Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to drinking wine.
It wasn't until I started dating A.D. that I began to learn the joys of wine tasting (not guzzling). I’ve since become wholly obsessed with all things Finger Lakes, so much so, that his new favorite joke is I love the region more than I love him (sorry, not sorry).
Here’s the thing: Upstate New York is a magical place.
On one visit, A.D. drove me an hour south of Rochester to his family's lake house in the dark of the night. We cozied up on the couch, enjoying wine, music, and a coffee table book about architecture (#nerdsunite). The next morning, when A.D. lured me outside with coffee, I realized the little piece of heaven we were in: Keuka Lake. I'm well aware my affinity for Keuka was heavily driven by waking up in paradise, but every trip since has shown me that the lake has much to offer.
Formed by glaciers, Keuka is the third largest of the Finger Lakes, and the only lake featuring a unique Y shape that's lead to it's "Crooked Lake" nickname. One of the few lakes in the world that runs both north and south, Keuka is 19.6 miles long, and has the least amount of pedestrian traffic, allowing it to be a beautiful respite, even during the summer swell.
If planning a week on the lake, I'd suggest renting one of the amazing lakefront properties. I'm typically a hotel person, but there's something quaint and homey about Keuka that's worth further replicating in the place you rest your head. Book early, and take advantage of a long stay if your schedule and budget permits. If a home rental's not your thing, take a look at the Microtel Penn Yan. With rooms ranging from $80+, Microtel offers great value, perfect location, and that new and clean hotel smell. Add free wifi plus complementary continental breakfast in the mornings and it's pretty hard to go wrong.
More importantly... the wine.
The wine movement began in the 1800s, and experienced a post-prohibition renaissance that's helped drive it's fame today. With over 20 vineyards worth exploring, you can't take a wrong turn in the Napa Valley of the East Coast. Below, I've outlined a few must visits. To be clear: this barely cracks the surface of wineries on Keuka Lake. These are just the 6 that give me warm and fuzzies every damn time.
While on the east side of the lake, we have never not visited Weis. The vineyard was formerly Lime Berry, a favorite owned by instant friends (Joe & Melissa) who sold the vineyard and hit the road to explore. Luckily, A.D. & I are enamored with the couple (Peter & Ashlee) who bought the land and look forward to getting to know them better. Weis has just released their first run of the season and it's good! Fans of Lime Berry will be thrilled to know they've stayed true to the original owners but seem to have big plans for the land moving forward. Don't leave without a bottle of Heart of the Lake. (image via Weis)
What I love most about the wines coming out of Domaine LeSeurre is their ability to marry their worldwide winemaking experience with everything that makes the Finger Lakes so wonderful. The owners have worked hard to amplify the region with their Old World style, and it comes through wonderfully in the wines. Add a bottle of the Chardonnay Barrel Select to your cellar for a quiet evening - this is a wine that deserves to be the center of attention. (image via Domaine LeSeurre)
A.D. and I stopped by Keuka Lake Vineyards on an overcast day where we enjoyed a tasting with Matt, a favorite behind the counter at KLV. Now don't get me wrong, the wines are fantastic on their own, but a tasting with Matt makes the experience even grander. Plus, the quaint white barn nestled off to the side of Country Route 76 is a welcome change from some of the larger venues you'll experience on the West side of the lake. Walk away with a bottle of Leon Millot for your cellar. You're welcome in advance. (image via KLV)
Dr. Konstantin Frank is at the helm of the Finger Lakes wine movement. In my (humble) opinion, his steadfast desire to show the region could produce Old World wines is the reason people flock to the Finger Lakes. Going to Dr. Frank's is a favorite experience - the tastings are complementary, the wines are as stunning as the views, and the special events they put on are second to none. Plus, with the Dr. Konstantin Frank and Salmon Run labels, they cater to nearly all price points. Be sure to call ahead - their popularity is part of what drives the Napa of the East Coast nickname for the Finger Lakes.
One of the founding members of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, McGregor's is also known for Old World techniques in this New World market. The tasting experience is a lovely one, which always comes with varied parings to help you experience the breadth of their wines. Go in for the view & the tasting, leave with an Unoaked Chard and some handmade soap. Not kidding, the soaps in their impressive gift shop are my favorite treat. (image via McGregor)
I've come to love Ravines quite a bit. Their popularity means their tasting room can be buzzing with tourists - they're a favorite stop with the tour buses and seem to cater well to bachelorette parties (read: drunk girls) but if you can find a quiet corner with Seery pouring, you'll receive a wonderful tasting experience, regardless of how busy they are. Ravines does reds well, which can be an impressive feat given Riesling thrives in the Finger Lakes. Yes, that bottle of Meritage is definitely calling your name. And those homemade palate cleaners? Damn. (image via Ravines)
If you're looking to take a break from imbibing - stop by The Olney Place for breakfast, lunch, or both. Trust me when I say you'll need a little sustenance to help you make it through your big day of tasting wines and The Rachel is worth every calorie - as are the coffee rolls so snag one early!
Need to ease into the tasting? Visit the Glenn H. Curtiss Aviation Museum in the morning. It's a cool little museum with some awesome artifacts that will also give you a brief history lesson of wine in the Finger Lakes - the perfect aperitif to your day.
Headed to Keuka for the first time or been there before? I'd love to hear about it! Tell me your favorite spots or the one wine you can't leave without!