Finger Lakes Fall Wedding Anniversary Trip

 I've decided if I ever win the lottery (unlikely since I don't play) or if my husband's company ever cures cancer and makes it big (much more likely) we will just have to buy a little lake house up in the Finger Lakes, NY because I am just completely smitten with the area! My husband and I just got back from a longer trip up there for our one year wedding anniversary and even though we've been there multiple times before I just can't get enough of it!

I've done recaps of most of our prior trips up to the area and I wanted to recap this trip as well since I get a bunch of DMs on instagram asking for suggestions of where to stay/visit/what to do up here - so it's nice to have a resource online to point people too! Here are the recaps I've written before:

Finger Lakes Day 1: Hiking and Seneca Lake Wineries

Finger Lakes Day 2: Cayuga Wine Trail

Spring Visit to the Finger Lakes on Keuka Lake

Summer Seneca Lake Finger Lakes Trip 

All Day Finger Lakes Wine Tour 

We tend to go up for a long weekend, but this year because of COVID we haven't been traveling to as many places so we both had a good amount of PTO to use up still so we extended our stay a little longer this trip.  It's about a 4/4.5 hour drive for us to get to the most southern part of the Finger Lakes, so instead of doing all the driving on Friday morning we booked a hotel in Binghampton, NY which is only about a 3 hour drive and headed up after work on Thursday.  Since my husband and I recently moved we are still waiting for a lot of our furniture to be delivered (we have no couch and haven't even set up our TV yet!) so we actually had a really fun time just hanging out in the hotel and watching the presidential debate on the TV Thursday night. 

 

Hermann J Weimer Wine

I try to "ration" the wine that we buy up in the Finger Lakes (aka don't drink it all at once and save it for some more "special occasions") but it's been awhile since our last trip so we only have about 2-3 bottles left over, one of which was this late harvest Riesling from Hermann J. Wiemer which was a slightly more expensive bottle than I normally buy so I was really trying to save it for a special occasion.  Well, apparently a Thursday evening in a random hotel in New York sitting in an oversized Tshirt and my underwear watching presidents debate was just that occasion - lol. We had a fun night with some good wine, and got to bed on time so we could get up Friday morning and start our vacation!

 

Strange Brew Cafe New York

Binghampton was about 1 hour and 20 minutes away from our first activity Friday located right outside of Ithaca, New York.  We checked out of our hotel and went into the town to grab some breakfast before hitting the road! We stumbled upon Strange Brew Cafe downtown where we were able to grab a table outside to have a cold brew, latte, and breakfast sandwiches. I got the "garden" sandwich on a bagel (add bacon) which was SO GOOD and the perfect breakfast to fuel up for our hike!  


We decided to go back to Robert Treman State Park which we had hiked one time previously.  There are beautiful views here and the park is really pretty large - we got to hike peaceful parts of the woods and see views of gorges and waterfalls.  It's really a beautiful park to visit and we had a fun time during our hike.

After the hike we hit the road again to head to the bottom of Keuka Lake for the first part of our stay in Hammondsport.  We stayed Friday and Saturday evening at the Best Western in Hammondsport which we've stay at multiple times before because it is affordable, nice, and in a great location to winery hop. We were able to check in early and did a really quick shower/change/run out the door cycle so we could get to our first winery tasting at 2PM. 



Keuka lake is the smallest of the three main finger lakes and a lot of the wineries are pretty close together.  You can easily do multiple wineries around the lake on the same day.  We headed out to Heron Hill winery for our first stop which was literally only 10 minutes from our hotel and it has (what I think is) one of the most beautiful tasting rooms in the finger lakes!

 
COVID has changed a lot of things, and wine tasting is one of them.  I really appreciated how at Heron Hill we had to make a reservation for our tasting but we were sat at our own table outside and had a designated taster who came and poured each wine and gave us a little info about that specific wine. You will read later how not every winery has such a nice set-up! My favorite wine here is hands down the semi-dry Riesling - SO GOOD! Both my hubby and I like it.  I purchased a few of those and the "Lady of the Lake Riesling" which is a bubbly Riesling wine.  

 
There are just views for miles here! And only 2 miles away is another winery worth visiting: Dr. Frank Winery.  I don't think I've ever actually made a trip to the Finger Lakes where I have NOT visited this winery.   This trip did not disappoint either! This was one of my favorite COVID friendly wine tastings.  We were split into small groups (we went around with just one other couple that we quickly be-friended!) and were able to taste 5 different wines from 5 different stations where we got to pick our preference of what to taste at each station.  I enjoyed still getting the personal touch of having a designated taster to explain each wine we were enjoying and (frankly) entertain us as well.  The staff here is just so fun and pleasant.  Couple that with some amazing wine and great views and it's an enjoyable experience every time!

Dr Frank Winery Visit

We were able to do a quick tour of the facilities during our visit which was really cool to see. Dr. Frank is one of the oldest wineries in the Finger Lakes and Dr. Konstantin Frank really revolutionized the way that grapes were grown in this region which forever shaped and helped contribute to the success the Finger Lakes have had as a premier wine growing region.  I'm a big fan of their semi-dry Riesling here - it's one of my top wine picks ever! I also enjoy their sparkling wines such as their Célèbre sparking wine (totally used this to make mimosas on our wedding day!) We actually got to visit the cellar of "Chateau Frank" next door to the winery where all their sparkling wine is stored during the secondary fermentation.  The most interesting fact I learned was that most of these wines are stored this way for 3-5 years, which is much longer than some other sparkling wines on the market - including prestigious labeled wines *cough Veuve Clicquot cough.* The price point on these sparkling wines is also much more affordable!

 
We visited the area right at the end of harvest time but there were still a few grapes left on the vines here. We even got to taste a few!


Our last stop of the day was another winery on Keuka Lake again pretty close by at the Keuka Lake Winery.  This was a new stop for us: we have never visited here before but it came recommended pretty highly from two different friends of ours who have frequented this area. I think this is a spot that we should visit again after the COVID pandemic because unfortunately our tasting here was probably one of our least favorites of the trip.  It really wasn't personable at all, the wines were all delivered at once in a hap-hazard way, and the ambiance wasn't as nice as some other vineyards (we were sitting on a picnic table in the middle of the parking lot). That being said: their Vignoles CO2 wine was DELICIOUS.  I bought a few bottles of that and wish I had got more!

Keuka Lake Winery

With three winery visits done we headed back to our hotel.  One of the most convenient parts of staying at the Best Western is that they are located right next door to The Finger Lakes Beer Company which stays open until 6PM. If you are really craving a beer after a day of wine tasting (or in my case, a hard cider!) you can just walk across the bridge from the hotel! This place has a very friendly and local feel which was still the case even with COVID.  We stopped in for a quick drink and grabbed a crowler to-go to drink around one of the fire pits at the hotel while we shared some snacks and chatted with some other hotel guests.  Perfect relaxing ambiance to end a packed day!


Saturday morning we grabbed breakfast at the hotel before setting off to find a new-for-us hike at The Keuka Lake Outlet Trail. This trail runs between the top of Keuka Lake in the town of Penn Yan to the town of Dresden on Seneca Lake and features different waterfalls along the way! The entire trail is 7 miles long but we opted to drive to a central spot on the trail and walk to two of the larger water falls for a shorter hike (we had more wine to taste today after all!!)

Keuka Lake Outlet Trail
 
If you are looking for a little exercise but nothing too intense, this is a great trail to visit as it was almost completely flat.  We were able to visit the Cascade Falls and Seneca Mills Falls which was just beautiful! This blog post gives a little more info on where to park to be able to visit each waterfall. A portion of the trail follows a pretty river and another portion is just through some quiet woods - it was very peaceful and finding each waterfall at the end of the path was very fulfilling!

Seneca Falls

It's a good thing that this wasn't an excessively long or sweaty walk because we did a quick outfit change in the car before heading to our first winery visit of the day at Billsboro Winery on the North West side of Seneca lake, not too far from where the trail left us.  

Billsboro Winery

This was another new winery visit for us but we will definitely be back! This was one of my favorite tastings of the trip.  The winery itself is situated in an older barn building just off the lake in a beautiful wooded area with a nice deck and patio area outside.  I made a reservation for a table outdoors on the deck (with heaters nearby!) and we grabbed some cheese and crackers for a snack while we enjoyed a wine tasting flight.  The wine here was delicious and the staff was friendly and the views were lovely! We bought a lot of bottles here but I think the 2019 Riesling and their 2019 Saluti were two of my favorites.

 
I didn't make a ton of reservations for tastings on Saturday so we could have some flexibility on where we wanted to visit as there are many wineries as you work your way down North to South on the Western side of Seneca Lake. Billsboro was our furthest winery we visited and our plan was to work our way South and then hop back over to Keuka Lake and end closest to the hotel.  

Anthony Road Winery

At the recommendation from a worker at Billsboro, we decided to drop into Anthony Road Winery which was close by.  Without a reservation we couldn't do a tasting as they were all booked up, but we could grab a glass of wine on their deck.  I asked for a recommendation of a Riesling to try and had a glass of their 2014 Art Series Riesling which was AMAZING. They allow this wine to ferment spontaneously from its native yeast which gives amazing flavor to the wine.  I took home a bottle of that and will definitely schedule a full tasting here the next time we visit!
 

From here we visited two more wineries that were pretty close by,  but didn't do a tasting at either.  I love Fox Run Vineyards but we've been there multiple times and it was getting a littttttle chilly when we stopped over and all the indoor tastings were booked.  Instead I just bought some of my favorite sweet blush Ruby Vixen from them and we headed over to Glenora Winery.  There was a pretty long wait here as well, and we were getting a bit hungry so we decided to just peace out to find food, hah.  Both of these wineries have restaurants (Fox Run is more of a cafe, and I belive Glenora has a more full restaurant) but not too far away in Dundee is The Wienery which is THE SPOT to hit up if you want something sinfully delicious to soak up all those wine tastings. 

FLX Wienery

They specialize in glorified hot dogs and burgers here and it is GOOOOOD.  If you are dinning in, they also have a ridiculously vast and impressive choice of wines to order by the bottle (we are in wine country after all) but we were just stopping in for some grub today. The restaurant is pretty small inside and once again because of COVID there were restrictions on how many people could be dinning at once so we just opted to get takeout and eat it in our car.  If you stop here: I don't care what you get but the cheese curds are a must!!! I also got a peanut butter chicken burger which was surprisingly delicious.


After stuffing our faces it was time to head back over to Keuka Lake for a tasting I had scheduled at McGregor Winery. We got here a little ahead of schedule and had a little bit of a food coma, lol so we parked the car by the vines and took a quick 15 minutes siesta to recharge.  At least there were some beautiful views for our power nap!!


Cheetah sweater linked here.  McGregor is another older and very established winery for the area. To be blunt, the tasting experience here has always been just kind of OK, and especially with COVID it was pretty impersonal (we just got a little tray of our specific wine choices delivered to the indoor picnic table we sat at and that was it) BUT.  The wine here is really good.  We got hooked on their Gewürztraminer during COVID quarantine and ordered a few cases from here during lock down. I'm also a big fan (obviously) of their Riesling so we grabbed a bottle of that and a fancy bottle of red wine after a quick tasting here.
 

  To finish off the day, we headed nearby to Weis Vineyards which is open until 6PM on weekends and very close to our hotel.  This is a newer winery and we had only visited one time prior but absolutely loved every wine we bought from here, so we knew we had to come back to stock up again.  
 
 
The tasting experience here was great as well.  They had different areas spaced out for safe tastings but it will still done direct with a winery employee which I really appreciate because then they really have an opportunity to talk more about each wine you sample.  We actually did our tasting all the way out in one of their storage buildings that keeps grapes and wine barrels, but we were the only ones there and had a really fun time learning about the winery again.
 
There is also a really cute barn on the property with heaters where other tastings were being given, and space to hang out and order a glass of wine as well.  We hung out for just a little longer here before we packed it in and headed back to our hotel to crash for an early night!!!

Stay tuned for a recap of the second part of our trip - we switched hotels and tried out a few more new-to-us wineries on Sunday and Monday before heading home Tuesday.  I'll be back to share more about those!

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