Forget jetting off to California to sip wine in the sunshine—the East Coast has a thriving wine scene all of its own. Within just a few hours of New York City, you’ll find hundreds of family-run vineyards and boutique wineries, more than a dozen official wine trails, and a veritable bouquet of wine varietals to sip and sniff your way through.
From the mountain-flanked vineyards of the Hudson Valley to the cool-climate wines of the Finger Lakes, even the most discerning oenophiles will be impressed with the wine menu in New York State. Heading to the Finger Lakes? Pop the cork and raise a glass to these two wine-inspired weekend itineraries.
The perfect wine weekend is a fine blend of winery visits and tastings, paired with local gastronomy and regional delights. Bottle up the following ingredients:
From expert-led tastings to guided winery tours, Finger Lake’s dedicated Wine Trails make it easy to plan a tasting tour. Sample cool-climate whites (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay), as well as regional reds (Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc).
Great wines go hand-in-hand with great cuisine, and perfect wine-growing terroir yields equally tasty produce. Snag a table at one of the region’s most atmospheric restaurants, dig into delicious farm-to-fork cuisine, or indulge in a tasting menu paired with vine-to-table wines.
Whether strolling through the vineyards or gazing out over fields of rolling vines; vineyard views are all part of the wine-tasting experience. Pick wineries with open-air terraces, admire the vines from afar on a leisurely boat cruise, or watch the sunrise over the vineyards on a romantic hot air balloon flight.
A crisp morning hike or cool lake swim provides the ideal complement to a weekend of non-stop wine tasting. Marvel at natural gorges and waterfalls in New York’s state parks, take to the water to boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, or mix in fun seasonal activities such as fruit picking, fall foliage walks, or a hayride.
Start your Seneca Wine Trail tour at the north end of the lake, where Belhurst Estate Winery boasts arguably the most fairy-tale setting of all, housed in the 19th-century Belhurst Castle. Continuing south along the west shore, head to Fox Run Vineyards, where behind-the-scenes VIP tours let you stroll the vineyards and peek into the barrel room. There’s time for a tasting at Lakewood Vineyards, which dates back to 1951, before setting sail on a sunset cruise around Seneca Lake.
Make an early start the next day to hike the Gorge Trail at the Watkins Glen State Park, then take in the views from Castel Grisch winery. Along the east shore of the lake, you can pick-your-own blueberries at Wolf Tree Farm or stroll the lavender fields at Rue Claire (depending on the season), before heading to Wagner Vineyards for a wine-tasting lunch.
Still time for tastings? East shore highlights include the award-winning Chateau LaFayette Reneau and Damiani Wine Cellars, renowned for producing some of the best reds in the Finger Lakes.
Geneva on the Lake 1001 Lochland Road, Geneva, NY 14456, 315-789-7190. Plush suites in an Italianate villa, complete with candlelit dining, a spa and swimming pool, and a gorgeous lakeside location.
1897 Beekman House 39 Main Street, Dundee, NY 14837, (315) 412-2697. Enjoy a royal welcome and a gourmet three-course breakfast at this Victorian manor house.
Vineyard Villas 3708 Mathews Road, Burdett, NY 24818, 607-882-2345. Purpose-built lakeside villas with panoramic lake views, where you can light a campfire beneath the stars.
The Inn at Glenora & Veraisons Restaurant 5435 State Route 14, Dundee, NY 14837 • (800) 243-5513. Delicious regional cuisine sourced from Finger Lakes farms – even the bread comes from the local bakery.
3812 Bistro at Lakeside Resort 3812 State Route 14, Watkins Glen, NY14891, 607-535-4232. Seasonal farm-to-table dishes inspired by international flavors.
‘America’s First Wine Trail’ has been tempting wine lovers to the Finger Lakes since 1983 and features 16 wineries, most of which are dotted along the west shore of Cayuga Lake. Start exploring the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail from the north, where Montezuma Winery is famed for both its wine and its homemade honey.
Continue along the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, stopping to sample award-winning varietals at Swedish Hill Vineyard or taste unique Zweigelt, Viognier, and Aromella wines at Goose Watch Winery. Swing by Americana Wines to pick up a bag of homemade fudge (and it would be rude not to try a few wines while you’re there), then work up an appetite with a short hike to Taughannock Falls, one of the most memorable views in the Finger Lakes.
At the south end of the lake, Ithaca makes a popular basecamp from which to visit the two east side wineries – Treleaven Wines and Long Point Winery. Swing by the Ithaca Farmer’s Market for picnic supplies in the morning, take a detour to Buttermilk Falls State Park, then enjoy a wine and spirit tasting at Six Mile Creek. If you need a change from all that wine, you can stroll the orchards and pick your own apples at the Finger Lakes Cider house.
Cayuga Lake Cabins 6472 State Route 89, Ovid, NY,607-738-9288. Heated and air-conditioned log cabins amid the vineyards with lake views to boot.
The Gould Hotel 108 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY, 315-712-4000. Stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Seneca Falls.
Thirsty Owl Bistro 6799 State Route 89, Ovid, NY, 607-869-5805. Winery bistro pairing local flavors with homegrown wines and a vineyard picnic-style experience.
Knapp Winery Restaurant 2770 Ernsberger Road, Romulus, NY, 607-930-3495. Seasonal dining with a spectacular view over the vineyards.
Designate a driver: You’ll need a car to get around Upstate’s wine trails, and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft often aren’t reliable in rural areas. If you don’t want to designate a driver from your group, consider taking a tour or organizing private transport.
Book ahead: Many wineries only offer wine tasting by reservation. It’s recommended to book all your tastings in advance, but if you want to be spontaneous (and don’t mind making other plans if your preferred time is unavailable), at least call up the day before your visit.
Pick the season: The most popular time to visit Upstate’s wineries is from late spring through early fall, but wineries can get busy, and advance bookings are advised. Low season visits can mean a more personalized experience, although opening times may be limited, so check ahead. Think about seasonal attractions in the area, too, such as fall foliage or beach visits which might be ideal to combine with your wine tour.
Pace yourself: Make sure you pace yourself if you are planning multiple tastings – have a hearty breakfast and lunch, sip water throughout the day to stay hydrated, and consider spitting out some of the tastings (that’s what the experts do). Getting drunk means you won’t be able to enjoy the visits half as much.
Be selective: Three to five winery visits are plenty for one day; otherwise you won’t have time to fully appreciate each stop. To narrow down your selection, consider their unique attributes and most acclaimed wines. Prioritize wineries that excel in your preferred varietals, have an unmissable view, or offer something unique such as a guided vineyard tour.