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Finger Lakes Wine

Wine Travel

7 Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit

August 2, 2016
The View from Standing Stone Vineyards in The Finger Lakes.

Last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference took place in the Finger Lakes, one of New York’s must stunning areas and a wine region well worth visiting. With summer and fall wine touring top of mind, I wanted to suggest a few Finger Lakes must-stops for wine lovers looking to explore the area. Technically, this is six wineries and a distillery, but that didn’t fit nicely into the title so I hope you’ll cut me some slack there–the distillery visit is definitely worth it.

Hermann J. Weimer Winery in The Finger Lakes makes incredible RieslingHermann J. Weimer Vineyards – This was on our must-visit list, as I had heard good things about the Riesling Weimer is best known for. The experience certainly didn’t disappoint. This is a lovely winery and, while not as show-stoppingly beautiful as some of the most exquisite properties, the wines will take your breath away. If you love Riesling, in particular German-inspired Riesling, this is the place for you. They make several different styles, from sweet to off-dry, to dry and they are very reminiscent of the Mosel, including the 2013 Reserve Dry, which reminded me of a Kabinet.

Standing Stone Winery – This property is absolutely stunning, with a gorgeous lake view. The winery itself is quite modest, the staff are friendly and the wines are good. We tried an absolutely lovely Reserve Saperavi, which comes from 20 year old vines that produce this lovely, big and rich wine with great balance. If you’re not familiar, Saperavi is reminiscent of Sangiovese. If the reserve is too rich for your blood, they also offer a non-reserve version that is not quite as lush and intense, but is quite good and very reflective of the style. Shawn and I brought home a bottle last year that we plan to open soon. We also enjoyed Standing Stone’s 2013 dry Riesling.

Wagner Winery and Brewery in The Finger LakesWagner Vineyards—Sitting on the patio enjoying lunch at Wagner’s Ginny Lee Café, it’s hard not to fall in love with the Finger Lakes. Looking out over the water, sipping a glass of Wagner’s lovely dry Riesling and enjoying a hearty and affordable lunch, you can see why this is a popular stop with both locals and tourists.

A cocktail from Damiani Vineyards and Finger Lakes DistillingFinger Lakes Distilling—While we both love good wine, Shawn and I are always interested in checking out local distillers. Finger Lakes Distilling makes a range of vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon on site, as well as brandy and liqueurs. The staff were great here, though it can get very busy on the weekends and over the summer. You can taste through several of the products they make on-site and the prices are fair for craft products. We had the opportunity to try several of their spirits as cocktails during the Wine Bloggers Conference and were quite impressed.

Damiani Wine Cellars – We had dinner at Damiani as part of the conference (it was catered, as the winery does not have a restaurant on-site) and it was a beautiful venue to watch the sun set over Seneca Lake. Damiani is right next to Finger Lakes Distilling, so there’s no reason not to pop over to taste their terroir-driven wines and check out the view after picking up some whiskey.

Fox Run Vineyards in The Finger LakesFox Run Vineyards—Fox Run Vineyards has a lovely café and cheese bar on-site, as well as a wealth of wines to taste through. The winery staff are knowledgeable and happy to run you through their wines, though be warned that this is a busy spot, especially on weekends and during tourist season, so plan accordingly if you want a laidback tasting experience. Their patio is a nice option and Shawn and I enjoyed a salad while sitting out and enjoying a lake view (a theme of this trip).

Anthony Road Wine Company's award-winning red wineAnthony Road Wine Company—The last stop we made on our way home, Anthony Road Wine Company impressed us with their gorgeous views, beautiful property and impressive wines. Even though we were nearing exhaustion at this point in our trip, a walk through the grounds and a few minutes on their patio had us feeling so exhilarated to be in The Finger Lakes and enjoying such a vibrant and beautiful wine region. We can’t wait to go back.

There are many other wineries to visit in this region, making The Finger Lakes a great option to visit again and again over the years.

Best of

The Best Wines I Tried in June

July 4, 2016
Chateau des Charmes 2012 Chardonnay from Niagara, Canada

June was a pretty impressive month for wines in my life. I had the opportunity to taste so many new-to-me wines that I hardly know where to start. Some of them will have to wait for single event posts, but below you’ll find many of the wines that kicked off my summer in style.

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard 2013 Riesling Reserve DryHermann J. Wiemer Vineyard – 2013 Reserve Dry Riesling – In July, Shawn and I are spending several weeks in Germany, so we had to slip in a few Rieslings to get us in the mood. For my money, Hermann J. Wiemer’s Finger Lakes winery is making the closest thing to authentic German Riesling that I’ve tasted in North America. This had pear, lime, green apple and a hint of petrol on the nose and a lovely sweet pear note on the palate. A delicious example from one of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes.

Pol Roger ChampagnePol Roger Champagne – Reserve Brut – Shawn’s band was playing on our seventh wedding anniversary in June, but he knew that a good Champagne would keep me from being disappointed that my anniversary was spent in a club and not having a fancy dinner. He chose a good one, as this had lively, crisp bubbles, apples, citrus and biscuit notes on the nose and lovely apple, peach and pear notes on the palate. He was definitely in my good graces after this bottle.

Debbie Travis Pinot GrigioDebbie Travis Fine Wine Collection — Pinot Grigio – I had a fabulous time meeting Debbie Travis at the launch of her new Pinot Grigio. She was absolutely engaging to chat with and I was so interested in hearing all about her retreat in Tuscany (I’ve definitely added a week there to my bucket list). I am always a little bit leery about celebrity wines, but I was impressed with her interest and knowledge about Italian wine and happy to learn that Niagara’s Pillitteri Winery is making her wines – they are known for their high-quality winemaking and this was no exception. A lively and well-made Pinot Grigio, this is an easy-drinking summer patio wine that I have already suggested to a few people looking for a good value wine to enjoy at the cottage.


Chateau des Charmes – 2012 St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay – With butterscotch, pineapple, lemon and a hint of smoke on the nose, pineapple on the palate and a smoky butterscotch on the finish, this full-bodied wine paired very well with our summer barbecue during a recent cottage stay. With our mustard and beer marinated chicken wings and macaroni salad, this was a creamy, dreamy combo from one of Niagara’s best wineries. And if oaked Chardonnay isn’t your cup of tea for summer sipping, this is a wine that will age well so you can hold onto it for this winter and several to come.

Ox-Eye Vineyards 2012 Cabernet FrancOx-Eye Vineyards – 2012 Cabernet Franc – I was lucky enough to be gifted this Cabernet Franc from the Shenandoah Valley by a fellow blogger and I was so glad. For fans of Niagara or French Cabernet Franc, this may be a surprise, as it’s more fruit forward and I got little of the bell or black pepper notes I’ve come to expect from a Cabernet Franc. For a student of wine, it was such a pleasure to see how terroir really does influence a wine and I look forward to trying more Virginia wines in future.

Columbia Crest Chardonnay from Washington StateColumbia Crest Wines – I can’t choose a favourite from the recent Columbia Crest Wines tasting with iYellow Wine Club. Shawn and I both loved the lively and refreshing Chardonnay, which had lemon and orchard fruit on the nose, balanced acidity and tropical fruit on the palate. It was a nice, light summer option. The Merlot, which had strawberry, chocolate and coffee on the nose, which followed through on the palate was impressive for the price-point. The Cabernet Sauvignon had some earthy notes on the nose, alongside plum and blackberry. The palate held chocolate, blackberry and a hint of anise. All of the wines clock in at under $20 at the LCBO, making them a great value for the quality.

Columbia Crest winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca was an engaging and entertaining speaker who had everyone in the room wanting to head to Washington State to check out the wines. Of Spanish descent and from a winemaking family who had settled in Argentina, Juan fell in love with Washington winemaking after his first visit. He had anticipated a wet, dreary region and was shocked to discover that they get almost no rainfall in that area, making it practically high desert viticulture. This has meant he can determine exactly how much water his grapes receive, giving him so much control over the concentration of his grapes. This tasting has me excited to discover more of Washington’s delicious, value-priced wines.

And a special shout-out to the girl’s night out I had recently where each lovely lady brought an amazing wine. While the night was not about tasting notes, I was blown away by the quality of the selections. From a 2014 Domaine Chatelaine Pouilly-Fumé to a Brut Cattin Crémant D’Alsace (quality pink bubbles at a value price), to a complex and delicious 2012 Red Stone Riesling, the white wines were on point. The Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro paired perfectly with pizza and the 2013 Blason Del Valle Malbec won my heart amongst the reds. This was an evening about friendship, but I am certainly blessed to have friends with such great taste in wine.

What were your favourite wines in June? Have you tried any of the above? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

*The Chateau des Charmes was a sample. The Columbia Crest and Debbie Travis wines were tasted at events where I was a guest. All opinions are my own, as always.

Food & Wine

The Best Wines I Tried in February

March 9, 2016
Taylor Fladgate 2010 Vintage Port is a delicious dessert wine option.

Forge Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé is one of the best wines from The Finger Lakes.

Forge Cellars 2014 Rosé – The Finger Lakes – When Shawn and I visited the Finger Lakes this summer, we asked wine writer Evan Dawson for recommendations and Forge Cellars was first on his list. It was a little difficult to find, as it’s sold out of Hector Wine Company’s space and there’s no actual winery to visit (a fact we discovered after driving by twice and finally stopping at another winery, where the tasting room staff had to check with the winemaker). Still, for all the work it took to find Forge, we were really impressed with what we tasted and I was happy to buy a bottle of the Pinot Noir Rosé to take home. We cracked this open for Valentine’s Day and after an initial fight with the cork (why are some corks just SO difficult to get out?), we were both impressed with the wine. The nose had strawberry, smoke, raspberry and a bit of fresh cut grass, while the palate had smoke and dark red berries, followed by a surprising (and lovely) peach note on the finish. We will definitely be planning another visit to Hector Wine Company for more Forge wines when we return to the Finger Lakes.

*Apologies for the black marks on the Forge label – my wine fridge had a bit of a tussle with it!

Taylor Fladgate 2010 Late Bottled Port – Portugal – While I’m a sucker for the Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old Tawny Port, it’s not always in the budget. The 2010 Late Bottled Port is in a much better price point (under $20 at the LCBO) and is a nice after dinner option when a glass of port is called for. This full-bodied port is very sweet, with lots of cherry and deep red fruit on both the nose and palate. A good option for a dessert wine on a cold winter evening.

Southbrook Vineyard's Seriously Cool 2012 Red Blend is a great Ontario wine option.Southbrook Vineyard’s Seriously Cool 2012 Red Blend – I love the labels on Southbrook Vineyard’s newest line of wines—they’re all designed by Laura Wills of Messenger—and I had high hopes that they would live up to Southbrook’s other wines, many of which are personal favourites. The Seriously Cool title comes about after two seriously cold winters in Niagara, where many winemakers struggled with the impact of the weather on their vines. This wine is an entry-level option the winery is offering while the grapes used are “undergoing the transition to organic certification,” according to the press materials. A blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt, this is a good value wine that has a smoky and sweet nose (I got strawberry, coffee, raspberry and black pepper notes) and a savoury finish. Shawn and I enjoyed this one on a lazy weekend evening and would happily enjoy another bottle. While I do still prefer Southbook’s higher-priced (and organic) Triomphe wines, at $15.95 this is a very good and well-priced Ontario option.

* The Southbrook and Taylor Fladgate wines were samples. Opinions are all my own.

Book Reviews

Dr. Konstantin Frank Biography – A Book Review

December 8, 2015
Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank by Tom Russ

As part of our 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference welcome package, Shawn and I received copies of Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank by Tom Russ. This was the perfect gift for me, as I’m always interested in reading about the history of winemaking in the regions we visit. I eagerly dug into this book in the early fall and I wasn’t disappointed.

As you might expect from the title, this book concentrates solely on Dr. Konstantin Frank and his family, who were pioneers in bringing vinifera to the Finger Lakes. Dr. Frank’s legacy in the area is a big one and author Russ lays out all the reasons his acclaim is so deserved. If you’re looking for an overall history of the region’s winemaking, Evan Dawson’s brilliant Summer in a Glass may be a better bet, but this book provides a deep dive into one family’s extensive and lasting contribution to American wine.

Dr. Frank was a German man raised in the Ukraine and forced from his home during the war. A renowned agricultural scientist, he managed to grow vinifera successfully in the Ukraine’s cold climate and had re-built a comfortable life after his original displacement by running a viticultural program. When he learned that he and his family were not safe from the Soviet round-ups of German nationals, he decided he had to once again give up the life he knew. Having already lost several family members, he arranged for a friend in the Soviet army to smuggle his small family out of the Ukraine, before making their way to New York.

There, he struggled to find work (despite speaking numerous languages, English was a challenge for him),
but was determined to use his experience in agricultural science in his new country. He eventually talked the Experimental Station in Geneva into hiring him, where he quickly made waves with his assertion that vinifera could be grown successfully in the Finger Lakes. At the time, French hybrids were the only wine grapes accepted as viable in the area, but based on his experience growing vinifera in the Ukarine, Dr. Frank was adamant that it could be grown in the Finger Lakes.

Over the years, he was able to use his knowledge and experience to prove that he was indeed correct and that vinifera could grow and flourish in the region. His experiments with different grapes and growing conditions helped to inspire and educate other local winemakers and many credit his influence with the fact that vinifera is widely grown in the Finger Lakes today. But the path to this acceptance was a long and bumpy one and it certainly makes for a good read.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2014 Gruner Veltliner Finger LakesDr. Frank’s dogged determination to see his dream of high-quality vinifera as the only wine grapes grown in the Finger Lakes was, however, not to be. While he railed against hybrids, they still make up a large and successful part of Finger Lakes wine production. But there was much more to Dr. Frank and to his company’s continued success in creating some of the best vinifera wines in New York State.

There’s lots of interesting tidbits about the region’s history in this book and it’s clear that Russ has done extensive research about the family. An enjoyable and informative read that will appeal to any wine history buff.

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social.