TOP SENECA LAKE WINERIES MAKING GREAT RED WINES
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. If you’re considering visiting the Finger Lakes region, Rochester International Airport is the closest to the Eastside, Hancock International Airport in Syracuse is closest to the West. Take a look at current flight deals here and some recommended wine country hotels here.
You can also visit Seneca Lake wineries with our highly recommended guided tour, which includes an expert guide and driver.
Best Seneca Lake Wineries
Ravines Wine Cellars
Located 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. Maximilien tends to have notes of plum and black cherry, with hints of baking spice, and strong but smooth tannin. It’s a wine you could easily age for a few years, or drink now.
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Looking for something a little different? Their Cerise, the French word for cherry, is a blend of Pinot Noir and Blaufränksich. Fitting for its name, the nose pops with tart cherries, with hints of tobacco and fresh herbs. Its bright cherry acidity and chalky tannin leave you wanting another sip.
Billsboro 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? Former New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced 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 release is no exception. Its 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 is a red wine region.
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While all of their red wines are fantastic, I highly suggest trying their Cabernet Franc. It seems now that almost every winery is producing 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
Founded by Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, Red Tail Ridge Winery is known for its unique red varietals that they grow on their 52-acre vineyard. The winery consistently receives high accolades for its 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 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 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 Cabernet Sauvignon, with its intense nose of black currant, plum, chocolate, and a hint of nuttiness. It leaves 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 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 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 it tends to have a nose of black fruit, plum, and pepper with big chewy tannins and zingy cherry acid.
You should also try the 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 light chalky tannins and hints of chocolate.
Looking for more? On Seneca Lake’s North and Eastside, 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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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!
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Long Point Winery, on the East side of Cayuga Lake makes fantastic Red Wines (Zin, Cab, Merlot, PS, Sangio, Barbera, etc.)
They source their grapes for those wines from California and craft them into some of the best Reds anywhere.
I know…not really Finger Lakes Reds, but the classic Red Wine Grapes just won’t mature in the Finger Lakes.
I’ve rarely had a Finger Lakes Red that I even wanted to drink! Until I went to Long Point.
Is Wiemer on the east side of senaca lake also?
The Wiemer tasting room and vineyard sites are located on the West Side of Seneca Lake.