A Slice of Seneca Lake Wineries

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We keep checking the Seneca Lake map but we just can’t find it! I do see cities like Hector, Burdett, Valois, and the Finger Lakes National Forest. But somewhere between Lodi and Watkins Glen, New York, there must be a place called Paradise! We can feel it and I know I am close, but its just not on the map. It all seems like “paradise” with the beautiful lake, spectacular landscapes, wonderful food and wines, and excellent hospitality! The 38 mile long drive along Seneca Lake is just gorgeous! Rustic, yet elegant. Classy, yet down to earth. A melting pot of true Americana. These are all great bonuses since we came here from Michigan to meet with friends and tour a few of Seneca Lakes (almost) 60 wineries! You obviously can’t visit them ALL in one day and even a week would truly be pushing it. We were there for the wine experience and to relax at the wineries so we took our time. And even though we took our time, we were still able to visit 6 wineries in 7 hours. More than enough wine and festivities for one day! Each winery was unique in its own way and each excelled at different varieties of wines. Here are some of our favorite wines and experiences of the day! We started at 11am at the White Springs Winery which is in the Northwest corner of Seneca Lake. The location has a wonderful view of Seneca Lake with a very updated, modern tasting room. Most of the room is a huge gift shop filled with wine, wine accessories, and gifts for the novice to the expert!  A large room and wine tasting bar to serve a lot of enthusiastic wine samplers.  And it was already busy at 11am! But we found lots of room at the bar and perused the wine list. Most wineries will let you taste 5 or 6 wines for a few bucks a person. Its worth it to know what you are buying before you bring it home. We have been to White Springs Winery once before so we know they have a great selection from dry to sweet, red, white, and rose wines. Something for everyone! Our favorites here were the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, the Row House Rose (made from the hybrid Corot Noir grape – similiar to a Pinot Noir we are told),  the 2011 Red Meritage, and the Semi Sweet Serendipity White wine with a citrus flavor but a nice clean finish. We met Jan who is the Tasting Room and Marketing Manager for White Springs Winery and she gave us lots of great information about the winery and the vineyards. Check out their website at www.WhiteSpringsWinery.com.

Our real goal that day was to visit the wineries at the southeast end of Seneca Lake. From Canandaigua, there are so many wineries before we reach that far end of Seneca Lake, we rarely make it that far. So after we left White Springs Winery, we trekked past many tasting rooms to visit some wineries on the other end of the lake that day. Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars was our next planned stop on the list. Wine & Spirits Magazine named Lamoreaux Landing as one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World in 2012! And we were not disappointed as we arrived at the winery. A modern style building with perfectly manicured bushes and lawn. inside were high ceilings with an art gallery feel since there were many paintings around the room from local artists. At the tasting bar, we met with Lisa who was more than happy to pour us some of Lamoreaux’s best wines! An excellent variety of dry to sweet, red and white wines with an abundance of Rieslings from different area vineyards owned by Lamoreaux Landing. We enjoyed so many of the wines here but some of our favorites wines were the 2008 Chardonnay, the 2012 Gewurtztraminer, and the 2011 T23 Cabernet Franc (unoaked). And we can’t forget the 2011 Dry Riesling which received 93 points from Wine & Spirits Magazine. Amazing! For more information about Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars and their wines, go to www.LamoreauxWine.com.

The next winery on our Finger Lakes adventure specializes in many different types of Rieslings as well. Silver Thread Winery was as much fun to get to as it was to visit! About a half mile off the main wine trail and down a one lane dirt road, then across a pasture and vineyard to reach the quaint chalet style winery.  We loved the modern tasting room inside and skylights to let the sun shine in! We were met by Shannon Brock who is one of the proprietors of Silver Thread Winery. Shannon told us that they try to keep their wine cultivating practices as organic as possible and they do manage the soil organically. But since the Finger Lakes area is known for humid summers, they may have to spray the vines once in awhile to keep pests away. Silver Thread is known for their Rieslings and we love that you can do wine flights of just Rieslings that they produce from different area vineyards. Mostly dry wines here with a few Rieslings that are off dry or slightly sweet. But all the wines we tasted were wonderful and this is a “must stop” along the Seneca Lake wine trail! Some of our favorite wines we brought home with us were 2012 Dry Rose, the 2012 Dry Riesling, the 2012 Good Earth White (blend of 66% Vidal and 31% Riesling), and the amazing 2011 Blackbird Red which is a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot. The Blackbird Red uses only estate grown grapes and was aged in 8 months in American oak. Read more about Paul and Shannon Brock and Silver Thread Winery at www.SilverThreadWine.com.

You can’t miss Damiani Wine Cellars perched on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful and mesmerizing Seneca Lake! You won’t forget the view and you definitely won’t forget the fantastic wines here! Winemaker Lou Damiani and grape grower Phil Davis grew up as neighbors on the same land that they are farming today! So both are familiar with what their land and this region can do when it comes to weather, farming tactics, and just gut instinct and experience. And it definitely shows in the flavorful wines that they have to taste inside the winery! Elegant dry red and white wines predominate the list with a few sweeter style whites and Rieslings for those with a sweet tooth. We had many favorites but really enjoyed the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2011 Chardonnay (aged in French/Hungarian oak), the 2011 Lemberger Sunrise Hill, and the 2010 Meritage. We were ready to leave and then noticed a 2011 Bollicini which was very much like an Italian Prosecco. This had a fruity, semi-dry style, light bubbles, and a crisp, clean finish. It was excellent and we bought one of those too! For more information about Damiani Wine Cellars, go to www.DamianiWineCellars.com.

As we checked out the time, it was just after 4pm so we had time for two more wineries if our palates can hold out! So after some cheese and a big glass of water at our car, we were ready for more! Our next stop in Paradise was Chateau Lafayette Reneau Winery, which from the road looks very unpretentious. An older brown building with a nicely manicured garden and lawn, but nestled up to a spectacular view of Seneca Lake! Here, there are 140 acres of vineyards, ponds, and woodlands that all help to keep the European tradition of wine making. The winery from the front may have looked unpretentious but you will be very impressed as you step inside. Walls filled with medals, awards, and trophies won at all the wine competitions from around the world! 25 years of experience in wine making will help you achieve this and Chateau Lafayette Reneau is very proud of that fact. As we walked around the tasting room, we noticed a large addition to the back of the winery building which includes a beautiful banquet room and an entrance to a big outside deck area where you can sit and enjoy your wine and the view. But before we go outside, we have to taste some great wines inside at the tasting bar! We noticed lots of dry red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and some dry red blends. For white wines were some Chardonnay’s, Rieslings, and some sweeter style white blends and blushes. All were very good but our favorites that day were the 2010 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Seyval/Chardonnay blend, the 2010 Cabernet Franc, and the Roaring Red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Baco, and Pinot Noir. Very nice! Check out Chateau Lafayette Reneau’s website at www.CLRwine.com.

As our wine tasting day quickly came to a close, we had one more stop planned that we were not going to miss!  Standing Stone Vineyards has always given us that “at home” type of feeling when we are there. It reminds us of that big yellow farmhouse you always see on television with the friendliness and hospitality to boot! Tom and Marti Macinski purchased the land and 41 acres of vineyards back in 1991 and never looked back. After years of hard work, their boutique style winery produces over 8000 cases of wine a year now and many of them are critically acclaimed! Scenic views of the vineyard and Seneca Lake are in store for you when you stop in to taste their wonderful wines. And we had a nice surprise in store for us when we arrived at Standing Stone Vineyards. A big “Welcome Wine Splash” greeted us as we entered the winery so that became one of the big highlights of our trip to the Finger Lakes!  A big thanks to the Winery Manager April who made us feel so special! We headed into a large tasting room and was greeted by Shirley who was the resident winery storyteller and pourer that day. Dry red and white wines filled the tasting menu and a few sweeter style whites as well. And for you Ice Wine fans, this is the place to be since there are at least four different types of Ice Wine! All the wines were wonderful and the Ice Wines were excellent and elegant. We had many favorites but the ones we decided to bring home were the 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2010 Gewurtztraminer, the 2008 Pinot Noir, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2011 Smokehouse Red Blend. We also loved the 2010 Dark Red which is actually the “Saperavi” grape and had intense flavors of plum, pomegranate, cedar, black cherry, and vanilla. And we had to get the 2010 Gewurtztraminer Ice Wine with its flavors of ripe apricot and braised pear. Perfect! We said farewell to April and Shirley and look forward to visiting them again soon. For more information on Standing Stone’s history, wines, hours, and directions, please visit their website at www.StandingStoneWines.com.

For the true wine adventurer, you must put the Finger Lakes region on your wine bucket list. The beauty of the lakes, the wonderful wines, and great hospitality are all worth the trip! We come here once or twice a year and try to visit different wineries on different lakes each time. But its always good to visit good friends at the wineries you have already been to. We visited Seneca Lake this time but there are at least 3 other large lakes that have a great variety of wineries and vineyards. Check out www.FingerLakes.com to find out more. You can investigate many of the wine areas including Seneca Lake where we visited this weekend. And www.SenecaLakeWine.com also has some good information about the wineries and local events. So plan a long weekend and come visit the Finger Lakes wineries someday soon. You won’t recognize us since everyone here has a smile on their face but we will be the ones taking the crazy photos, fervently taking wine notes while sipping some great Finger Lake wines!  WineSplashing!!

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