I just tasted the best Finger Lakes wines, including one from Dr Frank Winery Finger Lakes, the leader of the US’s Vinifera Revolution. Here, then, are four of the best Finger Lakes wineries that you need to visit near Corning, NY. **As with all travel, check the travel requirements before you leave—links to New York’s are at the bottom of this article**.
Google the best Finger Lakes wineries, and you’ll invariably get Dr Frank Winery Finger Lakes on top of the list. Okay, okay, I know the winery’s correct name is Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, but that might be just a little too hard to spell. It’s one of the four best wineries in Finger Lakes near Corning, NY. I had the good fortune of sampling many of the best Finger Lakes wines when I attended TBEX in Corning in 2018. And recently, I did a ZOOM wine tasting* with some of the top winemakers in the region and wine writers from around the country. The following four best wineries in Finger Lakes NY are definitely on my MUST-DO for the next time I visit the wine region.
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Where is Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes?
Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes are located 100 miles south of Rochester, NY, and 250 miles northwest of New York City in western New York. The towns in this region of the Finger Lakes are pure Americana, similar to the quintessential small American villages I discovered along the Erie Canal. Because of its proximity to the Southern Finger Lakes, farmers and lumbermen shipped goods on a feeder canal that was part of the New York canal system in the 1850s. Corning is named for the glass company that developed the community in 1868. Today the town and region is home to Corning Museum of Glass, affordable activities, first-rate culinary options and fourteen wineries.
Cold Climate Wines
Most wine grape growers in these parts have planted their vineyards on Keuka Lake’s southwestern hills to take advantage of the deep lake’s moderating effect that subdues temperatures and hopefully lengthens the growing season in New York’s cold climate. Keuka Lake is one of the eleven Finger Lakes and one of the world’s only Y-shaped lakes.
“The most challenging aspect to making wine in Finger Lakes is that you have to be a bit crazy,” says Meaghan Frank, fourth-generation winemaker at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. “You need ingenuity, and that makes it thrilling. The uncertainty [of the cold climate] makes people stand on their toes.” Dr Frank Winery Finger Lakes has been around since Meaghan’s great-grandfather immigrated from Soviet Ukraine in the 1950s to stand on his toes above Keuka Lake.
Dr Frank Winery Finger Lakes
As the winemaker spoke about the challenges and pleasures of grape growing in northern climes, I sipped Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery Rkatsiteli 2019. It was the first time I’d tasted the Rkatsiteli (pronounced Ar KATS it Telli) grape variety from Georgia, a former Soviet republic. The varietal is the oldest known in the world and dates to 3000 BC. Dr Frank Winery Finger Lakes is the leading producer of Rkatsiteli in the US, BTW.
I thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of the Rkatsiteli, which tasted so much like one of my favorite varietals, Sauvignon Blanc. The three similarities are the aromatic characteristics of grapefruit and lime, the lengthy finish ending with bright acidity and the mouthfeel. I could taste much more minerality in the Finger Lakes Rkatsiteli that I taste in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
“Each vineyard displays its own unique characteristics when it comes to aspects like the mineral content of the soil, which contributes certain notes that can impact aroma and taste,” explained Meagan about the vineyards spread out around Keuka Lake.
Best Finger Lakes Wineries Produce Wines with Balanced Acidity and Minerality
“There’s a wonderful acidity and minerality for each vineyard due to the diversity of soils found around Finger Lakes. There’s a different flavor from the claycious soil at the southern end of Seneca Lake, and that’s similar to Keuka Lake,” says Hans Peter Weis of Weis Vineyards. “Our Riesling grapes are grown in locations where the slate content is high and similar to my Granfather Peter’s vineyards back home.” Peter, a native of Zell Mosel, Germany, draws from his family’s Rhinelander winemaking traditions.
“Like cooking, if you have the right ingredients, you can make a good meal,” says Hans Peter referring to the terroir of the region. “Both Mosel and Finger Lakes have microclimates with water bodies that reflect the sun and save heat during the night, and soil types with the slate that expresses in the wine. You couldn’t get that in a warmer climate wine.”
Dry mouthfeel of the slate minerality
The boutique winery is one of the best wineries in Finger Lakes, NY, with an 1887 farmhouse and a tasting room, which once served as a one-room schoolhouse. As most of my food, wine and travel writer friends said, I, too, was hesitant to try the Weis Dry Reisling. Although I’ve been dabbling in dry Rieslings of late, I haven’t landed on any one maker yet. So then, I was quite surprised about the Weis Dry Riesling. The wine was quite dry and didn’t have that heavy mouthfeel of some New World Rieslings. I definitely could get the dry feel of the slate minerality, which I enjoyed. The beautiful bottle and labeling make this wine a perfect gift.
Don't Miss the Charming Town of Hammondsport on Keuka Lake
Weis Vineyards and tasting room are near the charming town of Hammondsport on Keuka Lake. “Hammondsport is such a great little town with a square,” Hans Peter describes his home way from home. “To me, Hammondsport has a heart with that square. After wine tasting all day, it’s good to have dinner options.” The town near many of the best Finger Lakes wineries near Corning has plenty of dining options.
Domaine LeSeurre Produces some of the Best Finger Lakes Wines in Old World Style
Domaine LeSeurre Winery focuses on dry wines made from the distinct terroirs of the Southern Finger Lakes. Sébastien LeSeurre, sixth-generation winemaker (“It probably goes back further than that,” he says) from Champagne, France, creates wine with his wife Céline with a French approach, bien sûr.
“Our first vintage together as Domaine LeSeurre was in 2012, and in October 2013, we opened our tasting room in Hammondsport on the east side of Keuka Lake,” Sébastien explained during our ZOOM virtual winetasting.
By 2014, Wine & Spirits Magazine named their “Chardonnay Unoaked” the “Year’s Best Chardonnay of the Finger Lakes.” I fell in love with the Old World-style and drinkability of the 2017 Chardonnay Unoaked that earns 89 points from Robert Parker. I can’t wait to meet the passionate French couple in person and taste more of their creations on the press pad outside the winery’s entrance. Domaine LeSeurre Winery is definitely one of the best wineries in Finger Lakes NY to visit. Santé and Bon Appétit!
Pleasant Valley Wine Company, One of the Best Wineries in Finger Lakes
No list of the best wineries in Finger Lakes NY would be complete without Pleasant Valley Wine Company, the oldest winery in the entire Finger Lakes region. The winery was founded in 1860 before the French banned US winemakers from using the word ‘Champagne.’ a pourer told me at TBEX2018 in Corning. That’s when I tasted the refreshing NY bubbly and asked why it could be called Champagne.
Since then, the Finger Lakes winery, which is the first American winery to win awards for sparkling wine in Europe, has been on my bucket list. The National Register of Historic Places lists eight of the winery’s original stone buildings.
Conclusion: 4 Best Finger Lakes Wineries You Need to Visit near Corning
The four best Finger Lakes wineries near Corning create some of the best Finger Lakes wines according to my taste buds and the stack of awards and accolades they’ve accrued over the years. The best wineries in Finger Lakes NY are—in alphabetical order—Domaine LeSeurre Winery, Dr Frank Winery Finger Lakes, Pleasant Valley Wine Company and Weis Vineyards.
When you visit, you’ll find that in Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes, it’s a short drive distance between the best wineries in Finger Lakes in this area. The charming towns offer comfortable accommodations and top-notch culinary selections. And there’s plenty of outdoor activity to satisfy all the levels of interest in your traveling party.
* “How do you do a virtual wine tasting via ZOOM?” you may ask. It’s actually pretty easy just follow these three steps:
Virtual Wine Tasting on ZOOM with the Best Finger Lakes Wines
First, get a bunch of your friends to agree to get together over ZOOM—mine were food, wine and travel writers from IFWTWA.
Have the wine shipped to their doors from Corning-Finger Lakes FLX Wines online.** You could gift your friends with the wine or have them order their own. We were blessed to be given the wine for the purpose of review.
Once the wine has arrived and at the appointed time, open your wine, join the ZOOM call and chat with your friends. After you settle in, sip and share the news of the day, you could go around the group and have each person share their tasting notes. (That’s wine writer jargon for ‘how does it taste to you?’)
**Please Note: Each state has its own laws and regulations with regards to shipping alcohol across state borders. Therefore, not every winery can ship to every state. When you call the winery, please ask if it can ship to your state.
4 Best Wineries in Finger Lakes near Corning, NY
- Domaine LeSeurre Winery 13920 NY-54, Hammondsport, NY
- Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 9749 Middle Rd, Hammondsport, NY
- Pleasant Valley Wine Company 8260 Pleasant Valley Rd, Hammondsport, NY
- Weis Vineyards 10014 Day Rd., Hammondsport, NY
Incoming Travel Advisory: All travelers to New York State, except those in contiguous states, must complete the NYS DOH traveler form and follow required New York State Health Department’s Travel Advisory guidelines. These updated guidelines allow for travelers to NY to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. See Travel Advisory Flow Chart for more details.
As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
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