Despite the fact that the Finger Lakes is gaining renown for being a top wine region to visit, there still seems to be a misconception that you cannot find great red wine here. Comments like “oh, but they only make Riesling,” or “it’s too bad they don’t produce dry wine,” seem to be fairly common despite the fact that dozens of wineries have a focus on drier styles and produce amazing reds.

If you’re heading into the Finger Lakes, and are a lover of dry red wines, I suggest challenging yourself to doing a red wine only tour on Seneca Lake. It’s a fun new way to explore the lakes.

Not sure where to go? Here are five wineries that are producing delicious reds on the West side of Seneca Lake.


Ravines Wine Cellars

Finger Lakes Wineries To Visit For Red Wine | Winetraveler.comLocated just outside of Geneva within a historic barn, Ravines Wine Cellars is the perfect way to kick off your red wine tour. The winery is the passion project of Morten and Lisa Hallgren. Since 2003, they’ve been releasing award-winning wines in the region, with a focus on using classic European varietals. While their single varietal reds, such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, are fantastic, it is their blends that are the most impressive.

Named in honor of their son, the Maximilien series is a Bordeaux-style red blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This year’s 2015 Maximilien release features notes of plum and black cherry, with hints of baking spice, and a strong but smooth tannin. It’s a wine you could easily age for a few years, or drink now.

Looking for something a little different? Their 2016 Cerise, the French word for cherry, is a mix of Pinot Noir and Blaufrankisch. Fitting for its name, the nose pops with tart cherries, with hints of tobacco and fresh herbs. It’s bright cherry acidity and chalky tannin leave you wanting another sip.


Billsboro Winery

Red Wine Best Seneca Lake Wineries To Visit | Winetraveler.comBillsboro Winery was started in 2007 by Vinny and Kim Aliperti, and they’ve focused on making dry red and white wines. When people say that the Finger Lakes don’t have great dry or red wines, I use Billsboro as my example to prove them wrong. Need proof? New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced last summer that Billsboro Winery won the 2016 Governor’s Cup competition at the 31st New York Wine & Food Classic for their 2013 Syrah.

Their Syrah continues to be one of the best wines in the region, and the current 2016 release is no exception. It’s notes of ripe cherry and black currant, with loads of earth, smoke and white pepper and rich, chewy tannin, will convince you that the Finger Lakes are a red wine region.


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While all of their red wines are fantastic, I highly suggest trying their 2017 Cabernet Franc. It seems now that almost every winery is doing a Cabernet Franc, but few are able to really showcase what this grape has to offer. Billsboro’s is a complex, nuanced exemplar featuring notes of bright cherry, tart raspberry, baking spice, hints of green herbs, and a warm vanilla finish.


Red Tail Ridge Winery

Red Tail Ridge - Best Finger Lakes Wineries on Seneca Lake for Red WineFounded by Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, Red Tail Ridge Winery is a known for their unique red varietals that they grow on their 52-acre vineyard. The winery consistently receives high accolades for their clean and nuanced wines. Most recently, Irelan was announced as a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist. What is fun about this winery is that the focus isn’t on the classic varietals. Instead, they’ve chosen to grow and make wine from grapes that come from cooler European regions.

The 2016 Dornfelder has an interesting nose of black raspberry and black currant, with secondary notes of baking spices, earth and mint. When sipped, it has a tart plum finish and bright acidity.

One of their more interesting wines is the NV Rebel with a Cause Sparkling, a red, dry, bubbly. This wine is meant to showcase the growing season and the grapes that best represent it. The current blend is 66% Lagrein, 17% Teroldego, & 17% Blaufränksich, which gives the wine a nose of cranberry and currant jam, licorice, mineral, and baking spice.


Shaw Vineyard

Shaw Vineyard - Wineries To Visit on West Seneca Lake Finger Lakes New YorkShaw Vineyard opened its doors in 2007. Prior to that, owner Steve Shaw was known throughout the Finger Lakes for growing vinifera. Unlike many wineries that release wines young, holding on to them only a year or two after harvest, Shaw waits until he thinks the wine is at its peak and ready to drink. That means that on any given visit, you may find some nice surprises from their cellars that may be up to a decade old (and perhaps even older).

Try sampling the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, with its intense nose of black currant, plum, chocolate, and a hint of nuttiness. It leaves a lingering tobacco and vanilla, balanced out by a rich tannin. The eight years of aging have made this a complex and fascinating wine to enjoy.

Looking for something a little lighter? Their 2016 Unoaked Cabernet Franc is a nice change from the richer wines you’ve probably been tasting. Instead of notes like almond and vanilla, it has a bright nose of tart raspberry and blackberry, pepper and earth, with a lovely chalky tannin.


Hermann J. Wiemer

Hermann J. Wiemer Winery | Best Wineries for Red Wine on Seneca LakeHermann J. Wiemer Vineyard was founded in 1979 by its namesake, a pioneer of vinifera viticulture. For the last decade, the winery has been run by Fred Merwarth and Oscar Bynke. They are one of the top vineyards in the region, and their fantastic wine is only surpassed by their intimate and amazing tasting sessions.

While they are known for their white wines, particularly their Rieslings, they are producing some delicious reds. One of my personal favorites is their Field Blend. It isn’t just a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Lemberger in the bottle, the fields are a mixture of these vines. Each year is a little different, but their 2014 had a nose of black fruit, plum, and pepper with a big chewy tannin and zingy cherry acid.

You should also try the 2017 Lemberger. This is becoming one of the more popular grapes in the region, and Hermann J. Wiemer’s is a great example. The nose is full of cigar box, smoke, raspberry and red plum. It finishes with a light chalky tannin and hints of chocolate.

Looking for more? On Seneca Lake’s North and East side, there are great reds being produced at Standing Stone Vineyards, Atwater Estate Vineyards, Three Brothers’ Stoney Lonesome, Zugibe, Forge, Hector Wine Co., and Damiani.


More Resources & Wineries To Explore in the Finger Lakes

Seneca Lake Wine Country Itinerary & Guide (Hotels, Transportation, Wineries & Activity Recommendations)

9 Outstanding Wineries in the Finger Lakes if You Love Sparkling Wine

How To Spend a Relaxing Weekend in Aurora New York

Barnstormer Winery – A Unique Approach To Winemaking in the Finger Lakes

FLX Weinery – A Finger Lakes Restaurant Destination


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Kate Meyers Emery
Wine Educator at VinifeROC
Kate Meyers Emery is a Finger Lakes wine evangelist, sharing the love and knowledge of her region through the classes she teaches and in her writing. She is the author of VinifeROC, a personal chronicle of her adventures in exploring the wines of New York, with a particular focus on Rochester and the Finger Lakes. Follow her wine adventures on Instagram at @kmeyersemery.
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Comments ( 2 )

  1. I believe you missed the best red wine producer in the Finger Lakes, Shalestone, on the east side of Seneca Lake. Their slogan is “All We Do Is Reds” and I think, for example, they are way better than Shaw. They are small and don;t usually put their wines into tastings, but that does not detract from their quality. While all the wineries you mention surely have merit and make some fantastic wines, year-to-year my red collection gets replenished with Shalestone’s reds.

    • Hi Boyd, Yes! Shalestone does have great reds, and there are many other wineries on Seneca Lake that have fabulous red wines (Atwater, Damiani, Bloomer Creek, Flatt Rock, Forge, Red Newt). For this, I article I was sticking to the West side of Seneca Lake, trying to do a tour that people could easily accomplish in one day. My hope is to do another one focusing on the other side of the lake! Cheers!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Meyers Emery is a Finger Lakes wine evangelist, sharing the love and knowledge of her region through the classes she teaches and in her writing. She is the author of VinifeROC, a personal chronicle of her adventures in exploring the wines of New York, with a particular focus on Rochester and the Finger Lakes. Follow her wine adventures on Instagram at @kmeyersemery.

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