Take home a vine souvenir.

Wine Tasting in the Finger Lakes

JusByJulie

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Ice cream and wine slushies….Yikes!! When my husband Steve and I pulled into Geneva, NY after a four-hour drive from Toronto, this was the sign that greeted us. What’s a girl to do but try one! Wine slushie that is. I went for the white zinfandel. Way too sweet and not my style, but what the heck, when in Rome do as the Romans. After settling into our historic B&B, the William Smith Inn, we headed out on the wine trail. Theresa Gage, our B&B host noted “Don’t stick only to the Seneca Wine Trail map, that’s for advertising purposes only and not all the wineries are on it. There are around 100 within driving distance.” She provided us with a copy of the Finger Lakes Wineries map and circled all the best quality operations. “Don’t try to do them all. This just gives you an idea,” she warned.

The day was perfect, warm, sunny, and being a Monday the wineries were not very busy. Steve, ever gallant, let me do the lion’s share of the tasting since he was driving. Here is a list of our favorites…you’ll see I’m more of a dry white fan, but a few of the reds were quite impressive.

THE WINERIES

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Billsboro Winery.
Billsboro Winery.
  • Billsboro Winery – 2013 Sauvignon Blanc was dry and OK, but the real champ was the 2012 Riesling (got 91 points in New York Wine and Classic judging. Only 349 cases produced. Cost was $17 a bottle.). The red that stood out was the 2012 Cabernet Franc, American oak aged for nine months, full bodied yet fruity with a deep cranberry hue.
  • Fox Run Vineyard & Café – 2013 Chardonnay. I am not a huge chard fan, but this lemony, nectarine wine was lovely, fresh with a light crispness. At $10.99, it was a steal. I also liked the 2013 Dry Riesling (tart, citrus with tangy acidity). 2013 Rosé of Lemberger was a definite hit. The Austrian Lemberger grape is a new fave of mine. Fragrant, floral with a spicy cherry hint. The impressive reds were a 2012 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger (pepper, blackcurrant, blackberry jam), and the 2012 Merlot (cedar meets plum jam – BIG).
A golden mascot in front of Fox Run Vineyard & Cafe.
A golden mascot in front of Fox Run Vineyard & Cafe.
  • Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard– Rosé Cuvée was a dry and refreshing winner with a mix of pinot noir, cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes. The Frost Cuvée 2011 was a great summer sipper with a gewürztraminer honey flavor dominating the blend (also including chardonnay, Riesling, gruner veltliner and sauvignon blanc grapes). I also liked the Dry Riesling 2013, a super smooth yet crisp and elegant wine.

LUNCH BREAK

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Watkins Glen – Village Marina Bar & Grill. I had a house salad with grilled chicken banana peppers, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber. The regular size was just right, no need to super size. Steve had Cornell Chicken sandwich on a ciabatta roll with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo (hormone and antibiotic free, from a small family farm). The chicken marinade was a classic Cornell vinegar sauce, invented in 1946 by Dr. Robert Baker of Cornell University. He was asked to come up with unique dish aimed at getting folks to eat more chicken because up to that point chickens were used mostly for eggs, not meat. According to our menu, his creation of this marinade changed the world. Cornell chicken is featured annually at the NY State Fair. I had a glass of J.R. Dill sauvignon blanc – yum. Steve had a local brew, Rock Stream Pilsner

Cafe Britt

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BACK TO THE WINERIES

Great German-style wines at Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard.
Great German-style wines at Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard.
  • Damiani Wine Cellars – A tiny operation hilltop with a lovely westward view over Lake Seneca. My favorite was the 2012 Bollicini, a bubbly prosecco style wine with lots of bounce and sass. The2012 Dry Riesling was impressive, crisp yet with a muscular citrus undertone. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc started nicely but finished a little soft. Other wines of note were the 2012 Gewurztraminer and the 2013 Rosé.
  • J.R. Dill Winery – After my luncheon wine, the J.R. Dill 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, I had to stop in here and I bought a bottle for $18. Crisp, citrus, muscular and complex. Loved this little operation that featured a wall of black and white, Seneca Lake historic photos. Only eight years old, this winery has great potential. It’s home of a line of Jabber Waulkie wines that feature a dragon-ish creature on the label (Seneca Lake’s Nessie?)—but they sounded a little sweet for my taste buds. As for reds, my pick was the 2011 DeFranc, a blend of cabernet franc and DeChaunac (a French American hybrid developed c. 1860 to weather the local climate) – peppery, blackberry with lot of backbone.

NEXT TIME

So many wineries, so little time! Here are more of Theresa’s picks that we will pop into on our next trip: 2 Goats Brewing (beer), Atwater Estate Vineyards, Chateau LaFayette, Shalestone Vineyards, Silver Thread Vineyard, Lamoreaux Landing (I went here around 10 years ago and it was excellent then).
People told me the Finger Lakes wine wasn’t up to par before we left, and I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there are still lots of operations to please the bachelorette, soda pop (slushie) aficionados, but I found there were many that pleased my palette as well. We will be going back.
Maureen enjoys a tasting at Damiani Wine Cellars.
Maureen enjoys a tasting at Damiani Wine Cellars.

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