Central New York Wine Country

Central New York does not produce as much wine as other places in the US like California and Washington and as a result there is no wine being exported outside the state and most people don't know that there is such a thing as New York State wine. I assure you that there is such a thing. The wine coming out of the Finger Lakes Region of New York, part of Upstate New York, Western New York, or Central New York, depending on where you're from, is some of the best in the world. The Rieslings in particular are world class and there are several excellent varieties such as the earthy Lemberger and the light, fruity Cayuga White that are only found here.

The map above is one that I have produced from a variety of sources including pamphlets, websites, Google Maps, tips from friends (thanks Cody!), and my own drives through the area. The stars on the map indicate wineries that have at least one truly fantastic wine and are well worth visiting. The diamonds are wineries that I have visited recently and have reviewed below. Because I my wine notes continue to evolve and because I am not in the habit of using a spit bucket on my wine tours the reviews vary widely in quality. All the other wineries are on the bucket list. As you can see there are plenty to keep anyone busy for a long while.

About My Reviews

I am not a professional wine taster. I have never even attended a wine tasting course. I have, however, tasted every wine listed on this page as well as a number of non-NYS wines. I started to keep track of wines for myself when I found myself forgetting things. Then I decided to share my notes. This is a work in progress and older reviews are likely of lower quality than newer ones. I am always trying to improve my palate and my notes.

Most of my notes are self-explanatory. What do the numbers mean? A 3/5 is an average wine of a particular varietal or style as compared to all such wines that I have tried. A 3/5 Riesling, for example, is quite average compared to all Rieslings worldwide. What about something like Kings Garden's Royal Pain? They call it a "Sweet Wine", which I can only assume falls under the category of dessert wines, so I compare it as such.

In any case, a 3/5 is not a bad score. It's average. 5/5 is an absolutely fantastic wine and 1/5 is the opposite extreme. YMMV.

The Reviews

Keuka Lake

Dr Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars: Last visited February 2015. The man and the legend. This is the original New York State winery. 'Nuf said.

Hunt Country Vineyards: Last visited February 2015. A smaller winery on a hill just off Keuka Lake, this is one of the few wineries in that area that are open daily through the winter. They are the first vineyard in the US to produce ice wines and have an excellent wine of this class to show for their efforts as well as a number of other very good wines and a friendly atmosphere.

Seneca Lake

Kings Garden Vineyards: Last visited January 2015. A small winery on the east side of Seneca with a nice Merlot.

Standing Stone Vineyards: Last visited January 2015. A small winery. They describe themselves as specializing in dry wines, but they do have a few dessert offerings and a Vidal.

Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars: Last visited January 2015. Big, spacious, pleasant winery. Service throughout the Finger Lakes is generally good, but the quality control here in particular stands out. They own several plots of land on the east side of Seneca Lake and offer Rieslings from individual plots as well as house blends. A wide variety of other wines to try as well.

Billsboro Winery: This winery actually has two locations. The one I've visited is the one on the upper west side of Seneca Lake.

Pompous Ass Winery: A small winery with a funny name. For me there is one wine in particular that puts this place on the map and it isn't even really a wine. See below.

Chateau LaFayette Reneau: I'm surprised how long this place has been around since I only discovered it in 2014. At the time I had been drinking Rieslings for a while, they are my favorite grape, and I thought I had them pretty well covered. This place surprised me by giving me a new favorite Riesling to enjoy. As a bonus I have been able to find this one at my local liquor store. Hooray!

Monello: Dear Monello, you need a website. This is a small, relatively young winery with a couple of interesting offerings.

Rock Stream Winery: A small, cozy winery on the west side of Seneca. The owner seems quite happy to share wine and conversation when I stop in. Unfortunately, my notes on many of these wines are sparse as this is often one of my last wine tour stops due to the location. The reviews below that are of any length are from wines I thought good enough to buy and review at home. The others were not particularly noteworthy, but sadly I cannot rightly say why.

Three Brothers Winery: With two exceptions listed below, every wine and beer I tried here was too terrible to mention. The ones listed below do not make a return visit worthwhile.

Fulkerson Winery: This entry is here so I don't forget that I've actually visited this place and tried their wines. I don't have listed which ones I tried, but not a single one was good. They are all sickly sweet and tasteless. Don't bother, not even out of curiosity.

Glenory Wine Cellars: Sadly, this is another winery that I have not visited in a while. Their Dry Riesling was my favorite for a long time and is still an amazing wine. Their whites are generally very good with the exception of their Pinot Blanc. Their reds and "signature" wines are also not very good. I wish I had a more detailed review of these to share.

Cayuga Lake

Hosmer Winery: Last visited January 2015. The Lemberger here is what turned me on to Finger Lakes red wines. Unfortunately, I do have to say that I've had some mixed experiences here. I have been here and been treated very well - a bit of background on the wine and the winery and freshly opened, delicious wine. I have also been here and been served wine that tasted like it had been opened, recorked, and left in the back seat of somebody's car during a warm summer weekend. In complete silence. And then, quite rightly, the salesperson seemed surprised when I wanted to buy a case. I assume that a winery will respect itself enough to offer its best wine for tasting and put forward its best foot in salesmanship when customers show up. I continue to enjoy the wine here and will visit again to see what's new, but I hope they get the kinks worked out of their service before then. Another point - if these folks are serving wine opened days ago, are the bad wines I tried here and rated below really bad or was it just a bad bottle? What if somebody comes here for the first time and gets a bad tasting of a great wine? This is no way to run a winery, folks. Okay, getting off the soapbox.

Eleven Lakes Winery: I've never written any notes while at this winery, but I have been here several times and I have never been disappointed by their wines after trying everything they have in house. Excellent, friendly service, too. One wine in particular that I recall being particularly good here is the Cayuga White. Sadly, no notes. Go and check them out! If you're coming from anywhere near Central New York you are likely to hit this winery rather early on your trip and it is well worth a stop.

Knapp Winery: Don't bother with the brandy or the grappa. Some of their other offerings are better.

Swedish Hill Winery: Last visited February 2015. A pleasant winery with a large outdoor area where activities are held during the summer and a great mascot. Their wines are a mixed bag, but I have no strong feelings about any of them. I often throw this winery into a wine tour just because of the location, it being rather convenient as a place to "warm up" when driving from the Syracuse area.

Varick Winery & Vineyard: Some nice wines here, but nothing outstanding.

Goose Watch Winery: I've visited this place at least twice, but still have very few real notes on it. Third time's the try?

Buttonwood Grove Winery: Their dry white wines are unremarkable. The rest are likewise not particularly good, but I have more notes on them below.

Toro Run Winery: Nice location and friendly staff. Some nice wines, but a bit pricey for what you get.

Frontenac Point Vineyard: Been a while since I was here and, unfortunately, I did not get around to updating this before I forgot the details. Overall the wines didn't seem spectacular to me, but the port was interesting and they had a few other good offerings. Also of note, the service was very friendly.

Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery: Having trouble remembering the place itself in much detail, but they have an interesting take on some of their wines and they do quite well with it. A nice honey finish across the board.

Sheldrake Point Winery: Unremarkable. Crowded. Busy busy busy. Good place to bring your bachelorette party or a busload of tourists.

Lucas Vineyards: A nice reserve Syrah, but not much else.

Americana Winery: Nothing here stood out to me, but I have no specific notes.

Montezuma Winery: They have an interesting sparkling mead and cranberry bog. Nothing particularly good.

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