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.
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.
- 2008 Brut: 5/5: full bodied, earthy, and delicious
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 4/5: Even though this is the original, it's difficult to maintain superiority in a region where this grape grows so well. This is a good dry Riesling, but it's not the best.
- 2013 Rkatsiteli: 4/5: sweet and earthy, almost like a white Merlot
- 2012 Muscat Ottonel: 4/5: sweet with hints of peach and apricot
- 2012 Lemberger: 2/5: too light
- 2012 Merlot: 3/5: smooth with a bit of spice
- 2010 Merlot Reserve: 2/5: much too spicey
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.
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 4/5: a good Riesling with a hint of green apple
- 2013 Vidal Blanc: 4/5: dry, earthy, and spicy, this is a very nice dry Vidal Blanc
- 2013 Seyval Blanc: 5/5: Not normally a grape I regard highly, this particular wine is tart, light and has a hint of strawberry. There is a lot of flavor in this one and it's definitely a wine I will be looking for again.
- 2012 Cabernet Franc: 4/5: earthy, balanced and smooth
- 2012 Cayuga White: 3/5: a sweet Cayuga White, perhaps too much so, with a bit of strawberry taste to it
- 2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine: 5/5: Orange, honey and grape are among the flavors I could pick out of this complex and amazingly flavorful dessert wine. This might be the best ice wine I have ever had.
Kings Garden Vineyards: Last visited January 2015. A small winery on the east side of Seneca with a nice Merlot.
- 2010 Merlot: 5/5: Merlot is not my wine of choice, but this is a very good one. Oaky and earthy with hints of cherry and plenty of tannins, there is a lot of complexity in this wine.
- 2010 Cabernet Franc: 3/5: Not a particularly interesting example of this grape.
- 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon: 3/5: A light Cabernet Sauvignon without much distinctive flavor otherwise.
- 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: 3/5: Bold and peppery, this is a completely different wine from the 2009.
- Royal Pain: 2/5: Sweet, almost sickeningly so.
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.
- 2013 Dry Vidal: 2/5: This is the dry version of their Vidal. Same grape, less sweet. It has the tart, citrus taste of that grape, but doesn't work well as a dry wine in my opinion. I did not try their regular Vidal to compare as this is clearly not their focus.
- 2013 Riesling: 4/5: This tastes like a medium dry Riesling to me. Hints of orange and honey. A tasty wine, but it is difficult to make a Riesling that truly stands out in the Finger Lakes.
- 2013 Gewürztraminer: 3/5: Again, a good Gewürz, but nothing outstanding. Perhaps a bit more earthy than others, which is not a bad thing.
- 2013 Saperavi: 3/5: An earthy, nutty wine. This grape is originally from the country of Georgia and I have been told that it was brought to this region by Dr Konstantin Frank - the one whose name is on the winery. Standing Stone may be the only winery aside from that one that offers this wine. I have not encountered it before this tasting. I cannot recommend getting it, but it merits tasting.
- 2013 Riesling Old West Block: 4/5: Much like the regular Riesling, but with a bit more kick. Perky is what I originally wrote, but I don't remember what I meant by that.
- 2012 Vidal Ice: 4/5: A smooth, sweet white dessert wine with a hint of cotton candy flavor. As a dessert wine I can tentatively recommend it, but it is a bit pricey for a Finger Lakes wine at $25 for a 375 mL bottle.
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.
- 2013 Grüner Veltliner: 3/5: A light, peppery wine that tastes similar to a Gewürztraminer.
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 5/5: Tart and fruity with green apple and lime flavors, just like the brochure advertises. This is the house blend Riesling and it is quite tasty.
- 2013 Yellow Dog Vineyard Riesling: 4/5: This is one of the lot specific Rieslings offered at Lamoreaux. There are two others, but I did not want to get Riesling'd out and I was curious to try some of the other wines here. I found this particular Riesling to be a bit too slanted toward the tart, citrus flavors, particularly orange. The dry Riesling offerings here make for an interesting study in wine blending and how a slight change in terrain can significantly alter the grape.
- 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling: 5/5: The grape taste comes out strong in this one and there is also a hint of honey in it. Another excellent Riesling, this one without the bite of the dry blend.
- 2013 Gewürztraminer: 4/5: Bold and spicy with a lingering citrus flavor, this is a very nice Gewürz.
- 2013 T23 Cabernet Franc: 5/5: This is an interesting wine in that it is an unoaked Cabernet Franc. Normally this is a wine that is heavy and oaky, and it is nearly unthinkable, at least in my mind, that it would be otherwise. At least, that was until I tried this particular wine. The T23 is fruity and mildly sweet, with berry flavors. There is no oakiness to it, just grape. At the same time, it is unmistakeably a Cabernet Franc, just without the oak flavor. In addition to this being a particularly interesting wine in itself, it brings to mind a young port. Could it be aged? In fact, it can. Lamoreaux Landing offers a 2007 version of this same wine as part of their library collection.
- 2011 Cabernet Franc: 4/5: This is the above wine in an oak barrel. It is a typical, musky, steak wine. Still very good, but more on par with its peers.
Billsboro Winery: This winery actually has two locations. The one I've visited is the one on the upper west side of Seneca Lake.
- 2012 Dry Riesling: 5/5: light body; light, delicate, spicy flavor
- 2012 Pinot Noir: 3/5: doesn't have the usual pinot bite, which is something I enjoy, but I still don't enjoy Pinot Noir much as a grape and can't speak highly for this one
- 2012 Cabernet Franc: 3/5: boring and light with some smoky flavor
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.
- 2011 Riesling: 4/5: sweet and full bodied
- 2011 Big Ass Blind: 3/5
- Highfalutin Red: 3/5: fully, velvety, semi-sweet
- Pretentious Port: 5/5: This is, without a doubt, the finest port I have ever tasted. Nutty, sweet, and mildly spicy, this is an extremely smooth, medium body port that first turned me on to port wines and still remains my favorite.
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!
- 2012 Semi Dry Riesling: 4/5: much like the dry, but sweeter, which makes me sad
- 2013 Semi Dry Riesling: 5/5: fuller fruit flavor than the 2012 creating a better balance with the slightly toned down sweetness
- 2012 Dry Riesling: 5/5: This is the ticket, a tart, fruity, well balanced Riesling with medium body. It has boatloads of well deserved rewards. I'm a little scared because it's 2015 now and I'm hoping the next batch of the dry doesn't disappoint and I can't imagine how it'll live up to this wine. Luckily, this is the Finger Lakes. We do not lack for delicious Rieslings. This just happens to be the best one available right now, which says a lot.
- Seyval Chardonnay: 3/5: A dull, mellow wine that should not be tried after any of the above.
- 2010 Cabernet Franc: 4/5: Smooth, mellow, and medium bodied. A solid cab franc.
- 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: I can't read my rating for this one, but I enjoyed it. Tangy, smooth, and medium bodied.
Monello: Dear Monello, you need a website. This is a small, relatively young winery with a couple of interesting offerings.
- 2013 Vignoles: 5/5: This is not a grape I normally enjoy, but this wine was very good. Tart, with a fairly strong taste of grapefruit. I hope they don't tone it down for the next batch.
- 2012 Seyval Blanc: 2/5: boring, gritty
- 2013 Riesling: 4/5: A smooth and rather boring Riesling, but not unsatisfactory.
- Dry Rose: 1/5: I'm just going to pretend this one didn't happen and I don't plan on trying it again.
- Pelo Rose: 3/5: earthy, but boring
- 2011 Cabernet Franc: 4/5
- Ruby Port: 3/5: nice flavor, but much too young to drink
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.
- 2013 Dry Cayuga White: 4/5: I have seen this grape made into both a dry and a sweet wine with mixed success. This is one of the dry Cayuga Whites that really works. The fruit comes out clearly, much like a Riesling, but unlike a dry Riesling it has very little of that dry "bite". Very tasty and an excellent price point making this a lovely table wine.
- 2011 Dry Cayuga White: an interesting wine for which I have no rating, this being one of the first I remember rating
- 2013 Dry Niagara: 4/5: Another great table wine, this one is crisper than the Cayuga White without losing any of the great fruit. It might be described as something between a Riesling and a Pinot Gris.
- 2010 Dry Riesling: 3/5: Not particularly noteworthy.
- 2012 Pinot Gris: 3/5: Doesn't have the strong puckery taste that most wines of this grape tend to have, which is a good thing, but not particularly noteworthy either.
- 2010 Cabernet Franc: 3/5: Strong oak flavor, but otherwise nothing special here either.
- 2009 Vignoles: 5/5: Tart, sweet, citrus-y and silky smooth, this is an excellent dessert wine and can serve as an alternative to an after dinner Port.
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.
- Zero Degree Riesling: 4/5
- First Degree Riesling: 5/5: a very tasty semi-dry Riesling - I wish I had written more.
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.
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.
- 2013 Cabernet Franc: 5/5: What a difference between this year and the previous one! This is a medium bodied, earthy wine with hints of raspberry. Strong rival to the Lemberger if you like this sort of thing.
- 2013 Dry Rose: 1/5: bitter and mild, this is pretty awful
- 2012 Cabernet Franc: 4/5: good, but why bother when you can have the Lemberger?
- 2012 Lemberger: 5/5: This is another one of those ridiculously good wines that forces me to completely change my rating scale, not to mention my views on Finger Lakes wines. Earthy and full-bodied, this is truly delicious. Note: I won't change my original review, but I tasted this wine again on my last visit to the winery and was offered a heavy, musky wine that had clearly been out too long. Being possibly my favorite red wine in the Finger Lakes, I hope you can understand my disappointment.
- 2012 Vintners Reserve Riesling: No rating. Puckery with hints of apricot. A bit too much like a Pinot.
- 2012 Dry Riesling: 1/5: This is a huge disappointment, but the Lemberger makes it all better. Just don't bother with the Riesling here. It tastes like a bad Pinot.
- 2012 Single Wheel Dry Riesling: No rating. Less fruity than the other Rieslings, which is not a good thing, but also less like a Pinot, which is a good thing, unless you want a Riesling that tastes like Pinot Gris.
- 2013 Sauvignon Blanc: 5/5: crisp, light, and fruity - isn't it strange to have such extremes of good and bad in one winery?
- 2012 Seyval: 3/5
- 2012 Cayuga White: 4/5: quite sweet with a fullness to match
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.
- 2012 Semi Dry Gewürz: 5/5: This is the best Gewürz I have had, but sadly I did not write anything more about it and it has been a while since I was there.
- 2012 Rose of Cabernet Franc: 3/5: much too mild, just get the real thing
- 2011 Lemberger: 2/5: a Lemberger that tastes like a Pinot
- 2012 Cabernet Franc: 4/5: tasty, but mild
- 2011 Meritage: 2/5
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 4/5
- 2012 KV Estate Dry Riesling: 3/5
- 2012 Cayuga White: 3/5: one of the sweeter varieties of Cayuga White - pretty typical example of the grape
- 2012 Vignoles: 4/5: another fairly typical, sweet Vignoles - good as dessert wine
- Loganberry: worth a try, but not a buy
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.
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 4/5: mild and light, it is pleasant, but not memorable and the grape taste does not much come through
- 2013 Riesling Humphrey: 2/5: This single vineyard wine is a bit sour and lacks the fruity taste I expect in a Riesling. It's certainly interesting, but not in a way I can enjoy.
- 2013 Doyle Gewürz: 4/5: nice and peppery with a medium body and a spiciness that lingers surprisingly long making this a fine sipping wine
- 2013 Vidal Blanc: 4/5: a very nice medium bodied, dry Vidal Blanc tasting of raspberries and butterscotch
- Glogg: 3/5: sweet and spicy
- 2012 Marechal Foch: 1/5
- 2013 Blue Waters Pinot Noir: 3/5
- 2013 Blue Waters Cabernet Franc: 2/5: harsh and unbalanced, it tastes far too much like a Pinot Noir
- Viking Red: 3/5: a lighter, fruiter cab franc
- 2011 Cabernet Franc: 3/5: too light, but I hear this was a bad growing season - curious to try the 2012
- Cabernet Franc Lamberger: 3/5: too much of that light cab franc kills this one
Varick Winery & Vineyard: Some nice wines here, but nothing outstanding.
- 2013 Chardonnay: 4/5: Light and fruity without the oak taste.
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 2/5: Too mild to make out much.
- 2013 Seyval Blanc: 3/5: Tart, almost to the degree of a Pinot.
- 2013 Merlot: 3/5: Mild, but flavorful to a degree.
- 2012 Cabernet Franc: 3/5: Spicy, but not particularly remarkable.
- 2013 Vignoles Reserve: 4/5: I remember liking this, but neglected to take more detailed notes. Bummer>
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?
- 2011 Riesling Gewürz: 3/5
- 2012 Melody: 4/5
- 2013 Aromella: 4/5
- 2011 Voignier: 3/5: fruity and Riesling-ly
- 2011 Traminette: interesting with a very minimal taste
- Red Moscato: 5/5: good sweetness without being sickly
- Pink Moscato: 4/5
- Finale White Port: 4/5: I wish I had written more than 'interesting' for my notes here, but that's all I've got. Worth a try.
- Classic Cream Sherry: 4/5
Buttonwood Grove Winery: Their dry white wines are unremarkable. The rest are likewise not particularly good, but I have more notes on them below.
- Cayuga Lake Mist: 3/5: fruity and light
- Trillium: 3/5: strangely similar to the Cayuga Lake Mist
- Blackberry Velvet: overpowering blackberry taste
- Rose de Lori: much too sweet
Toro Run Winery: Nice location and friendly staff. Some nice wines, but a bit pricey for what you get.
- 2013 Grüner Veltliner: 3/5: Lots of pucker to this one.
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 4/5: Something like apricot or peach, but faint. Very dry.
- 2013 Gewürztraminer: 5/5: One of my favorite Gewürzes in the region! Good amount of spice balanced with that earthiness distinct to this varietal and a definite berry taste. Very well done.
- 2011 Ferro: 4/5: Good for a blend. Peppery, medium bodied, and very little earthiness.
- 2011 Cabernet Franc: 2/5: A poor example of a Cab Franc from the region. Earthier than the Ferro (since this is the varietal giving that blend that feeling in the first place) and a bit spicy, but too much pucker.
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.
- 2010 Riesling: 3/5: Fruity and tart with some pineapple.
- 2008 Chardonnay: 2/5: As the winery menu states, a cool growing season produced a lighter body wine. This one is mild. All I got was a bit of a pepper finish
- 2007 Chardonnay: 3/5: Better than the 2008. Buttery without much oak taste. Otherwise nothing else stood out.
- 2010 Chardonnay: 3/5: Also better than the 2008. Fuller and spicier, but still fairly bland.
- Stay Sail Rose: 4/5: Bold grape taste and plum. Surprisingly good for a rose!
- Clos Frontenac: 4/5: Similar to the rose, but sweeter. Medium body. It's almost a dessert wine.
- 2010 Chambourcin: 3/5: Rose with tannin.
- Port Frontenac: 4/5: Sweet, peppery, slightly less than full bodied port. I don't expect this much kick in a port and I do like the fuller body on a cold winter evening, but this particular port is fantastic for an after dinner treat in the summer.
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.
- 2013 Chardonnay: 5/5: Clear grape flavor with a mild body and a bit of oak. Very well balanced and pleasant.
- 2012 Chardonnay Select: 2/5: Buttery and tart without much else going for it.
- Cabernet Franc: 5/5: Mildly peppery with a lingering honey finish, this is definitely a different take on the Cabernet Franc (in a good way).
- Chancellor: 4/5: Like the Cab Franc, but even milder. Bit of lemon. Just get the Cab Franc.
- Cayuga Cuvee White: 3/5: Cayuga White blended with Chardonnay. Sweet and earthy with a honey taste.
- 2013 Gewürztraminer: 3/5: Berry. Honey. Very little spice. Interesting, but not quite there.
Sheldrake Point Winery: Unremarkable. Crowded. Busy busy busy. Good place to bring your bachelorette party or a busload of tourists.
- 2013 Chardonnay: 3/5: Buttery. Medium bodied. Bit of spice.
- 2013 Dry Riesling: 3/5: Bit of orange flavor. Too much acid.
- 2013 Gewürztraminer: 3/5: Peppery and sweet.
- 2014 Gamay Noir: 2/5: Cranberry juice.
- 2011 Cabernet Franc: 3/5: Too light. Some cucumber taste.
- 2013 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer: 4/5: Orange and honey. Very sweet, nearly overpowering. A late apple finish.
Lucas Vineyards: A nice reserve Syrah, but not much else.
- 2012 Dry Riesling: 4/5: Fruity. Grapefruit. Balanced. Good Riesling.
- 2012 Blues: 2/5: Sweet and medium bodied with some citrus.
- 2013 Dry Rose: 3/5: An interesting take on Cabernet Franc. Mildly sweet with the peppery flavor of a Cab Franc, but milder and without any earthiness.
- 2010 Cabernet Franc Limited Reserve: 3/5: A very typical Cabernet Franc. Nothing wrong with it, but there are so many of these in the Finger Lakes now that it takes a little bit more to stand out.
- 2012 Syrah Limited Reserve: 5/5: I wish I could better understand the scribbles I wrote as notes for this wine. Apparently I liked it. I'll try to figure out why next time I have it.
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.