Up until this point, I’ve only ever been on one other wine tour – the Wayne Gretzky Estates in the Niagara-on-the-lake region – and even then, I only tasted the whiskey…
Hmmm, probably not the best way to start a post about wine, but it’s the truth.
So, that being said you’re probably wondering why I’m part of the Seneca Lake Wine Tours if I’m not a big wine guy? Well, to be honest, I’m here because of TBEX.
The Travel Blogger Exchange is a huge Travel Blogging Conference that happens at different places around the world and this year it was held in Corning NY. Trust me when you have this many travel bloggers in one place, they tend to get excited and want to show you around.
It also means that I’ve been a good boy, who’s taking his travel blogging career very seriously by taking one for the team and drinking a lot of wine.
Hey, It’s a tough gig, I know. So I brought my good friend, wino and co-host of our web series Wait, What?! Kathryn Dickson from the Travel Blog Kathryn Anywhere to help me out but first a little history.
Seneca Lake Wine Tours
Along The Seneca Lake Wine Trail
In 1986, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail was formed in the heart of New York State’s Finger Lakes region to attract more tourists. Today, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is the largest and most active wine trail in New York State with a community of over 30 wineries, a distillery, several breweries and hard cider producers and a meadery.
- In fact, the wine history of Seneca Lake can be traced back to 1866, when the Seneca Lake Grape Wine Company opened a winery on the western shores.
- In 1882, New York State opened an Agricultural Experiment Station on the northern end of the lake (Geneva, New York) for grape breeding and research programs. Their success confirmed Seneca Lake as a prominent player in the grape growing industry.
- In the early 1970s, after the Prohibition of 1919, Charles Fournier, a young European, planted 20 acres of Vinifera on the east side of Seneca Lake while at the same time German native, Hermann Wiemer, bought and planted 140 acres of Vinifera on the west side of Seneca Lake.
- In 1976, New York State passed the Farm Winery Act to encourage grape growers to expand into the wine production business.
One year later, Seneca Lake became home to its first new winery: Glenora Wine Cellars, followed by Wagner Vineyards, Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard and Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.
Today, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s 32 member wineries have won hundreds of national and international medals and are recognized as world-class producers of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Honey Wines (Meads).
Why is Seneca Lake & The Region good for wine
Seneca Lake’s natural combination of deep water, at 632 feet which is the deepest of the Finger Lakes, and sloping hillsides provides the ideal microclimate for grape growing. Its unique geology and topography protect the growth of hardy native grapes and premium hybrids as well as more delicate varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
Five generations of the Wagner family have grown grapes in the deep glacial soils on the eastern slope of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Since 1979, they have carried the same passion into the art of winemaking. Today, they cultivate 250 acres of grapes and produce 50,000 cases of wine per year.
The Ginny Lee Cafe was opened in 1983 and offers diners the opportunity to enjoy Wagner Vineyard wines with a freshly prepared menu selection while overlooking one of the most spectacular views in the Finger Lakes region.
Wagner Vineyards is unique in that it is also home to a brewing operation – the Wagner Valley Brewing Co was launched in 1997 and provides their beer-loving patrons like me with a variety of award-winning craft-brewed beers to taste and purchase while visiting.
I really love beer – I’m sorry wine lovers but I know where my allegiance lies…
Chateau LaFayette Reneau (CLR):
Chateau LaFayette Reneau was historically a fruit farm. Grapes and fruit trees were planted on the property and sold each year to merchants, who took them via Erie Canal to New York City for purchase. The barn, which is now the tasting room, was originally constructed as a fruit-packing barn.
2016 Riesling Semi-Dry
CLR describes it as a light golden colour with honeysuckle and sweet apple perfume. Bright mouth-feel of honey, red apple, orange zest and River Rock.
Kathryn gives it a thumbs down
I also give it a thumbs down
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards:
Back in 1852, David Hazlitt bought 153 acres of fruit trees and vineyards in Hector, NY. Over the next six generations, various Hazlitt’s farmed the land, raised families and making wine. In 1985, Jerry and Elaine Hazlitt founded Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.
Hazlitt Vineyards describes it as a semi-sweet red table wine that opens with a sweet sangria-style taste and finishes with a tangy mouth-watering bite. Fell in love with sangria during my travels through Spain. They also went on to say; Red Cat is perfect with burgers, wings, pizza, and nachos. It’s the must-have wine on the beach, “tail”-gate parties and barbecues. Not much “Wine” you can say that about…
Kathryn gives it a thumbs down – of course
I give it a thumbs up – Anything that tastes like alcoholic grape juice works just fine for me!
But I also love the folklore story behind it which comes with its own Red Cat In The Hat nursery rhyme that goes like this:
Red Cat, Red Cat it’s an aphrodisiac.
Red Cat, Red Cat it will get you in the sack.
Boundary Breaks Vineyard produces only rieslings made from single vineyards and single riesling clones and its goal is to do only one thing very well. The name “Boundary Breaks” refers to the topographical term “breaks,” which are defined as a distinct change in the slope of a piece of land.
2017 Boundary Breaks Dry Riesling #239
Boundary Breaks mention that they pick the fruit for their Dry Riesling when it reaches a very ripe stage. At that level of ripeness, the fruit possesses dense, tropical flavours. It is rare to find such flavours in a dry Finger Lakes Riesling.
2018 Riesling Ice Wine
Their Ice Wine is made from grapes left out in the vineyard to dehydrate, which causes the juices to become very concentrated. They pick this fruit when the temperatures are 15 degrees Fahrenheit or below. At these low temperatures, the remaining water in the juice turns into ice. When we press these frozen grapes the water stays behind in the press as ice. This yields an even more concentrated grape essence which we make into this wine.
Kathryn gives it a thumbs up but prefers the red
I give it a thumbs up but prefer the ice wine
The winery’s owner, J.R. Dill, is a Watkins Glen native. Started in 2010, J.R. Dill now offers 17 wines falling under the categories: red & rose wines, white & sparkling wines and sweeter wines.
Cabernet Franc Rose’ 2017The Cabernet Franc grapes spend 18 months ageing in French oak. J. R. Dill is nestled in the Finger Lakes region.
Kathryn gives it a thumbs up
I give it thumbs down
Three Brothers Winery
Three Brothers Winery is made of 30 acres planted primarily of vinifera grapes. They have four wine-and-beer tasting rooms that all provide a breathtaking view of Seneca Lake (Stony Lonesome Wine Cellars, Stony Lonesome Wine Cellars, Passion Feet Wine Barn, Bagg Dare Wine Company and War Horse Brewing Co.
2017 Zero Degree of Riesling
3 Brothers describe it as delicious with foods that have “green” flavours and rich dishes flavoured with a squeeze of lime, like beef curry.
Kathryn gives it a thumbs down because it’s too sweet.
I give it a thumbs up because it’s too sweet
The final stop on the Seneca Lake Wine Tour
2016 PortLakewood describes their port as scarlet-coloured with a big nose of plums and currants. The palate is velvety and warm with lingering notes of cassis and a hint of anise. The perfect accompaniment to cold nights and warm fires. This Port is delicious with flavorful blue cheese or rich dark chocolate.
Kathryn gives it a thumbs down
I give it a thumbs up
Fox Run was a dairy farm for more than a century. The first grapes were planted in 1984, and in 1990 the Civil War-era dairy barn was converted to a winemaking facility by Larry and Adele Wildrick, the founders of Fox Run Vineyards.
Fox Run describes it as loads of tree fruit aromas, along with guava lime zest, are found in this fragrant wine. The palate is perfectly balanced, with a soft yet zesty finish. The moderate sweetness makes this Riesling incredibly versatile. Lovers of rich, complex wines will find this wine highly cellar-worthy.
Kathryn gives it a thumbs up
I give it a thumbs down
The Fulkerson family owned the land where the winery is since 1805 but it was only during the 1920s that they started planting black raspberries as the farm’s first main commercial crop until the late 1960s brought blight to the area that devastated the raspberry industry. In the 1960s and 1970s, Sayre Fulkerson and his father, Roger expanded grape plantings during the 1960s and 70’s and today, Sayre and his son Steven operate, with the help of their staff, 110 acres of grapes, 2 acres of cherries, 1 acre of apples, ¼ acre of asparagus, ¼ acre of blueberries and hayfields that supply food to Steven’s goats, and nutrients and organic matter to the vineyards.
Fulkerson describes the wine by explaining that it uses the Himrod grape. Himrod is a white table grape, released in 1952 by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. It is seedless and known for ripening quickly and its sweet flavour. Himrod resulted from a cross of Ontario by Thompson Seedless, a particularly successful cross which resulted in the eventual release of four cultivars, the others being Interlaken, Romulus, and Lakemont.
We are the only winery that produces wine from the Himrod grape!
Kathryn gives it a thumbs down – “Not a fan, it’s grape juice people?!”
I give it a thumbs-up – and couldn’t stop drinking it…
All jokes aside, a thumbs down does not mean the wine is bad, its just means its not my prefrence. With the help of people like my brother who is a wine aficionado and people like Kat, I’ve been getting more exposed to wine as well as a better understanding of it varieties.
Through this Seneca Lake Wine tour, I discovered what my favourite types of wines tend to be, which are the sweet ones. I always love beer but there is plenty of room for wine too!
I wanna thank the good people and amazing wineries along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and TBEX for taking us travel bloggers out there