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The Finger Lakes Wine Region: The Next Place

Updated on November 17, 2014

The Wine - Part 1

When the topic of American wine comes up, it's not uncommon for places like Napa and Sonoma, in California, and Washington State's Russian River to be part of the conversation. But the Finger Lakes region, in Upstate New York, is starting to get some attention from wine enthusiasts these days, especially when Riesling is discussed.

The terroir of the Finger Lakes turns out to be close to perfect when it comes to instilling the complex mineral undertones to the crisp and fruity character of the Riesling grape. Wineries, like Dr. Konstantin Frank, on Keuka Lake, and Fox Run, on Cayuga Lake, are turning out some of the best Riesling releases in the world year after year.

Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars - Hammondsport, NY

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The Wine - Part 2

Even though the region is best known for its Riesling, there are many other exceptional wines, of the red and white variety, coming out of the Finger Lakes. Winter hardy grapes like cabernet franc and vignoles thrive on the steep slopes leading down to the lakes, and the grapes impart some delicious flavor profiles once they're made into wine.

Places like Goose Watch, on Cayuga Lake, produce some high quality reds like Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon along with some excellent chardonnays and Cabernet Blanc white wines. Anyela's Vineyards, on Skaneateles Lake, produces some memorable red wine releases.

The Beer Trail

Not all that long ago, some wine makers in the Finger Lakes started making beer to take advantage of the popularity surge of craft beer. The Ale Trail that winds around the lakes these days has grown into an association of over twenty-five breweries that produce well crafted ales and lagers for the discerning beer enthusiast.

Some personal favorites include Starkey's Lookout, Wagner Valley, Keuka Brewing and War Horse.

Sharkey's Lookout

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The Distilleries

Finger Lakes Distilling hasn't been around too long, but they've already made some impressive vodka and gin. They also make wheat and rye whiskeys made from locally sourced grains. Their bourbon release finishes its aging process in used chardonnay casks.

In Seneca Falls, Hidden Marsh distillery makes a wide range of spirits that include vodka, brandy, liqueurs, white whiskey and bourbon. The distillery name was inspired by their proximity to the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.

The Towns - Skaneateles

As fun as stopping in at a winery, brewery or distillery can be, the small towns spread around the lakes have their own special appeal. Skaneateles, at the northern apex of Skaneateles Lake, is one of the few places left where there's a true sense of community that hasn't been overtaken by big box business interests. It's an absolute joy to walk along the main drag of Genesee Street with its small green ribbons of two parks that look out over the impressive and beautiful Skaneateles Lake.

Another bid part of the town's charm is the onetime stagecoach stop known as Sherwood Inn. The well preserved inn is a focal point for local gatherings for eating and drinking as well as a great place to spend the night.

Sherwood Inn - Skaneateles, NY

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Hammondsport

Nestled at the bottom of Keuka Lake, Hammondsport is another small town with big time appeal. On one corner of the village green square, in the middle of downtown, the Village Tavern serves from a huge menu of wines and beers. Just down the street, the developed dock area affords a great view of the gorgeous lake.

Keuka Lake - Hammondsport, NY

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Personal Favorites

I've yet to have a bad winery or brewery visit in the Finger Lakes, but I do have some favorite stops that I return to year after year.

Dr. Konstantin Frank - I've already mentioned this place earlier in the article, but, because they make such good wine, it's worth mentioning again. The Riesling is off the charts, and they have a wide selection of reds and whites that are all top shelf material. A great out of the way spot fairly close to Hammondsport.

Wagner's - Why do I like Wagner's so much? They make great wine, great beer and they have a billion dollar view of their vineyards and Seneca Lake. They also have a great restaurant if you're hungry. I like enjoying bread and cheese with one of their wines or beers on one of their picnic tables beside the grapes.

Hosmer - It's obvious, from the quality of their wines, they've been making wine here for quite awhile. Some of the best Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Finger Lakes.

Knapp - Another oldie but goody with a great restaurant too.

Anyela's Vineyards - Wineries are just beginning to set up shop on the banks of the very beautiful Skaneateles Lake. This is another producer of great red wines. I'm a big fan of their blended Overlay series of red wine.

The Thirsty Owl - A great place to have a glass of Chardonnay in their bistro while enjoying the impressive view of Cayuga Lake.

Fox Run - Another award winning producer of Riesling that's a must try, and another great cafe hangout too.

With all the winery and brewery choices set in the impeccable scenery, the Finger Lakes region really is the next place.

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