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Seneca Lake Wine Trail

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail (tel. 877/536-2717; www.senecalakewine.com) includes 35 wineries dotting the shores of Seneca Lake, producing some of the best wines in the region. Visits to those on the east side of Seneca Lake might easily be combined with a tour of wineries dotting the west bank of Cayuga Lake, while those on the west bank of Seneca could be combined with visits to Keuka Lake wineries. If you're planning on visiting a number of wineries, consider purchasing "A Riesling to Visit" passport ($12) which gets you a flight of wine samples at each participating winery (one per visit) from May through August. Among the wineries worth visiting for tastings and/or touring are the following:

East Bank

  • Atwater Estate Vineyards, 5055 Rte. 414, Hector (tel. 800/331-7323; www.atwatervineyards.com), is a relatively new winery situated among some of the area's oldest vineyards. It has a handsome yellow tasting room and gift shop attached to a barn, and a deck with views of Seneca Lake. The wines, with colorful, distinctive labels, have become among those to contend with in the region; try the Gewürztraminer and dry Riesling. In summer, Simply Red Bistro creates multi-course dinners that combine wine and local ingredients at the winery for $75 (call for schedule). Open May to December, Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm; January to April, Sunday to Friday 12 to 5pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm.
  • Red Newt Cellars, 3675 Tichenor Rd., Hector (tel. 607/546-4100; www.rednewt.com), is as much a winery as a restaurant. The winery is directed by David Whiting and the restaurant by his wife, the chef Debra Whiting. Red Newt's wines, including a top Riesling reserve and very nice cabernet franc (and even an unexpectedly good Syrah), are recognized as some of the finest in the region, though the winery produces no estate wines (all fruit is purchased). If you've grown tired of small sips of wine, the restaurant's outdoor terrace overlooking vineyards is a terrific place for a more substantial wine flight, glass or bottle. Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm.
  • Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 5712 Rte. 414, Hector (tel. 888/750-0492 or 607/546-9463; www.hazlitt1852.com), is best known for its party atmosphere, rock-'n'-roll music, and mass-market "Red Cat" wines. If you just want to have fun and taste some wines, this is the place. No intimidating wine-snob atmosphere here. It's not just grape juice, though; some wines, like the 2004 Riesling, are quite fine indeed. Open November to May, Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm; June through October, Monday to Saturday 10am to 5:30pm and Sunday from 11am to 5:30pm.
  • Shalestone Vineyards, 9681 Rte. 414, Lodi (tel. 607/582-6783; www.shalestonevineyards.com), is a real rarity in these parts, known for its Rieslings and chardonnays; winemaker Rob Thomas and his wife make only reds. "Red is all we do" is their slogan. Their small-batch, handcrafted reds are surprisingly excellent; try the Harmony, a cabernet franc/merlot blend, and the cabernet franc. You'll usually find either Rob or Kate, or both, in the cool little tasting room, and they're fun to engage on wine or any topic. Open June through September, Thursday to Sunday noon to 5pm; late April to June, Friday to Sunday noon to 5pm and other Saturdays in April noon to 5pm.
  • Wagner Vineyards, 9322 Rte. 414, Lodi (tel. 866/924-6378; www.wagnervineyards.com), operates an unusual octagonal winery producing 30 wines and a full slate of microbrew beers, and a gift shop, and offers nice guided tours and full tastings. Open year-round daily 10am to 5pm. There's a pleasant restaurant, Ginny Lee Café, that serves lunch daily from 11am to 4pm; on Friday nights in the summer, live music plays on the terrace overlooking Seneca Lake, and dinner (fish fry or barbecued chicken) is served from 7 to 9pm. It's one of the best evening spots around, popular with both locals and visitors.
  • Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, 9224 Rte. 414, Lodi (tel. 607/582-6011; www.lamoreauxwine.com), is housed in a Napa-style building with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of surrounding vineyards. It has won numerous awards for its serious vinifera wines, including its cabernet franc, Gewürztraminer, chardonnay, and a sparkling blanc de blanc. Open year-round for tastings, Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday noon to 5pm.

West Bank

  • Lakewood Vineyards, 4024 Rte. 14, Watkins Glen (tel. 607/535-9252; www.lakewoodvineyards.com), a family-run and friendly, low-key winery, has beautiful views and good Rieslings and chardonnays, as well as a surprising pinot noir. Open year-round Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm.
  • Glenora Wine Cellars, 5435 Rte. 14, Dundee (tel. 800/243-5513 or 607/243-5511; www.glenora.com), which makes a great variety of wines, has terrific views of Seneca Lake and vineyards as well as a picnic area and large tasting and gift shop. The winery operates a very nice restaurant and inn overlooking vines and the lake. Open year-round daily from 10am to 5pm (extended hours in summer).
  • Anthony Road Wine Company, 1020 Anthony Rd., Penn Yan (tel. 800/559-2182 or 607/243-5511; www.anthonyroadwine.com), has quickly become one of Seneca's finest producers. In a large, airy space overlooking the lake, it shows off its wide range of serious wines, including a delicious dry Riesling and rosé. The select, low-production Martini-Reinhardt wines are standouts -- especially the Riesling and trockenbeeren. Open year-round Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm.

More Top Wineries

Among wineries that are not official members of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, but are still very much worth visiting, are these:

East Bank

  • Damiani Wine Cellars, 5435 Rte. 414, Hector (tel. 607/546-5557; www.damianiwinecellars.com), is a tiny operation that's crafted some very good wines since its first vintage in 2004. I particularly liked the cabernet franc and meritage (a Bordeaux-style blend). Open Thursday to Sunday 11am to 5pm and by appointment.
  • Silver Thread Vineyard, 1401 Caywood Rd., Lodi (tel. 607/582-6116; www.silverthreadwine.com), though tiny and easy to overlook, is a winery to watch. The owner is committed to organic, artisanal winemaking, and he produces six very nice wines, including a dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and burgundy-style pinot noir. Look for signs indicating the long gravel road that wends toward the lake. Open May through November, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm; other times by appointment only.
  • Standing Stone, 9934 Rte. 414, Hector (tel. 607/582-6051; www.standingstonewines.com), is a small, hands-on family winery with a pretty yellow farmhouse, gardens, and a cheese room with gorgeous lake views from the deck. Standing Stone makes nice whites, including the Riesling and reserve chardonnay, and an outstanding Vidal ("ice") dessert wine. Open year-round daily 11:30am to 5pm (until 6pm Sat).

West Bank

  • Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, 3962 Rte. 14, Dundee (tel. 800/371-7971 or 607/243-7971; www.wiemer.com), is one of the Finger Lakes' standout wineries, headed by a dedicated German transplant who produces very serious, elegant white wines in the European cool-climate tradition. His dry Johannisberg Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and semi-dry Riesling go toe-to-toe with my other favorite winery, Dr. Frank's (on Keuka). Also not to be missed are the late-harvest Rieslings, which make excellent dessert wines. Tastings here are intimate; if you're serious about wine, this is a must-stop. Open year-round Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.