Wine Lovers, You Need to Plan a Trip to the Finger Lakes ASAP

Downstate New Yorkers often forget they have wine regions right in their backyard. Arguably, the best among them is the Finger Lakes, a cluster of several long, narrow lakes that look like—you guessed it—fingers. The two biggest ones are Seneca and Cayuga, which also happen to be where most of the action is. Lucky for you, we’ve got your complete guide to creating the perfect weekend getaway.

Pro tip: There are no bridges over the lakes, meaning you have to drive around them to get to the other side. Make sure you look up where things are and factor in driving routes and times.

20 Date Ideas in NYC That Aren’t Just Dinner and Drinks

finger lakes1
Sarah Eighmey

1. Sip Wine While Taking In The View

Anthony Road winery, on the west bank of Seneca Lake, makes interesting wines from a variety of grapes, and its tasting-room hospitality game is on point. The airy space offers various wine flights that are thoughtfully designed to showcase the winemaking team’s work and experiments, all with a fun (read: totally unpretentious) vibe. The estate is also one of the best places to enjoy the view of the lake; grab a lawn chair or picnic table and gaze down at the sloping vineyard and glittering water.

Silver Thread is on the east side of Seneca and has the advantage of being a little farther off the road—so closer to the lake—than a lot of other wineries. It has a patio to take advantage of the view, and also makes great wines, mostly from Riesling.

finger lakes 2
Hermann J. Wiemer

2. Learn More About The Region With A Visit To A Wine Pioneer

Hermann J. Wiemer is a fun place with a great, welcoming staff. It’s also a place where you can put your geek hat on. Founded in 1979, the west Seneca winery was at the forefront of the push toward high-quality Finger Lakes wine with a sense of place. With their decades of expertise, they know the region inside and out and can teach you whatever you want to know. The wines are a notch above in quality and are simply delicious. They make Rieslings from dry to sweet and everything in between, as well as Champagne-style bubbles, other whites and even a few reds. The team is also experimenting with biodynamic farming, so make sure to ask them about that!

finger lakes32
Daniel Bell/FLX Wienery

3. Refuel Between Tastings With Carb-loaded Goodness

No trip to the Finger Lakes is complete without a stop at F.L.X. Wienery. Conveniently located on the west side of Seneca Lake, the Wienery, as locals call it, serves an eclectic variety of loaded hot dogs and burgers, among other things. And by loaded, we mean piled high with all kinds of toppings like crispy onions, bacon, fried egg, cheese curds, relish, chili, kimchi— choose your adventure. There’s wine on tap, but you can also bring in your own bottle. If you want a break from the wine, try the Oreo stout-spiked milkshake (or just a regular virgin milkshake).

Also in Geneva, Kindred Fare is committed to local and seasonal food. The space is inviting and the food is delicious. The team makes much of the fare in-house, including breads, pastas, sausages and more. They also serve sustainably sourced fish and seafood, and they butcher their own meats. The drink list has local wine and beer, as well as international offerings.

finger lakes 4
Paul Vanhoy

4. Dine At Restaurants That Showcase Local Produce

The Wienery team has several other concepts, including F.L.X. Table in Geneva, a unique dining experience designed like a dinner party. The restaurant has a single 14-seat communal table and serves a prix-fixe menu with a few beverage pairing options. The emphasis is on showcasing local, seasonal produce, and the menu changes regularly. There’s also an open kitchen, and the staff interacts with diners as if they are guests in their home.

5. Enjoy Even More Local Wine Outside The Wineries

Many restaurants here are committed to showcasing local wine, but perhaps the most comprehensive Finger Lakes wine list in the region is at Stonecat Cafe, on the east side of Seneca. You’ll be able to visit only so many wineries on your trip, so indulging in Stonecat’s beverage program is an ideal way to taste what you may have missed (and plan for your next trip!). The restaurant is closed in winter but will reopen in early April when the weather is nicer anyway, and the patio is the hot ticket here. Microclimate, a cool wine bar in Geneva, is also a great spot to enjoy a glass or two of Finger Lakes wine.

finger lakes6
Inns of Aurora

6. Stay At The Best Hotel In The Area

There is no better place to rest up in the Finger Lakes than at the Inns of Aurora, a collection of five historic houses restored into boutique hotels. Enjoy incredible views on the east side of Cayuga Lake and bask in one of the beautifully designed, cozy guesthouses. The latest addition to the lodgings, the Zabriskie House, originally built in 1904, was unveiled in January 2020.

fingerlakes herbert museum
Dave Burbank

7. Visit The Art Museum (and Walk Around Campus)

For a change of pace, head to Ithaca, a college town that hugs the south point of Cayuga Lake. The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art has permanent collections of various ancient artifacts from around the world, as well as photography and some contemporary and modern art. The museum is on Cornell University’s campus, which is also worth walking around. Its hotel and hospitality school is famous nationwide, which makes sense in such a setting.

8. Go For A Hike

Watkins Glen State Park, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, can get quite crowded, especially in the summer, but it is still the best place to admire one of the region’s many spectacular waterfalls. Walk along the stream, in the shade of 200-foot-tall cliffs, up to Cavern Cascade, a nook where you can walk behind one of the waterfalls. Great for the kids…and for the ’Gram.

7 Couples Retreats That Make for the Perfect Weekend Getaway

purewow author
Emma Balter

Freelance PureWow Editor

read full bio