Wine tours are traditionally reserved for warm summer months, but every winter, without fail, we start jonesing for a wine tour around the Finger Lakes. One of the (very) few perks of enduring harsh upstate winters, is that we are a short 40 minute drive to wine country. The best thing about doing a wine tour this way, is that there is ZERO planning required. For this weekend, we decided the night before that it would be a fun way to spend a wintery Saturday. We picked Seneca because it's the closest lake and that was it for planning. We typically start at the top of the lake, work our way down on the eastern side and make it as far back up on the western side as we can, before wineries close.
The Finger Lake Wineries also have fun weekend events scattered throughout February and March, like Pasta and Wine weekend, where each participating winery gives you wine samples along with various interesting pasta samples (my past favorites were a lasagna and a chocolate mac and cheese...amazing). Or the Chocolate and Wine Weekend, where unique creations using chocolate are paired with various, delicious wines. Definitely recommend both of these fun events if you can attend, but if not, DIY-ing your own tour can be fun, too.
This wine tour was especially awesome because we took recommendations from the winery staff at each place we went, so our route ended up being directed entirely by local favorites and wine experts. A few of the winery stops were recommended by multiple staff at different wineries. Damiani was a standout, according to everyone we met. The other standout was Zugibe. We also got this enticing recommendation for a lunch spot, called FLX Wienery, on the southern tip of Seneca Lake, but we had already eaten a late lunch and it did not fit in with our route/timing. But this place sounded so unique and delicious, just check Yelp if you don't believe me! Gourmet Hot dogs, Hamburgers and Poutine. Enough said.
Below is the route of our Wine Tour on Seneca Lake, along with my thoughts and reflections on each winery. We started at Ventosa Vineyards, which we usually miss because they haven't participated in the themed weekends in previous years, so we were excited to stop here. This ended up being the BEST decision ever, we got so many good recommendations and I couldn't get enough of the wine and the view.
Ventosa was the first stop on the tour, it's at the Northeastern side of Seneca Lake. I love this winery and their red wines are particularly strong. Paul loves red wines, and so did our server here. Our guide focused on wineries with an amazing red wine game when giving us recommendations. The wine is top notch at Ventosa and so is the service. Definitely recommend stopping here. It was a calm, serene stop and the staff were so friendly and eager to talk to us about the wines, and anything. They have great semi-dry whites too. This is a popular spot for weddings in the summer.
Our next stop on the wine tour was Zugibe, and we were SO excited about the wines here. They lived up to the hype for sure. Our tasting here was a nice and relaxing experience, it was just us and one other couple in the tasting room. The dry reds at Zugibe were really, really good. There was nothing too sweet on the menu, even the whites were dry and delicious. Considering neither of us like anything too sweet these days, the wines were perfect for us. I only tried one white wine here, because I didn't want to miss out on any reds. Try the Fred's Red and the the Phonetician blend. The Lemberger was on point as well. They have a really pretty outdoor area, with cute little tables and a perfect Summer view. I'd love to go back in the Summer, sit outside, with a glass of wine in hand and enjoy the fresh air. Friendly staff here as well. We loved this stop, and it is definitely a necessary stop on any Seneca Lake Wine Tour.
We bought a few bottles at this winery because we loved the reds so much. I enjoyed the white wines we tried here as well. We had such a fun experience, this place probably wins the overall experience medal in my book. The wine experts here were a couple, and they were SO friendly and fun. We were the only ones in here so we got extra special attention and there was no shortage of wine flowing. Such a fun place and a great stop for your wine tour.
Wagner Winery and Brewery
Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery was a super-quick stop for us, unfortunately. Wineries close at 5pm and this was something that hadn't occured to us until we arrived here at 4:30 and she told us last tastings would be at 5. They have a brewery here for beer tastings, too. We enjoyed the wines, although spent the shortest time here because we didn't want to miss Damiani! Not after everyone had raved about it. What stood out here was our friendly server. He was enjoying telling us the history and tons of info about the wines, which I normally love, but I felt too rushed to soak it in. Worth a stop and if I were to go back, I would stay longer, and also try the beer tasting they have available.
Damiani wine cellars
Damiani Wine Cellars was our final stop on our wine tour, and the red wines here are definitely the best of the best. Every single wine that we tasted here, was amazing. We stayed well past closing hours and continued to milk our samples for all they were worth. We bought two different bottles here, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc, and I cannot wait to crack those open. This is a must stop on any Seneca Wine Tour!! Just plan your time better than we did so you can stay longer, and really enjoy everything the Seneca Lake wineries have to offer.
The best tips I can give you is to plan the route, and pick the wineries ahead of time where you want to stop. If you don't, you'll end up visiting too many mediocre wineries (we have in the past) where sample sizes are subpar and wine is sickly sweet. Add my recommendations to your itinerary and you will absolutely have a solid start. Also, keep in mind wineries close early! So start your day earlier than we did (we started at like 1pm). What I would do, if we were to re-create this tour, would be to skip lunch beforehand, and instead plan to have our main meal at FLX Weinery.
Have you been to the Finger Lakes?? They are worth a visit if you're in the Upstate NY area! What are your favorite wineries on Seneca Lake, if you've been? Tell me in the comments!