10 Best Finger Lakes Wineries Every Vino Enthusiast Should Visit
It's always wine o' clock at these top-notch Finger Lakes wineries!
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Finger Lakes wineries you’ll love
Pristine glacial lakes. Rolling hills and apple orchards. Shorelines speckled with some of the best wineries that turn out world-class vino. This is what awaits visitors to New York’s Finger Lakes region. While Long Island’s wineries tend to get all the attention in the Empire State, more people are starting to take notice of these underrated northern New York gems and putting a trip to the best Finger Lakes wineries on their must-do lists.
“The Finger Lakes is a pretty unique region, and it [probably] hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should,” says Courtney Wieland, a sommelier and Director of Private Clients at Thatcher’s Wine. She adds that the region’s Rieslings, in particular, are on the rise, though a variety of stellar wines are produced here. And between the on-site sampling at the wineries and some amazing complementary experiences, it’s the ideal place for a mini vacation or a weekend getaway, whether you’re looking for a girls trip or a romantic escape with your partner.
What are the Finger Lakes?
The Finger Lakes are 11 long and winding lakes in upper New York that—you guessed it—resemble fingers. From west to east, they are Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles and Otisco. Lake Ontario is north of the region, while Pennsylvania lies to the south. If you’re coming from Manhattan, the closest of these lakes, Lake Seneca, is about 300 miles northwest of the city (or about a five-and-a-half-hour drive). The closest midsize to big cities include Rochester, Syracuse, Canandaigua and Ithaca.
What are the Finger Lakes known for?
Wine, of course! Specifically, the Finger Lakes are best known for their Rieslings and sparkling-wine options, though winemakers in the region grow everything from niche Italian grapes to Pinot Noir. In addition to being located in beyond gorgeous spots, some of the wineries here also offer cool culinary programs and special seasonal programming, and some can be accessed via wine trails. Whatever your draw, it’s clear that there’s something special happening upstate, and in fact, the Finger Lakes wine region earns millions more annual visitors than the far more famous Napa Valley! (Though, of course, you’ll also want to visit those California hot spots, as well as the wineries in Oregon.)
How we chose the best Finger Lakes wineries
With more than 100 wineries in the area, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the choices. To help narrow down the options, we tapped wine-industry insiders and sommeliers familiar with the area for their picks. Then, we double-checked their suggestions using TripAdvisor to make sure the average consumer would enjoy trips to these suggested spots. (Pro tip: Before booking one of these vineyard experiences, please remember to check if you need an appointment or reservation ahead of time.)
Here’s our list of the best Finger Lakes wineries, sure to inspire wanderlust for wine aficionados and casual enthusiasts alike. Sip, sip, hooray!
Red Newt Cellars
Best for: Riesling lovers
Known for its aromatic offerings, including Rieslings, Red Newt is located on the east side of pretty Seneca Lake and has been a staple of the Finger Lakes wine scene for nearly 25 years. An on-site bistro welcomes guests with farm-to-table small bites designed to complement the cellars’ wine portfolio—and you won’t want to miss the meat-and-cheese board. Other small snacks include candied nuts, warm baguettes and local Ithaca hummus.
But, of course, the main draw is the wine. “Red Newt offers up good minerality,” explains Hannah Selinger, a sommelier and James Beard Award–nominated lifestyle writer. “That slate component is what draws Riesling lovers to it.” Besides its famed Rieslings, Red Newt produces Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris and additional varietals. Take home a few bottles as gifts for the wine lovers in your life.
Best time of year to visit: Fall or spring, to avoid the peak crowds of summer
Tasting prices: $12 for a wine flight (which consists of four 2-ounce samples)
Hero wine: The Knoll, a 2016 Riesling from Lahoma Vineyards, and the 2019 Circle Riesling
Red Tail Ridge Winery
Best for: Eco-conscious wine enthusiasts
Another Seneca Lake showstopper, Red Tail Ridge Winery produces both popular varieties as well as more creative choices, and wine enthusiasts can find everything from unoaked Chardonnay to Pét-nat to Riesling. This boutique operation, owned by a husband-and-wife team, focuses on sustainability, and it’s the only LEED gold-certified green winery in all of New York State. (A LEED certification means that sustainability markers, such as lower carbon emission and improved efficiency, have been met.) As part of its sustainable model, this Finger Lakes winery also donates 10% of proceeds to community initiatives, such as improving food security in upstate New York.
“Winemaker Nancy Irelan has a PhD in grape genetics and spent a decade at E&J Gallo before branching out on her own,” notes Rebecca Holland, a wine, food and travel writer and certified sommelier based in Chicago. “Now, she’s focused on uncharted territory, like planting the red Italian grape variety Teroldego, [which is] primarily grown in Trentino-Aldo, in Seneca.” This type of ingenuity in an up-and-coming wine area will add to the region’s lore.
Best time of year to visit: Spring, to enjoy the scenic patio
Tasting prices: $15 to try five current releases
Hero wine: RTR Estate Vineyard Dry Riesling for “summer sipping.” Holland calls out this wine’s stone-fruit and honey taste, accompanied by plenty of acidity and a lemon finish. She also recommends Blaufränkisch, “a dark purple wine with blueberry, black pepper and clove notes … and the perfect companion to grilled lamb.”
Hillick & Hobbs Estate
Best for: Wine enthusiasts and new wine fans
Another delightful winery on Seneca Lake, Hillick & Hobbs is a brand-new offering in the area, as of June 2022. A nod to the proprietor Paul Hobbs’s family farm roots, “the vineyard is dedicated to his parents, who once grew grapes on land in New York,” notes Kari Korenchen, a sommelier and beverage professional based in Omaha. “Paul Hobbs is a big name, but few outside of the wine world know about this Finger Lakes expansion.”
Wine enthusiasts will enjoy the chance to get in early and snag their first vintage from this Riesling-only outfit. Korenchen thinks both hardcore wine fans and newcomers will enjoy this winery because the focus on one varietal makes it approachable—and Hobbs has also earned the respect of the industry. This makes Hillick & Hobbs a prime destination for groups whose members may not all be die-hard wine enthusiasts.
Best time of year to visit: As soon as possible, since it’s a new spot not overridden with crowds yet. We can’t promise that once the word gets out about this hidden gem!
Tasting prices: $20 for the Estate Vertical Experience, which comes complete with a curated cheese board
Hero wine: 2019 Estate Vineyard (H&H’s first vintage)
Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars
Best for: Wine nerds (especially those who know these terms)
Hickory Hollow is a wine operation located in Dundee, and one of the few that doesn’t require reservations ahead of time for tastings. Though it’s been around for quite a while, it was recently purchased and reinvigorated by popular local winemaker Nathan Kendall. Charles Miller, a sommelier and brand manager for SOM Wines, says that Kendall is engaging in some of the “coolest” and “most unique” projects right now, with each one more innovative than the next. Interesting methods, nontraditional grapes and funky combinations are just some of what keep fans of this winemaker on their toes and impatiently waiting for the next release.
Kendall is also a Finger Lakes native who champions low-intervention winemaking in his home region. For those unfamiliar with the term, low-intervention wines tend to be more naturally produced, without additives such as sulfites and commercial yeasts.
Best time of year to visit: Fall, spring or summer
Tasting prices: $10 for a tasting (which includes five wines)
Hero wine: 2020 Nathan K. Chardonnay, which Miller calls “somehow both opulent and restrained at the same time”
Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
Best for: Old World wine aficionados
One can’t-miss Finger Lakes winery is Dr. Konstantin Frank on Keuka Lake, arguably the prettiest lake in New York. This historic home turned winery even boasts the oldest Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay vines in the eastern United States. “Frank was basically responsible for bringing vinifera to the Finger Lakes,” explains Selinger. For more than six decades, this winery, a longtime champion of European varietals in the new world, has welcomed guests to the region. The main tasting room is indoors, while a more casual outdoor seating area, Eugenia’s Garden, provides an another option and experience.
Best time of year to visit: Spring, for the fresh garden blooms and the energy of a new season
Tasting prices: $15 for a signature seated tasting; $75 for a more elaborate food and wine experience
Hero wine: Any Rkatsiteli offering. Selinger explains that this interesting white varietal, made from a European grape, is designed to be consumed upon release. “It’s very floral and tropical, and pairs well with spicy food, the way [Gewürztraminer] does,” she says.
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard & Winery
Best for: Wine fans looking for a big selection
Looking to visit a pioneer in the region? You can’t go wrong with Hermann J. Wiemer, situated on the scenic western shore of Seneca Lake. “Founded in 1979, it is one of the classical producers that shines a light on Riesling in all its Finger Lakes glory,” enthuses Michael Kennedy, a sommelier and vintner with Vin Fraîche Wine Group. “As a sommelier, this is one of the hallmark estates that we benchmark other producers on—it has absolutely stunning wines.”
Pay close attention to the on-site vineyard map, a well-loved part of the tasting-room experience. Besides Riesling, Wiemer offers numerous other white options like Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner. Pinot Noir, Merlot, Rosé, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the red wine choices, while dessert wines and sparkling wines round out this expansive portfolio.
Best time of year to visit: Fall, to enjoy the shifting seasonal beauty and fall foliage on the 90-acre grounds
Tasting prices: Average is $10 to $15, but tastings are designed to be a la carte to create personal flights for guests
Hero wine: 2018 HJW Bio Riesling. According to Kennedy, “this wine is bright, fresh and salty, with gorgeous texture and a vibrant palate. I love this wine with summer ceviche & grilled corn.”
Best for: Riesling and Pinot Noir lovers
Situated on the east side of Seneca Lake, Forge is an excellent option for Finger Lakes wineries, and Wieland is a big fan. It has elegant snack options, such as locally cured meats and regional cheeses, available to pair with its expansive wine portfolio. It also uses traditional and handcrafted methods to showcase its terroir (or the environmental factors that give the grapes their distinctive character), hand-harvesting the grapes and utilizing spontaneous fermentation techniques. You’ll find stellar Pinot Noir, Dry Riesling and Cabernet Franc here.
Best time of year to visit: Anytime but winter, when the tasting room is closed
Tasting prices: $20 per person
Hero wine: Any of the lieux dit (single vineyard) Rieslings. Wieland shares, “To me, they had more depth, concentration and overall intrigue than others I have tasted. Great for near-term drinking, and I am looking forward to seeing them age as well!”
Best for: Those looking for a unique wine-tasting experience
This rustic winery, which opened in 2013 and operates in a 170-year-old barn, takes a nontraditional approach to winemaking. “They work as more of a collective of winemakers, each tinkering and collaborating under one roof [to] perfect the results,” explains Korenchen. “It’s a great visit for wine nerds, people with a drive to support grassroots and community, or those who want low-key yet intimate experiences and access to wines they can’t get anywhere else.”
This pretty property consists of 16 acres that produce wines including Rieslings, Cabernet Franc, Blaufränkisch red and rosé, and Sangiovese Rosé. Guests to Barnstormer Winery can also enjoy locally sourced snacks like cheeses, cured meats and pickled items to pair with their wine flights. A “build-your-own-picnic” food choice adds another fun, customized layer to already exciting tasting options.
Best time of year to visit: Fall, to best appreciate the rustic-barn vibes
Tasting prices: $12 for five wines and $16 for a Riesling-focused flight; private cabanas can be rented for groups up to 12
Hero wine: Blaufränkisch. “The underrated varietal Blaufränkisch/Lemberger is a great alternative for those who have out-Riesling’d themselves, prefer a red or simply want a surprising experience,” says Korenchen.
Silver Thread Vineyard
Best for: Return visitors to the Finger Lakes wineries, especially those seeking an educational experience
Here, a little off the beaten path, you’ll find one of the oldest grape-growing sites on the Finger Lakes and be treated to Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and numerous sparkling options. A hidden gem of Seneca Lake, Silver Thread is “working with biodynamic and regenerative agriculture—not the easiest in the climate of the Finger Lakes—and it is very impressive,” says Wieland. “Paul and Shannon have a ton of knowledge, and it is translating into the wines.”
Known for its sustainably grown estate wines, this spot provides an ideal backdrop to learn more about the wines of the Finger Lakes. A vineyard tour option provides extra educational opportunities for those interested in an in-depth look at the wine-making process. Aside from visiting a winery that focuses on sustainable practices, here’s how you can be a more sustainable traveler.
Best time of year to visit: Summer, when the hero wine shines
Tasting prices: $15 for a flight, $25 for a vineyard tour and tasting, and $30 for a wine cellar tasting
Hero wine: Good Earth White. This wine, Wieland explains, is “a blend of Riesling and hybrid grapes that were created locally at Cornell. The value is great for summer, as it’s juicy, fresh and really drinkable.”
F.L.X. Wienery/Element Wines
Best for: Foodies
Located along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, F.L.X. Wienery is a hybrid restaurant/winery, and a favorite of Kennedy. “Started by master sommelier and hospitality master Christopher Bates, this winery focuses on capturing the cool climate and unique terroir of Finger Lakes—and with it, one of the best restaurants in the region,” he explains. “[With] red, white and much more, this experience will prove the Finger Lakes is nothing less than a world-class region.”
Guests can expect hearty comfort food with creative twists, like a well-reviewed kimchi burger, for stick-to-your-ribs goodness. Wines available on the property are from Bates’s own Element Wines label, lovingly crafted to perfection and available on draft or via full bottle. Bestsellers from this expansive brand include Cuvée (a sparkling pick), Red Table Wine, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. Interestingly, guests can also bring their own wine to the Wienery without incurring a corkage fee, though a small charge will be added for the use of wine glasses.
Best time of year to visit: Winter, for home-cooked comfort in the coziest season
Tasting prices: Per glass prices vary; no flights are available at this location
Hero wine: 2014 Cabernet Franc. Kennedy calls it “excellent,” noting that it’s “bright, fresh and energetic.”
- Courtney Wieland, sommelier and Director of Private Clients at Thatcher’s Wine
- Hannah Selinger, sommelier and James Beard Award–nominated lifestyle writer
- Rebecca Holland, wine, food and travel writer and Certified Sommelier based in Chicago
- Kari Korenchen, beverage professional and sommelier
- Michael Kennedy, sommelier and vintner of Vin Fraîche Wine Group
- Charles Miller, sommelier and brand manager for SOM Wines