country.  At the same time, a number of local boutique wineries have emerged recently with a primarily European grape (vinifera) focus, and have chosen to strike out on their own. On occasion, going “off trail” may be the answer for an enthusiast seeking this style of wine.

This is not to say there are no quality wineries emphasizing vinifera within the established wine trails. Ravines, Dr. Frank, Anthony Road, Fox Run, Lamoreaux Landing and Sheldrake Point, among other popular spots, produce excellent dry and fine wines available along the recognized trails. However, for consumers seeking excellence, there are some wineries beyond the trails to consider as well.

Seneca Lake
Since Seneca has the largest number of wineries, it also has the largest number of wineries that are not officially part of the trail. These include:

Billsboro With two locations near Geneva, this winery was founded in 2007 as the brainchild of Vinny Aliperti – and is entirely dedicated to European-style dry wines.

Red Tail Ridge – California winemaker and consultant Nancy Irelan has recently built a fantastic LEED-certified production facility and is churning out both familiar and unusual varieties of vinifera.

Kemmeter A recent project by veteran winemaker Johannes Reinhardt, this small tasting room offers his creations by appointment-only.

Shaw – Winemaker and owner Steve Shaw prides himself on his creative vineyard and production methods, as well as his carefully cellar-aged red and white wines.

Herman J. Wiemer – Now under the ownership and direction of Fred Merwarth, Wiemer continues its long-standing excellence in crafting top-notch Riesling.

Shalestone – This small, red-only winery is led by Rob Thomas, whose popular wines often sell out annually.

Boundary Breaks – This new, Riesling-only winery emphasizes a collaborative approach with veteran growers and winemakers.

Silver Thread – New managers Paul and Shannon Brock have breathed new life into an established brand and received early critical praise.

Damiani – This popular winery established its reputation with its reds, under the direction of veteran grower Phil Davis. The entire lineup continues to improve and gain a following.

Bloomer Creek – Kim Engle continues to strive for creative expression in his winery, which is receiving a great deal of positive attention.

Hector Wine Company – Led by winemaker Justin Boyette, this winery has been exploring typical varieties – but also pushing the limits with wines like Syrah.

Forge – A much-heralded Riesling/Pinot Noir project between Hector’s Justin Boyette, industry veteran Rick Rainey and well-known European winemaker Louis Barruol.

Red Newt – One of the original, and very successful, proponents of advancing red wine quality in the Finger Lakes, led by veteran winemaker David Whiting.
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Cayuga Lake
One of the best wineries not on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is Heart & Hands, a boutique winery led by Tom Higgins – one of the first winemakers to emphasize the two-varietal approach. He only makes Riesling and Pinot Noir, but in emphasizing these grapes he finds great expression each vintage.
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Keuka Lake
Long a fixture on the eastern shore of Keuka Lake – Rooster Hill is always worth a visit to see what vinifera it has to offer. Also, a new winery on Keuka called Domaine Leseurre, founded by French couple Sebastien and Celine Leseurre, has won some early followers and promises to make waves in the coming years with its push for high-quality wine.


by Jason Feulner