Summer beckons to slow down one’s pace and enjoy the fruits of one’s labors. On the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, the success of each winery’s harvest is waiting for visitors to select and savor their favorite flavor of the season.
The Seneca Lake Wine Trail starts at Amberg Wine Cellars, between Canandaigua and Geneva, in the town of Flint on Routes 5 and 20. The tasting bar, modeled in the German tradition of a cool mountainside winery, features traditional favorites such as Gerwurtztraminer and Riesling, as well as a plush burgundy and claret for those tempting chocolate desserts. Continuing on Route 5 and 20 through Geneva, the west end of the wine trail turns onto Route 14 south along Seneca Lake.
Fox Run Vineyards offers award-winning Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. Recent plantings of Gamay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer position Fox Run’s future on the cutting edge of the Finger Lakes’ wine industry. Not only is there a majestic view of Seneca Lake from a perch looking out over luxuriant vineyards, but a friendly tasting room and café to blend together wines and meals.
Nearby is Seneca Shore Wine Cellars, whose unassuming exterior belies a medieval ambience on the interior. Winemaker and entrepreneur Dave DeMarco maintains that the premise of his winery is “to have a wine for everybody who walks in the door,” and his selection of dry and sweet reds and whites is direct proof. Of particular note are the “Red” captioned varieties and his exclusive and full-bodied Kylix wines.
Neighboring Anthony Road Wine Company specializes in “fine wines for the everyday celebration of life” that complement full dinners or lighter meals. Also prepared are the Martini Reinhardt Selection series of wines produced through extra special attention to detail and quality in both the vineyard and the cellar. The wines in this series are premium hand-crafted wines, produced in limited quantities by vineyard manager Peter Martini and Winemaker Johannas Reinhardt. Only exceptional, carefully selected fruit and wines will qualify to make the cut, and are only available through the retail store.
Just south of the town of Dresden are wineries that reflect their own unique character in their wines and surroundings. Prejean Winery confirms that the Finger Lakes can cultivate a great red wine, especially savored is its Marechal Foch. Torrey Ridge provides crisp wines that complement its views of Seneca Lake from the second floor tasting room balcony, where visitors are invited to sit and leisurely enjoy their picnic lunch with their favorite wine. A left turn from Route 14 onto Randall Crossing Road will lead to Miles Wine Cellars, where visitors can sample their robust reds and lingering whites in a renovated 1802 Greek Revival home that possesses a “haunted” history of its 19th century owner and his wife restlessly making their presence known to wary guests. It is also the only winery where visitors can arrive and depart by boat along Seneca Lake.
Returning to Route 14 will bring visitors to Earle Estates Meadery. Here, delightful wines are created from honey (mead) and other fruits of the harvest, such as apple, black raspberry, cherry, pear, strawberry, and blueberry, all stored in beautifully shaded bottles. Several blends of mead and fruit wines are also developed, creating yet another exciting taste for visitors to choose from.
With a glistening view of the lake as you drive farther on Route 14, Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars presents a spacious wood-hewn tasting room to feature its fruity yet classic white wines. Owners Bruce and Suzanne Kendall aspire to build cabins in the woods of their 28 acres and hope that Hickory Hollow will become a home base for visitors vacationing in the Finger Lakes. Just next door is Glenora Wine Cellars, with its stately tasting room and restaurant, not to mention its well-apportioned accommodations. Its Chardonnay, Syrah, Cayuga and Seyval, among its other premium wines, easily complete a visit to Glenora’s beautiful surroundings.
Just north of Watkins Glen are a number of wineries that offer a variety of wines to accommodate any sophisticated or casual cuisine. The “Red Zeppelin” at Fulkerson Winery is an easy-going yet hearty companion for a summer barbeque, while the Vignoles and Glaciovinum at Lakewood Vineyards provide an excellent finish to a satisfying meal. In between lies Arcadian Estate Vineyards, which features full-bodied white wines in addition to their very popular fruit and dandelion wines. Owner Mike Hastrich and winemaker Dave Shope describe Arcadian as a place “with a rustic ambience for people to socialize with each other.” Light snacks are available in their informal café or to take on the way.
Within the town of Watkins Glen are two wineries that provide their visitors with the feeling of European gardens and chalets. Cascata Winery at the Professor’s Inn includes wines that range from a dry vinifera to those made from native grape varieties, featuring art and art labels created by the owner, K. Coralee Burch. Its neighbor, Castel Grisch Estate Winery, encompasses a Bavarian deli, winery, tasting room/gift boutique, manor and vineyards to let visitors enjoy their rich characteristic reds and soft-bodied whites. Both wineries have sizeable and romantic accommodations on the premises.
A left turn from Route 14 onto Fourth Street in the center of Watkins Glen will lead visitors onto the second half of the Seneca Lake Wine trail along the east shores of Seneca Lake. North of the town of Burdett lies Atwater Estate Vineyards, which produce quality viniferas, unique blends, and luscious dessert wines. Their tasting room welcomes guests with a warm and knowledgeable staff, casual atmosphere and one of the most breathtaking views of Seneca Lake. Less than a tenth of a mile away is Chateau LaFayette Reneau, which specializes in luxurious varieties to complement their panoramic view of the lake and vineyards.
A collection of wineries, each with its own unique atmosphere and character for visitors, awaits further north on Route 414. A splendid menu in Red Newt Cellar’s restaurant and catering services harmonizes well with its well-defined whites and complex, spicy reds. Leidenfrost Vineyards invites visitors to relax and enjoy their fine wines and especially great reds in their beautiful half-timber tasting room with a spectacular view of Seneca Lake. Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards provides its guests with a unique wine experience at a different pace. Their horseshoe bar easily turns visitors into friends with unusual wines such as White Stag, Schooner Red and White, Cabin Fever and Red Cat. The Hazlitt family first settled in the area in 1852, beginning a long tradition of growing high quality grapes and tree fruit. This knowledge and tradition has been passed down for over 150 years to its current management, consisting of fifth and sixth generation Hazlitts.
A right turn from Route 414 onto Ball Diamond Road will lead to Logan Ridge Wine Cellars, featuring quality varietal wines including Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Blanc to match its restaurant menu.
On Route 414, the Finger Lakes Champagne House carries a range of tastes and styles of champagnes made by Swedish Hill and Goose Watch wineries on Cayuga Lake. Champagnes such as Brut, Riesling Cuvee, and Golden Spumante can be sampled in their spacious tasting room.
Further north on Route 414, Caywood Vineyards invites visitors to enjoy tastings in an exquisitely restored 1800s barn and grape-packing house overlooking the East’s largest vinifera vineyard with a magnificent view of Seneca Lake. Just a mile away is the extensive estate of Wagner Vineyards, specializing in entertaining guests with the most comprehensive tour of any Finger Lakes winery. A tasting of a wide selection of wines and non-alcoholic grape juice follows the tour. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour and taste any of their craft-brewed beers, and browse in the retail wine shop where all of Wagner’s wines and beers are available for sale. Designed with the vista overlooking the vineyards and Seneca Lake, Wagner’s Ginny Lee restaurant is the ideal place to enjoy a delightful and relaxing meal, whether on a casual outing or for a special occasion. The contemporary design of the large open dining area with its cathedral ceiling and vast expanse of windows provides a warm, inviting atmosphere at any time of the year.
Continuing on Route 414 for one-half mile travelers will find Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, featuring an exceptional champagne made from its Chardonnay, in addition to a wide selection of vinifera wines. Visitors can experience a wonderful view along the lake toward the last winery on the trail, Nagy’s NewLand Vineyard and Winery, on Lerch Road off Route 414. Owner Dale Nagy is dedicated to producing elegant and full-bodied red and crisp aromatic whites for any dinner or social occasion.
The Seneca Lake Wine trail is endowed with an abundance of beautiful scenery, distinctive and historic communities, as well as especially fine wines to suit any preference. A visit to the area will provide guests with many rewarding memories of a wonderful and restful summer escape.
by Linda Pratt
Linda D. Pratt is a freelance writer and informal promotional advocate for Finger Lakes wines. Many thanks to Bob and Linda Rubscha and Steve and Flavia Huber for their assistance in composing this article.