Finger Lakes Day 1
Our first day in the Finger Lakes American Viticultural Area (AVA) started out with flying into Frederick Douglas Greater Rochester International Airport. We opted to use a rental car to allow us freedom in winery choices. We wanted to be able to take local recommendations on wineries we should visit. Once we secured our rental car, we headed to Ventosa Vineyards Estate Winery. We didn’t make a reservation due to potential flight or rental car delays. The drive from the airport to Geneva was about an hour. It was a great chance to discuss our plan for the afternoon.
Our first stop was the beautiful Tuscan-style villa that functions as a cafe, winery, and banquet facility. When we arrived, the tasting room was busy, so we took the opportunity to check out their cafe menu. When space became available, we moved to the tasting room bar. Rachel, our host, greeted us, and we began our tasting of 5-2 oz pours for $10. Tastings in Finger Lakes are very affordable, and from the wineries we visited, tasting fees are waived if you join their wine club. The tasting is done at the bar with your host. My winner from Ventosa was the Vino Blanco, a blend of vintages of their pinot grigio, chardonnay, tocai fruilano, and riesling. It was crisp and clean, with a little tart on the finish. Once we finished our tasting, we moved to The Terrace to enjoy lunch at Cafe Toscana. We suggest getting a few dishes to share. We ordered pizza, a Caesar salad wrap, and cheese bread with a bottle of their 2021 Dry Riesling. The Terrace offers a fantastic view of Seneca Lake. It is also covered, and unless the wind is blowing in from the lake, you are dry if it rains, which it did while we were dining. The entire staff was knowledgeable and welcoming. After lunch, we walked on the property. We met Giorgio and Bella, their 2 very friendly donkeys that you can pet. In addition to wine tasting, you may also purchase a ticket for a cellar tour and tasting. Although the area is known for white wine Ventosa ages their reds in oak barrels 1-3 years causing them to have some of the oldest red wines in the region. They are 100% estate-grown, picked and bottled. They offer live music on Wednesdays and BOGO-free during this event. Click here for their updated winery events.
Our next stop was Boundary Breaks, located in Lodi. We had listened to owner Bruce Murray on the Wine for Normal People podcast. He discussed the terroir of Finger Lakes. As luck would have it, Bruce himself greeted us upon our arrival, and we continued the discussion with him in person. He explained how even though it can get cold during the winter months the lake effect on the vines creates moderate temperatures that don't freeze the vines. We love it when we get to sit down with the owner/winemakers and talk about wine. Bruce is out to make the best Reisling. He strives to create that balance of acidity, residual sugar, and flavor. One thing we learned was that reisling is one white that can benefit from aging. We enjoyed tasting the same variety of grapes, but different vintages. Tastings are 5 wines for $10. The pours are generous. The facility is open daily from 11-5. You may choose a stand-up self-guided tour or a sit-down guided experience. We chose the seated option under the tent with the view of the lake. The bar area is also under a tent and there are lots of chairs to relax in the sunshine. They have various snack options for your tasting for purchase. Our tasting began with the 2021 Gewurztraminer Bubbly Blitz. Their tastings are first come, first serve, and can get extremely busy on weekends. Our favorite was their Gewurztraminer Dry, a classic white wine that was a winner in the New York Wine Competition. Check out their website before you visit.
Three Brothers Wineries and Estates
If you are looking for a festive and unique experience, then 3 Brothers is the place for you. Imagine entering an amusement park for adults. You may choose to experience one tasting experience or spend the day and enjoy all four distinctly different tasting opportunities. You check in at the ticket office and receive a colored bracelet depending on your choice of winery experience. Stony Lonesome Winery offers great views of Seneca Lake and wines from traditional vinifera grapes to produce a dry Riesling. They also offer an award-winning Bourbon-aged Barbara. The atmosphere is casual and a great place to catch up and unwind. Passion Feet Winery is a female-themed boutique-style winery inspired by significant women in history, from Ferocity after Rosa Parks to Susan B. Anthony’s Tenacity. The wines range from semi-sweet to sweet. The decor is eclectic, and they offer a wide range of female-inspired gifts. It is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail or a sweeter wine for dessert. If you are ready to party and up for a good time, then head down the dirt path by Bagg Dare Winery. It is located at the back of the estate. This tasting room reminds you of sitting on the bayou. It is the sweetest of the three wineries. If you are easily offended by wine labels, then check that at the door. Wines include 69 Ways to Have Fun, Stoned, Lonesome, and Rider All Night. Be prepared to fall in love with sweet wine. For the beer lover in your group, there is War Horse Brewing Company. Opened in 2016, they offer a state-of-the-art experience. They are constantly evolving to make custom ales and seasonal beers. The decor is freedom-themed and recognizes the sacrifices of military personnel. They offer a Pint it Forward program. You may purchase a pint, and visiting military may enjoy a free pint with a valid Military ID.
For a snack, you can visit the Iron Heart Coffee Company. They offer a wide range of grab-and-go food, from the big-ass pretzel to wraps. The estate does schedule food trucks and live music on most weekends. Check their website for available options. Although not your typical winery experience, 3 Brothers Wineries offers something for everyone. We would highly suggest the $40 ticket to sample from all 4 tasting rooms.
We finished our first day with takeout from The Elephant in downtown Geneva. We opted for an AIRBNB located 1.5 miles from downtown. It was an easy walk to Seneca Lake. One thing that was interesting was that our townhouse was totally solar-powered. In fact, there was a solar farm next to the complex, and as you drive to the wineries, you will notice lots of solar farms.