Upstate New York; A tour through the Finger Lakes Region

As many of you may notice, I do primarily focus on Virginia but do visit other wine making areas of the country. I have also over the past year or two met and become friends with many other oenophiles and/or influenced friends of mine to become one.  A good friend of mine from work went on a vineyard tour in Upstate New York this past Memorial Day weekend, and wanted to share her experiences in the Finger Lakes Region with all of my readers. Obviously, I was delighted to have the opportunity to diversify the blog a little bit and to read about her experiences in another region of the country that I haven’t had the chance to visit yet. With that being said, I bring to you a guest feature from my friend known as “Jeannie”.

Finger Lakes = Fantastic!

My daughter is a college student in Upstate New York. We had agreed that after she turned 21 that we would do a wine tasting tour in the Finger Lakes Region in Upstate New York. Anthony asked me to document our trip for his wine blog. I am definitely no wine connoisseur, so I felt a bit intimidated by writing something. Here is a laywoman’s description of our fantastic day.

Steve with Quality Wine Tours (http://www.qualitywinetours.com) picked us up from my hotel. He was very personable and knowledgeable about the wine industry in the Finger Lakes Region. After some discussion about what we wanted to see and how many wineries we wanted to sample, he suggested we focus on the Lake Seneca area. What a great suggestion!\

We started our tour at Belhurst Estate Winery (www.belhurst.com). Belhurst is a gorgeous stone castle estate built in the 1800’s and is located on Seneca Lake. It was just recently named as one of the Top 100 Romantic Inns and Resorts. All that’s fine and good, but what about the wine? The wine tasting was done in the newer section of the estate. Darlene, our server, was gracious and offered a selection of five wines to sample:

2010 Gewürztraminer ($18.95) had a light pale yellow color and had a subtle aroma of pears. The wine was sweet with a little spice to it. It was a little light for my tastes, but was still pretty good.

2010 Riesling ($16.95) was also light pale yellow with nice bubbles when poured. It was not as sweet, and very delicious.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.95) was dark red in color and had a strong nose. It was pretty dry with cherry undertones. A nice wine, but not my favorite.

Carrie Blush ($16.95) had a salmon color and was sweet, but not overly so. I really liked this wine with its wheaty undertone. I could see this as a nice dinner wine for summer.

2010 Dry Rosé ($18.95) had the coolest bottle I’ve ever seen. It was a nice, not overly sweet wine with a pink color.

Next Stop was White Springs Winery (http://www.whitespringswinery.com/). Roger, our server, had a fantastic knowledge of their wines. The building and grounds were pretty modest, but I reminded myself I was on a wine tour, not an architectural tour. I tasted six wines on this tour:

Serendipity ($11.95) was just as its name implies: a wonderful surprise. It was light yellow in color with tones of apricots and berries. It was not too light and not overpowering. My absolute favorite from this winery (my daughter agreed and I bought her a bottle). This is a perfect wine to bring with you for a summer dinner party!

2008 Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio ($14.99) was a 62% Chardonnay/38% Pinot Grigio mixture that was light yellow in appearance and fermented in steel. It had a walnut finish and was a bit too dry for my tastes.

Spring House White ($8.99) was a light yellow and very fruity. It was a nice wine, but a little too sweet and fruity for me.

2008 Pinot Noir ($17.98) had a medium red color with nice black cherry notes and cranberry undertones. It was a very nice wine – dry, but not overly so.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.98) had a dark red color with nice, strong nose. This was no light, wimpy wine with its black cherry tones. It was a hearty wine that would be good with a steak dinner.

Row House Red ($11.99) was my second-favorite wine at this winery. It was medium red in color and had blackberry and plum tones. It was a softer, very drinkable wine. Very nice!

The next stop on the tour was Fox Run Vineyards (http://www.foxrunvineyards.com/). Up until this point, we were having a relaxing, good time. Fox Run Vineyards was swamped with people doing wine tastings. It made it difficult to be relaxed and taste wine when you’re elbow-to-elbow with other patrons, but we did our best. If you go to Fox Run Vineyards, take the time to go their Café to get the custom-made cheese board lunch. YUM. You pick out three different cheeses, and the server will slice them up and serve them with a baguette, grapes, almonds, and baba ganoush. You can have the cheese board alone (with water as we did) or have it paired with their wines. Alex, our server, provided us with six wines to taste:

2008 Reserve Chardonnay ($12.99) was pale, light yellow and tasted sweet and a bit buttery. I’m not a Chardonnay fan, and this wine did not change my mind.

2010 Rosé ($20.00) was light pink in color with strawberry and raspberry tones. It was a pleasant wine, but a little too sweet for my tastes.

2010 Riesling ($13.99) had tones of nectarine and tangerine. It was sweet, but not too sweet.  It had a slight aftertaste, but it was an overall good wine.

Drink NY Riesling ($9.99) was one of the lower priced wines, but one of my favorites. It was light yellow in color and had nectarine, pineapple and mango tastes. It was smooth, yet fruity and not too sweet. Perfect for the approaching summer months. YUM.

2008 Merlot ($14.99) was dark red in color with a woody smell (it was aged in oak, so that makes sense). It had tones of blackberry and spices. It was a decent wine, but not my favorite.

2008 Cabernet Franc ($19.99) was my other favorite at this winery.  It was dark red in color, had a good nose with the hint of raspberries. It was not too dry, not too sweet. Very nice!

The next stop on the tour was Anthony Road Winery (http://anthonyroadwine.com/). This winery has been in operations since the 70’s and had the added distinction of having a gorgeous garden. I sampled seven wines at this winery, and then took pictures of the beautiful gardens. Sampled wines include:

2010 Pinot Gris ($12.99) was very light yellow in color with citrus notes. It had very light undertones and was a nice, drinkable wine.

2009 Semi-Dry Riesling ($15.99 – may not be available online) was one of my favorites. It was pale yellow in color with light citrus notes. Very nice!

2010 Gewürztraminer ($15.99) was also light yellow in color with rose tones. Not my favorite, but it was still a very nice wine.

2010 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger ($19.99) — I had never heard of Lemberger before (thought it was that stinky cheese) and found out that it was wine made from a German/Austrian grape. It made the wine dark red in color with blueberry and mocha notes. There is a definite tang to it, and was not my favorite.

Tony’s Red ($8.99) was the winery’s biggest seller and I can see why. The wine is medium red in color, and is fruity, not too sweet. This was one of my favorites too.

2010 Pinot Noir ($19.99) was light to medium red in color with cranberry notes. It was dry with a bit of a lingering aftertaste. It was good, but not one of my favorites.

I then decided to go for broke, and try one of the wines from their premium selection. Wow! I tasted the 2009 Martini-Reinhardt Riesling ($30, but not available online) and was blown away by the pear and green apple tones of the wine. It was fantastic, and I could have licked the glass clean but couldn’t since I didn’t want to embarrass my college-aged daughter. Only 60 cases of this wine were made, so I fear that I will not be able to purchase any.

Our final winery on the tour was the most modest, but you shouldn’t judge it by its looks. It is very new (less than 2 years in existence) and is off to a good start. Serenity Vineyards doesn’t have a website, so any orders must be done through Darren Bowker, the Winemaker/Sales Manager, at 315-536-6701. They do have a presence on Facebook: Facebook.com/serenityvineyards. Serenity focuses on red wines, but do offer three white wines. I sampled the following:

2008 Riesling ($14.99) was my favorite of the tasting (big surprise, I seem to really like Riesling). It was very pale yellow in color and had nice peach and pear notes. It was not too sweet, not too dry and pretty much perfect.

2006 Pinot Noir ($11.99) was light red in color with cherry and strawberry notes. It had a woody smell to it, and a very nice, light taste to it.

2006 Cabernet Franc ($11.99) was a bit too much for me. It had red raspberry, current and tannin notes. It had a pretty strong nose, and kind of slapped you upside the head with its strength. Too much for me…

2007 Merlot ($19.99) was a nice, dark red color and had black olive smell and plum tastes to it. It was bold, but not in an in-your-face kind of way. It wasn’t my favorite, but I liked it.

2006 Mirth ($15.99) was a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It was a darker red and had a distinct plum smell to it.

After sampling so many wines and having an exceptional time doing so, it was time for Steve to drive us back to the hotel. To sum it up…

Best Place to Hold an Event – Belhurst Estate Winery

Best Lunch/Snack – Cheese Board at Fox Run Vineyards Café (a MUST)

Most Knowledgeable Server – Roger at White Springs Winery

Most Beautiful Garden – Anthony Road Winery

Best Wine of the Day – 2009 Martini-Reinhardt Riesling at Anthony Road Winery

 

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One comment

  1. Hi Jeannie,

    As the Tasting Room Manager at Fox Run Vineyards, I want to thank you for visiting and sharing with everyone what you enjoyed… and would have preferred improved… about your visit! We are very excited about our Cafe & Market and our wide selection of New York State cheeses; your review is exactly what we were hoping for! In regards to your experience with the high volume of visitors in the tasting room, I would like to note that this is something we recognize as being a deterrent for some, and we are doing our best to alleviate the congestion. Currently we do not accept large groups after 3pm. This way when patrons travel in smaller groups they know that later in the day they will have the opportunity for a more quiet, intimate experience with our staff and wines. I hope that the next time you visit the Finger Lakes that you’ll return to taste some additional wines and to enjoy another cheese board on our deck.

    Cheers!
    Kyle

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