Friday, June 12, 2020

Wines from Around Upstate New York's Finger Lakes Wine Region #WinePW

The Finger Lakes wine region holds a special place in my heart.   It’s where I first grew to like and appreciate wine.  A dear friend introduced me to the area many years ago since he used to work at Fox Run Vineyards.  I used to take annual trips there, the last one being a couple years back now.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to receive a number of samples and have fun pairing some of them with our Wine Pairing Weekend (#winePW) crew.  Let’s get started!

Where is the Finger Lakes wine region?  It’s located in upstate New York, just south of Ontario Canada.  The drive for me is about a 6 hour ride from Boston.  There are eleven lakes parallel to each other that look like fingers from north to south.  The main viticultural lakes are the Seneca, Keuka and Cayuga lakes along with Canandaigua.  These lakes were developed during the Ice Age by glaciers that left behind soils like shale and limestone that give these wines their particular mineral characteristics. 

Keuka Lake wineries Finger Lakes
View over Keuka Lake from one of my favorites, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
This region has so much to offer in addition to its wineries, including breweries, distilleries and wonderful farm-to-table experiences at many of the wineries and local restaurants.  In addition, the miles upon miles of farmland, corn fields and vineyards overlooking the lakes is simply beautiful.  Many of the wineries operate  events throughout the year to giving you the perfect excuse for a visit.  I used to attend an annual multi-course wine paired “garlic dinner” at Fox Run Vineyards attended by the owners and winemakers.  It was just glorious set in the vineyards under a tent overlooking Seneca Lake. 

The climate of the area is tempered by the lakes allowing ideal conditions for the grapes of the area to grow.  The Finger Lakes is best known for their Rieslings and Gewurztraminer wines and I feel in love with the enticing aromatics and flavors of these wines.  I’m also a fan of their Cabernet Franc and I’ve enjoyed many other unique Cornell developed grapes as well as cold climate grapes that do particularly well there. 

I’ve been fortunate to visit 3 of the 4 wineries I sampled this week and just imagined myself there in the tasting rooms.  We all need a getaway at this point with everything going on so it was nice to mentally escape for a bit. 

Lakewood Vineyards 

My last visit to the Finger Lakes was the first time I visited Lakewood Vineyards located in the town of Watkins Glen on the southwestern side of Seneca Lake.  If you visit this area you must stop and visit Watkins Glen State Park.  It’s a beautiful place to walk off many of the calories consumed upon your vacation.   

Lakewood Vineyards is family owned and was founded in 1988.  The grandsons of the founder today run the winery with Chris Stamp producing every vintage to date since their establishment and David Stamp overseeing the vineyards that date back to 1952.  I really enjoyed both of these Rieslings with varying levels of residual sugars and they both paired perfectly with the dishes I prepared. 

2018 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling – A dry Riesling with crisp acidity and peach and lime notes.  ABV 11% SRP $15.  I paired this wine with a grilled pork chop and pear risotto.  I also added a side of bruschetta topped with ricotta and truffle honey.  It particularly complemented the pears in the risotto. 

2018 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling with Pork Chop Pear Risotto
Bruschetta with ricotta and truffle honey
2018 Lakewood Vineyards Riesling – Straw colored and floral aromas with ripe peach, pears and citrus.  It was rather light and delicate with good acidity up front with peach satisfying the palate.  ABV 10% SRP $15.  I paired this wine with a thai shrimp pasta comparing it with the Red Newt Riesling mentioned next.  As I assumed based on the amount of residual sugars listed on the bottles that this wine would pair better with the dish.  It brought out the lime flavors in the thai peanut sauce.

Red Newt Sawmill Creek Riesling and Lakewood Riesling with Thai Shrimp
Red Newt 

Red Newt is located in Hector, NY on the southeast part of Seneca Lake.  Started in 1998 by David and Debra Whiting, Red Newt provides an opportunity to experience food and wine of the Finger Lakes at its finest with their onsite bistro.  I sampled their flagship wine, Circle Riesling that I’m very familiar with, but wanted to call out to their single vineyard Sawmill Creek Riesling.

2017 Red Newt Circle Riesling

2013 Red Newt Sawmill Creek Vineyards North Block Riesling - It was quite interesting to experience the difference in this single vineyard compared to the Circle Riesling.  Sawmill Creek Vineyards belongs to the Hazlitt family of Hazlitt Vineyards that have been growning grapes there since 1862.  It is only about a half mile from Red Newt.  This single vineyard is located on steep slopes made of shale soil.  This wine was pale straw colored with a distinct nose of ripe peaches, apricots and especially petrol.  Very luscious, ripe fruit dominating the palate.  With very low alcohol at 8% and high residual sugars I enjoyed drinking this wine on its own.  Although you’ll see I did pair it in a standoff with Lakewood Riesling for comparison this is the type of Riesling I like to sip solo. SRP $24 

Buttonwood Grove Winery  

Buttonwood is the only one I haven’t been to although I have heard of it before.  It’s amazing to me over the years from when I first started going almost 20 years ago to see how many wineries have been established in that time frame.  Every time I go there always seems to be a new one.  Buttonwood was purchased by the latest owners, Dave and Melissa Pittard, in 2014. Located on the western side of Cayuga Lake they make classic vinifera grapes on their 25 acres.  It seems you can stay at the property and they also have a summer music series.  Sounds wonderful!   

2019 Buttonwood Grove Winery Rose' – This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes.  Juicy acidity with wild strawberry flavors.  I picked up a hint of wet stone as well.  It had decent weight and was rather refreshing.  ABV 12% SRP $16.  This warmer weather has us using the grill a lot as you can see so I paired it with a grilled chicken dish topped with a blueberry, balsamic and maple syrup sauce and a side of kale.  The blueberries in the sauce paired nicely with the red fruits of the rose’.   

2019 Buttonwood Grove Winery Rose Cabernet France pairing with Grilled Chicken in blueberry sauce
Have you been to this wine region?  I’d love to hear all about it! 

Join my fellow food and wine lovers as they share their journey through the Finger Lakes wine region.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at #WinePW 11am EST.  See you there!  Also, some of the wineries of the region are having great free shipping deals on 6+ bottles so make sure to check them out.  


  1. Great post, Jen! I had the Buttonwood Rose' also. Paired it with pesto-topped salmon. Yum.

  2. Must be so fun to have a diverse mix of wines from Finger Lakes. Love all of your pairing ideas especially the shrimp pasta with Lakewood and Red Newt Rieslings!

  3. My love for Riesling began with a trip to the Finger Lakes. How cool that you had such an fun, insider and enduring experience with the region! Thanks for sharing your memories.

  4. oh wow! bruschetta topped with ricotta and truffle honey. sounds so delicious and a great pairing!

  5. OH my.....that bruschetta caught my attention right away. Looks amazing.

  6. I didn't know Finger Lakes was home to your wine-loving roots! I thought Italy for sure!