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Self-Guided Wine Tour of Finger Lakes

Finger Lake Region

The majority of New York State’s wine is produced in the Finger Lakes wine area, which is home to more than 120 wineries. The region is centered on the picturesque Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua, and Cayuga lakes that are important to the region’s famed cool climate wines, particularly its varietal whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. However, the region is also highly known for its red grapes like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot as well as other well-liked white grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. It’s been believed that the terroir holds the key to growing good wine. In the Finger Lakes wine area, however, it is the growers and winemakers that meticulously tend to the soil and grapes to produce award-winning wines, not merely the scenic and agriculturally abundant sloping hillsides.


South of Lake Ontario, in Upstate New York, is the Finger Lakes wine area. Eleven glacial lakes make up the Finger Lakes, but most of the region’s grape plantings are in the vicinity of Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes. Each AVA for Cayuga and Seneca Lakes is entirely contained within the Finger Lakes region.

Finger Lakes Wine Region

Finger Lakes Wine Region

What is the Overview of Finger Lakes?

The Finger Lakes wine area, in upstate New York, is best renowned for producing premium Riesling wines that can flourish in a cooler temperature. If you love Riesling wines this is a must-visit area. It is situated south of Lake Ontario. There are already more than 100 wineries in the area, and its wine trails are the center of a burgeoning wine tourism sector. The region’s climate is similar to that of the Rhine-Ruhr wine region in Germany. The neighboring lakes release heat in the winter which helps to regulate the climate and allows visitors to enjoy an extraordinary tour in winter.

Four lake areas (Cayuga, Keuka, Seneca, and Canandaigua) make up the majority of the Finger Lakes wine region. Seneca Lake has the most wineries (35 in total) of these four lake regions. Weekend wine and cuisine events are now sponsored year-round by the four lake regions.

What is the Best Time to Visit Finger Lakes?

Even though any time is a terrific time to travel, May through September is the greatest month to explore the Finger Lakes. Any adventure enthusiast can find enough outdoor leisure and water sports here! But if you are trying to save money, you should stay away from the summer.

What is the History of Finger Lakes?

The Finger Lakes have been producing wine and growing grapes since the 1820s. According to “The Oxford Companion to Wine,” the region wasn’t classified as an American Viticulture Area until 1988. In 1829, Episcopal pastor William Warner Bostwick of Hammondsport planted Vitis labrusca shoots in his rectory garden, marking the beginning of winemaking in the Finger Lakes. The establishment of the Hammondsport and Pleasant Valley Wine Companies in 1862 marked the official start of commercial winemaking. Three years later, two more businesses were established. With the Pleasant Valley Wine Company’s European honors in 1867 and 1873, the area gained notoriety for its sparkling wines.

When Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Ukrainian immigrant with a Ph.D. in plant science, started working for the Cornell University Geneva Experiment station in 1951, the Finger Lakes viticulture underwent a significant transformation. The Geneva Experiment Station’s commercial farmers and scientists were certain that European Vitis vinifera types couldn’t flourish in the chilly Finger Lakes region. Dr. Frank felt certain that Vitis vinifera could be cultivated in the Finger Lakes if it was grafted onto the appropriate, cold-hardy local rootstock after years of cultivating it in Ukraine’s colder temperature. When he founded Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport in 1962, he demonstrated this.

What are the Subregions of Finger Lakes?

Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake are two of the Finger Lakes AVA’s sub-regions. Over 11,000 acres of the 2,600,000 acres in the region are planted with vines, and there are more than a hundred wineries there.

  1. Cayuga Lake Sub-AVA

Cayuga Lake American Viticultural Area (AVA) surrounds Cayuga Lake in upstate New York. The AVA’s limits span parts of the counties of Cayuga, Seneca, and Tompkins. The majority of the vines in the AVA are situated in the shale soils of the hillsides on the western side of Cayuga Lake. Up to 800 feet (244 m) above the lake’s surface, vineyards have been planted at a variety of elevations. In the fall, the lake and the steep slopes combine to create a special microclimate that prolongs the growth season by preventing cold air from settling and causing frost.

  1. Seneca Lake Sub-AVA

Upstate New York’s Seneca Lake Sub-AVA is a wine area in the United States. The entire wine appellation is part of the wider Finger Lakes AVA, which also includes territory in Yates, Ontario, Schuyler, and Seneca counties. Approximately 35 miles (56 km) long and up to 600 feet (180 m) deep, Seneca Lake is a glacial lake. Since the lake doesn’t freeze throughout the winter, it serves as a massive heat storage facility for the vineyards that surround it, extending the growing season.

What are The Best Wine Grapes Grown in Finger Lakes?

The major vinifera grapes grown in the Finger Lakes include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, as well as several native and French-American varieties. Aromatic white wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer are especially well-known for being produced in the area.

What are the Historical Sites in Finger Lakes?

Finger Lakes region has numerous historical sites and landmarks for wine lovers to visit. Here is a list of some of the famous historical places you may want to visit:

  1. Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park

Opened in 1887, this magnificent place is a 50-acre state park located at 151 Charlotte Street in Canandaigua, New York. It is situated at the north end of Canandaigua, New York. The historical estate Sonnenberg Gardens includes a Victorian palace, nine formal gardens, and a collection of old greenhouses. The Finger Lakes Wine Center, a gift shop, and spaces for renting weddings and receptions are also found in Sonnenberg.

  1. Women’s Rights National Historical Park

The first women’s rights convention took place in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19–20, 1848, and is commemorated in the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

  1. Peter Whitmer Log Home

Peter Whitmer Log Home

Peter Whitmer Log Home

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns and runs the historic Peter Whitmer log home near Fayette, New York, in the United States. The new home was constructed in 1980 to commemorate the church’s 150th anniversary and is an exact copy of the original log cabin that once stood on the same spot. Peter Whitmer Sr., Mary Musselman Whitmer, and their eight children—Christian, Jacob, John, David, Catherine, Peter Jr., Nancy, and Elizabeth Ann—lived there from 1809 to 1830. They owned the property.

  1. Ganondagan State Historic Site

As an interactive, educational facility in Ganondagan, the new Seneca Art & Culture Center tells the tale of the Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) contributions to art, culture, and civilization for more than 2,000 years up to the present. Beautiful Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) artwork, jewelry, basketry, apparel, and heirloom Iroquois White Corn items are all available at the gift shop. A reproduction bark longhouse from the 17th century depicts the lifestyle of the Seneca people who previously called this place home.

What are the Best Wineries in Finger Lakes?

Finger Lakes boasts of having some of the best wineries in New York. We have prepared a list of some of the best wineries you might want to visit for a wine tasting experience.

  1. Konstantin Frank Winery

The Frank family has dominated wine production and grape cultivation in the Finger Lakes for four generations. The oldest Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir vines in the Eastern United States can be found in the estate vineyards around Keuka Lake.

  1. Domaine LeSeurre Winery

Owners and winemakers Céline and Sébastien Leseurre, who are French natives, were raised in winemaking families. They were exploring wine-producing regions throughout the world when they fell in love with Keuka Lake in the picturesque Finger Lakes wine region. As a result, they moved here in September 2011. In 2012, they produced their first vintage under the name Domaine LeSeurre. In October 2013, they established a tasting room in Hammondsport, on the east side of Keuka Lake.

  1. Heron Hill Winery

The Heron Hill Winery, one of the most magnificent tasting rooms in the world, is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, perched on a hillside overlooking the picturesque Keuka Lake. The family-owned winery has garnered numerous accolades for its distinctive, classy wines for almost 50 years and has remained at the forefront of cool climate winemaking.

  1. Damiani Wine Cellars

Damiani Wine Cellars is dedicated to creating strong and exquisitely subtle wines that capture the terroir of the region. It is located in the center of the Finger Lakes wine region on the eastern coast of Seneca Lake. Any day of the week, stop by the winery for a fantastic wine tasting experience for a unique wine experience.

Where Should I Eat in Finger Lakes?

  1. Ports Café, Geneva

It is a relaxed location with a view of Seneca Lake. Fresh seasonal veggies are presented solely with choice meats that are daily chopped in-house. They prefer local, farm-fresh cheeses, fruits, and veggies.

  1. Mill Creek Cafe, Honeoye

A local focus permeates Mill Creek Café in Honeoye, from the inventive salads to the locally sourced ground beef. This cozy, family-run café is a nice spot to get up with friends during the season.

Where Should I Stay in Finger Lakes?

All types of vacationers should consider spending the summer in the Finger Lakes region. It is difficult to decide where to stay in the Finger Lakes because the area is so large that it is hard to visit it all at once. The greatest and most reasonably priced places to stay when visiting the wine area are listed below.

  1. Radisson Hotel Corning

All of Corning’s top attractions are within easy walking distance of the Radisson Hotel. The hotel is in an excellent location, offers comfortable accommodations, has a lovely outside terrace with fire pits, and is close to Market Street. On-site amenities include a fitness facility and lots of parking.

Corning is a fantastic place to stay in the Finger Lakes. This quaint village not only has its own attractions to enjoy, but you are also only a 30-minute drive from Watkins Glen, which has some of the top Finger Lakes waterfalls, Seneca Lake, wineries, and more, and from Hammondsport, where you can explore the activities along the Keuka Wine Trail. Radisson Hotel will make your stay in Corning more enjoyable and memorable.

  1. Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel offers lodging with a restaurant, free private parking, a fitness center, and a bar. It is situated in Watkins Glen, 32.2 kilometers from the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. A 24-hour front desk, room service, free WiFi throughout the building, and other amenities are available at this establishment. There is an ATM, a hot tub, and an indoor pool at the hotel.

How do I Save Money in Finger Lakes?

Each year, thousands of tourists travel to the Finger Lakes region to sample the wine produced on approximately 10,000 acres of vines by 125 distinct wineries. The cost of the vacation is what draws some people to return after their initial trip. Saving money is so crucial on such a journey and will influence whether you want to go back or not. One way you can save money when visiting the Finger Lake wine region is the proper usage of a map to identify the best destinations and the most affordable way to reach there. Proper planning of transportation is also paramount. Use group tours as they help in saving money.


Finger Lakes area is one of the best wine regions in New York that offers the best experience for wine lovers. The wine county is beautiful and is the largest wine-producing region in the state. It has a wine history dating back to the early and mid-19th century, making it among the oldest in the New World. The wines in most of the wineries are worthy of awards, which is why you should taste them. There are numerous affordable and comfortable places to eat and stay.

The Vibe: Even though it might take many visits to the Finger Lakes to explore every part, it is an experience worth investing in.

Read More:

  • Finger Lakes Winery Tours Website
  • Finger Lakes Wine Country Website

Want to read more? Try these books!

A Tour of Finger Lakes- A Wine Journey Wines of the Finger Lakes- Wines, Grapes, and Wineries of New York’s Most Dynamic Wine Region

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