Back in the beginning of June, Ryan and I took a long weekend to the Finger Lakes in NY to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We explored the back country roads, went swimming, did a boat ride, and went to 13 wineries and breweries. Yes, 13!
You know when you visit a place and it just feels like home? That’s what our trips to the Finger Lakes feel like. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and laid back. Everyone we meet is so welcoming and treats you like family. We love exploring the small old-fashioned feeling towns and of course trying all the different types of wine. One of my favorite things is the fact that it is never crowded. You go to a winery and there are usually only a few other couples there. There’s no traffic and no wait at restaurants. It feels like a private secret escape!
This was our second time visiting the Finger Lakes region (the wine country of New York that is named after the many long and narrow lakes that spread out across the environment like fingers.) There are hundreds of wineries spread across the region, making it the Napa Valley of the East Coast. They are known for their Rieslings and ice wines.
Last summer we stayed at a bed and breakfast on Canandaigua Lake that was also a wildlife refuge. We hiked the gorge at Watkins Glen and did the wine trails on Keuka and Canadaigua Lake.
This year we rented a lovely little waterfront cottage on a little Waneta Lake, which is perfectly located between two of the larger lakes, Keuka and Seneca.
We left eastern PA early Saturday morning and arrived in Hammondsport, NY at lunchtime. We went straight to our favorite place to eat on Keuka Lake – Bully Hill Vineyards. They have a beautiful covered patio overlooking the lake and awesome food. Their wine tastings are also really fun! This is Ryan’s favorite winery.
After lunch and a wine tasting, we drove down the road to the next winery on our itinerary: Dr. Konstantin Frank.
Hands down the best wine we’ve tasted in the region. Also the best tasting experience. Unlike most vineyards, their tasting is free and they are very knowledgable about the wines and the wine making process. We have nicknamed it Dr. Frankensteins. Beautiful view too!
Next we hit Ravines Wine Cellars
, which was a small yet nice winery.
We wrapped up our afternoon at McGregor Vineyard. This Scottish themed winery was the nicest wine tasting experience we have ever had. They led us into a private room where we got our own cozy table. Instead of speeding us through the tasting, they left us alone after pouring each of our wine selections. We were also treated to a lovely spread of cheese, fruit and bread. We loved it here so much that we stayed and enjoyed a glass of wine and more cheese. This is truly a hidden gem off of Keuka Lake!
After a pleasant experience at McGregor’s we made our way to our cottage. Just a short 8 minute drive later and we arrived. We found this lovely studio cottage on AirBnB
for a great deal. The owners live next door and supplied us with a filling breakfast each morning as well as the use of their dock and kayaks. It was perfect. Just look how cute!
After settling in we sat by the water for a bit and enjoyed some wine on our porch. I had the perfect getaway read, “Happy to Be Alive, Because” written by fellow blogger Chelsea at The Girl Who Loved to Write.
(headband by Chelsea as well! Buy your own at Pretty Lovely Littles)
That evening we enjoyed cocktails and appetizers at Snug Harbor and then dinner at Union Block in downtown Hammondsport (voted one of America’s coolest small towns!) After dinner we headed back home to crack open a bottle of wine from McGregor’s.
Sunday we were greeted with breakfast waiting for us on our front porch.
After breakfast and a few cups of coffee we took the kayaks out on the lake. Remember when I said the area is so peaceful? Well we had the ENTIRE lake to ourselves. It was so beautiful. We kayaked around for a bit and just spent some time floating out in the middle of the lake.
Afterwards we showered and headed out to Seneca Lake for the day. First we hit up Glenora Wine Cellars
where we did a tasting and purchased a bottle of champagne to drink later that night. We then had lunch down in Watkins Glen at Seneca Harbor Station.
It was a little too touristy for my tastes with bland overpriced food, but the view was very nice. We choose to eat there because we had 2 p.m. tickets for a local boat cruise up the lake.
We were one of 6 passengers on boat tour. It was a short one hour cruise and it was nice to see the biggest Finger Lake (Seneca Lake) from the water.
(looking at Hector Falls from the water)
After the boat tour we got in a car and got ready to hit the east side of Seneca Lake and do some damage on the wine trail. But first we stopped for some photos at Hector Falls.
We then hit the following wineries:
Atwater Vineyards: Very good wine, good views, good prices but a little silly about their rules. Unlike every other winery we have been to, they insisted that we couldn’t buy a bottle on site, open it and only drink one glass out of it. They said it was NY state law that we had to finish the whole bottle. That was not the case at any other winery.
We finished up the afternoon at Wagner Vineyards and Brewery,
a large winery and brewery with excellent views of the lake. It was a much more relaxed/party environment. Ryan really enjoyed their beer tasting and brought home a make your own six-pack while I scored two bottles of wine.
As we started the 30 minute trek back to our cottage we decided to forgo our previously scheduled evening plans. We had brought some fancier clothes and planned on a nicer dinner out to celebrate our first anniversary. Instead we decided to make a pit stop at a local grocery store and pick up some appetizers and have dinner out on our dock while we watched the sunset.
Best decision ever.
We had an amazing night with the best view. We stayed out and chatted under the stars into the night and then headed back to the cottage.
Monday morning, being our actual anniversary day we had dessert for breakfast! Yes, we froze the top layer of our wedding cake and saved it for this occasion.
The pink champagne cake still tasted really good! We were dorks and fed each other cake and made our wishes for our second year of marriage.
After soaking in the last views of our lake. Yes it has now become “our” lake, we packed up and checked out of the cottage and headed back over to the eastern side of Seneca Lake for a day of more wine tasting.
We hit up:
Chateau LaFayette Reneau: Excellent wine, a little pricier. Nice customer service and a beautiful location. We had the place to ourselves.
Leidenfrost Vineyards: A German themed winery with a relaxed environment complete with a winery dog!!! We enjoyed a bottle of a good spicy Gewürztraminer out on the sunny deck. Again, we had the place to ourselves.
Hazlelitt 1852 Vineyards:
Next we popped into the fun Hazletlitt compound. This place was huge, with a big outdoor concert venue as well. This was the only place we had to wait for a tasting all weekend, not bad though. It has a fun Jimmy Buffett like environment. Cheaper prices for what I’d call “boat wine” or “porch sippin wine”. We picked up some champagne and some “travel” bottles of red.
At this point we were starving so when we drove past a little farmers market that advertised Cheese Tastings we had to stop. We got to taste over 50 different kinds of cheeses. So , so, so good!
Red Newt This winery and cafe are a little off the beaten path, but so worth it! The wine is a bit pricier, but you can tell. (I swear I’m not a wine snob!). They had some of the best reds. After doing a tasting we had lunch on their lovely patio. Let me tell you, BEST GRILLED CHEESE I EVER HAD. I could eat it for the rest of my life.
Two Goats Brewing After lunch we popped into this little brewery. They don’t do tastings but they sell their own beer as well as other varieties. Ryan enjoyed one of their lagers and I enjoyed a hard cider. Fun place!
Finger Lakes Distilling Oddly, we finished our Finger Lakes weekend off at a distillery. Ryan and I (but mostly Ryan) tasted some vodka and whiskey. It was interesting to hear their process and look around the distilling company.
It was a perfect weekend and on the drive home we started to dream about coming back sometime in fall to see the foliage and be there for the harvest. Truly a romantic escape that is on the cheaper side. I’ve always been dubbed as a beach girl and I’m surprised at how much I have fallen in love with the lakes and the mountains and the serene environment.
Before our trips I researched for hours regarding which wineries and towns to visit and where to eat and stay. There are literally hundreds of wineries and you only have so much time.
Here is a summary listing of where we went and what we did:
Bully Hill Vineyards (western side)
Dr. Konstantin Frank (western side)
Ravines Wine Cellars (eastern side)
McGregor Vineyard (eastern side)
Glenora Wine Cellars (western side)
Atwater Vineyards (eastern side)
Chateau LaFayette Reneau (eastern side)
Wagner Vineyards and Brewery (eastern side)
Leidenfrost Vineyards (eastern side)
Hazlelitt 1852 Vineyards (eastern side)
Red Newt (eastern side)
Two Goats Brewing (eastern side)
Finger Lakes Distilling (eastern side)
Where We Ate:
Bully Hill Vineyards (Hammondsport, Keuka Lake)
Snug Harbor (Hammondsport, Keuka Lake)
Union Block Italian Bistro (Hammondsport, Keuka Lake)
Seneca Harbor Station (Watkins Glen, Seneca Lake)
Red Newt (Hector, Seneca Lake)