Thursday, September 17, 2015

Day Trip: Finger Lakes Wine Country

Breaking news: wine slushies are incredible.

Last weekend, my mom and I ventured to the Finger Lakes, an area of Central New York that boasts several long and skinny lakes, to test out some of the region's famous wine. More than 100 wineries are scattered along three of the picturesque lakes – Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga – so the region naturally attracts a lot of tourists.

I go to school an hour away from the Finger Lakes but had yet to visit. The timing was never right, and I wasn't old enough to drink. However, when my mom came to Syracuse for the weekend, we thought the wineries would make a perfect day trip. What could be better than drinking wine all day? 

The Location:

My mom and I only had time to explore one of the Finger Lakes, so we chose Seneca – the largest and most popular. The Seneca Lake Wine Trail has 35 wineries, as well as a distillery and some breweries. Most of the wineries are located just off the highway and have great views of the water and green landscape. Not even the gray skies and continuous rain could hide the beauty of our surroundings. 

Seneca Lake is 40 miles long, and the vineyards are located on both sides of the water. Some closely neighbor each other, while others are spaced 5 - 10 miles apart. 

Three Brothers
The Wineries:

No two wineries on Seneca Lake are the same. While some feel more old-fashioned and proper, others remind you of a cabin in the woods. However, every single vineyard had a great view and friendly staff. 

Here are the ones we visited (in the order we visited):

Fox Run
The Wine:

Each winery has a similar wine tasting deal: you pay $5 to sample five wines off of the menu. The bartender serves your choices from white to red, and driest to sweetest. That way, your tastebuds can better adjust to the differentiations between the wines. 

The samples are actually a decent size. Added together, the amount of wine you get at each place is about equivalent to a full glass. A full glass of wine for $5? I'll take it!  

Although each vineyard had a unique menu, a few wines made appearances everywhere. The most reoccurring options were whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, which are the speciality wines of the Finger Lakes. Actually, the Riesling and Gewurztraminer were my favorite wines of the day. I prefer my wine smooth, semi-sweet, and white. 

Wine Slushie:

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the wine slushie at Three Brothers Wineries and Estates. My mom and I visited this location last, and it ended up being my favorite place of the day. The wine tastings were divided up by type – you could either taste dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Unlike the other wineries, you couldn't chose the specific wines you wanted to try, but rather chose one of the pre-chosen groupings of wine. 

My mom and I chose the sweet tasting, and we loved all five of the options! The wines were smooth, flavorful, and fruity. The tasting ending with a sixth sample –a wine slushie! The bartender mixed their "Scandalicious" wine with ice and a slushie mix, and the result was chilled, sweet, and delicious. Honestly, it tasted like a gourmet raspberry icee. The drink was so refreshing and great that we bought a full-sized one at the Slushie Stand outside! 

Three Brothers


Are you visiting the Finger Lakes wineries? Here are a few tips.
  • Go early! Most wineries close at 5 or 6 p.m., so make sure you give yourself enough time to explore the region.
  • Most wineries don't offer meals, and only a few have meat/cheese platters. I recommend eating before going to the wineries.
  • You can make the Finger Lakes a weekend vacation by booking a room in one of the hotels in the area. However, the hotels book up fast, so make sure you reserve a room early. 
  • Most importantly, don't drink and drive! I noticed that many large groups rented a party bus or limo to hop between wineries, but you could also have a designated driver or someone who only drinks a little. You have to drive between wineries, so make sure you do it safely!
Have you ever been to a winery? What is your favorite wine?