If you live in Binghamton and you haven’t yet had the opportunity to go wine tasting in the Finger Lakes, then you’re seriously missing out. We are very fortunate to be within a couple of hours distance of some of the best wineries in the United States. In fact, the New York Times just wrote a glowing article (“In the Finger Lakes, Devotion to Riesling Shows”) on the devotion that our local growers have paid to Riesling. The Finger Lakes cool climate is exactly what this type of wine needs to maintain its cutting acidity. Riesling aside, the Finger Lakes offer a variety of different wines that would appeal to a large variety of wine tasters. I personally love the white and fruit wines that this region offers, and I take the opportunity to stock up on different varieties for my own personal inventory once or twice a year.
From Binghamton, it’s about 2 hours to the bottom of Seneca Lake. This is where we usually start our wine tasting, mainly due to proximity but also we’ve grown to really like a lot of the wineries located there. If you’d like to see a map of the wineries of Seneca Lake, click here. We started at Castel Gritsch, which is a nice German winery that also has a full service restaurant. From there, we worked our way north towards Rock Stream, Fulkerson and Glenora. Tastings are usually $1 to $5 per person, so make sure you bring cash for those. If you purchase wine though, they usually take credit cards for those transactions. A lot of wineries will offer a discount on a bottle if you participate in a tasting as well. I always ask for a box at the first winery that I go to, that way I can keep my wine upright and organized in the car. Bottles of wine are usually priced between $8 and $15, some ice wines or vintage may be more, but I rarely see a bottle of wine go above $22. This is why it makes so much sense to stock up while you’re there. Even cheap mass-produced wines like Mondavi or Barefoot at the liquor store are rarely priced below $10.
This year, we went as a group of five which included myself, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. We’re very fortunate to have a built-in-designated-driver (my dad) who is a good sport about it and has driven these excursions twice so far. I would not recommend trying to wine taste and drive, as you tend to get pretty liquored up by about the 3rd or 4th winery. There are plenty of tour buses and limo services available, and Oneonta Bus Lines even organizes a trip a couple of times a year that leaves from Front Street in Binghamton. Either way, don’t go wine tasting without bringing some snacks and plenty of water. We brought Chex Mix and Trail Mix for in the car, as well as Vitamin Water and regular water, and we polished them off in between wineries. Each winery usually offers at least 5 different wines for tasting, and if you let yourself get too drunk then it defeats the purpose of tasting the wines. (I’ve done this before and gotten to the point where I really couldn’t tell the different between any of them.) Safety first, people.
I think we made it to about 6 or 7 wineries before they started closing. Depending on how many you’d like to do, it’s best to get an early-ish start on your day if you’re leaving from Binghamton. We got there about 1:30-ish, but the wineries start closing up around 5. The most I’ve ever done in one day is 15 wineries, but I was sick for the rest of the weekend. That was a little too ambitious. If you do some in the morning, have a big meal, and then do more after lunch, you might be able to handle it based on your tolerance level, but a wine hangover is no fun. Wine taste at your own risk, and be responsible. Most people who visit are in good spirits, but you don’t want to be that asshole who’s obviously had too much to drink. Keep it classy, Binghamton.
A nice place to end your day of wine tasting is at Belhurst Castle. This is a gorgeous 1800’s style castle that sits right on the lake. They offer two dining options: Edgars Fine Dining and Stonecutter’s Tavern. We decided to eat at Stonecutter’s, and I got this delicious crabmeat salad with avocado and bacon. They had a band playing which was kind of loud and annoying, but the food was pretty good and reasonably priced. It does take a while to get a table though, so be prepared to wine taste in the gift shop or something while you wait.
I’ve only ever gone wine tasting as a day trip, but a lot of people do it for bachelorette parties or make a romantic getaway out of it. I’d love to come up for a weekend and stay in a Bed & Breakfast as that seems to be their lodging speciality. There are also numerous events that the Wine Trail offers, and you can find out more about them by visiting their website. I was also excited to read this article by the New York Times, which indicates that there is a growing hop farm industry in the region, that in the coming years will exist side-by-side the wineries. I had the pleasure of attending 1 brewery tasting during our trip, and it was a lot of fun. It would make for a fun weekend: wine tasting one day, beer tasting the next. I’m excited to see how this plays out in the coming years.
Read more about the wines in Upstate New York here.
- J.R. Dill Winery: Finger Lakes Winery Visit (toledowinesandvines.blogspot.com)
- Finger Lakes 2012 Vintage Stands Tall In Riesling Challenge (toledowinesandvines.blogspot.com)
- #Winechat featuring 2012 Finger Lakes Riesling (winecompass.blogspot.com)
- Riesling Hour (theother46.com)
- Top 10 wines in the US press (thedrinksbusiness.com)
- Seneca Lake Winery: Hidden Gem of New York State (foodtravelnyc.wordpress.com)
- Damiani Wine Cellars: Finger Lakes Winery Visit (toledowinesandvines.blogspot.com)