When we think of the word ‘vegan,’ we most often think about food. After all, it’s pretty clear if food is made with animal products or not, right?
Of course, it’s not that simple. Veganism is beyond vegetarianism in that no animal products at all are consumed – and that includes things like butter or honey. It also includes products used in the winemaking process.
As you probably already know, wine is made from grapes that have been fermented with yeast, either natural or cultured. The yeast converts sugars from the grape juice into alcohol. So far, that’s totally vegan.
A next step that wineries can make is called ‘fining’. When grape juice is fermented, it can leave behind tiny proteins, tartrates, and phenolics that make it hazy. Since clear and bright alcohol is the standard, fining is done to remove the imperfections from the look of the wine. Many wines clarify themselves over time, but wine producers can use a variety of ‘fining agents’ to speed along the process. These agents are magnets, pulling the imperfections out of the wine and into larger clumps that can be easily filtered out; they do not remain in the final product.
It is these fining agents that are traditionally not vegan. These include:
- Casein: a milk protein
- Albumen: egg white
- Gelatin: animal protein
- Isinglass: fish bladder protein
If a winemaker is using these products, the wine cannot be considered vegan.
Luckily for us, the Finger Lakes is not a region where people do a lot of ‘interventions’ like this. They let the grapes and mother nature do the work. If you’re looking for a wine region and are vegan – or even vegan-curious – try out this vegan weekend itinerary!
Note: this isn’t an exhaustive list of wineries that are vegan- there are more out there. We included those that are more explicitly vegan, are using little-to-no intervention methods, and are more focused on being environmentally friendly. Also, some of these have wineries do offer options (like mead or dessert wines made with honey) that aren’t vegan, so make sure you let them know in advance you are vegan.
Vegan-Friendly Wineries To Visit in the Finger Lakes
Silver Thread Winery
In addition to providing vegan wine, Silver Thread Winery is also focused on sustainability and the environment. The winery/tasting room uses very little energy; its compact design is both efficient and well-insulated, and the building is also partially powered by solar panels. In the vineyard, they are focused on using holistic, organic farming practices, focusing on creating a healthy environment for the vines and local wildlife. Their bottles are low weight, reducing the amount of glass they use, and they use 100% recyclable materials in their packaging. Their Riesling is some of the best in the region, with citrusy and bright notes.
Bloomer Creek Vineyard
Bloomer Creek Vineyard wine is unique – so unique that each bottle has potentially its own unique flavor profile. The winemakers take a hands-on approach instead of using herbicides or insecticides, and they use many sustainable methods for maintaining vine health. Fermentation is done using wild yeast, often undergoing malolactic fermentation and extended lees contact. The flavors are distinctive and fascinating. Their Pétillant Natural Sparkling is one of the most unique wines we’ve ever tasted and has amazing flavors that will appeal to both wine and beer lovers.
Red Tail Ridge Winery
Red Tail Ridge is New York State’s first LEED®- Gold Certified Winery. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” It was awarded to the winery because their building runs on geothermal energy for both heat and refrigeration, which means they are more energy efficient. Additionally, they use all biodegradable cleaning products, have designed the vineyards to minimize storm runoff, and have eco-friendly methods of deterring wildlife from eating the grapes. Their wine is also incredible and clean, focusing on letting the grapes speak for themselves by intervening as little as possible. Winemaker Nancy Irelan is also focused on using unique varietals that work with the local climate, like Dornfelder and Teroldego.
There are many other wineries who are vegan, in fact, most are in this region, and many are practicing sustainable agriculture and are committed to reducing the use of insecticides and other potentially harmful interventions. In general, you’ll want to avoid mead since they’re made from honey, and there are some wineries that use egg whites or gelatin as fining agents in some of their wines, such as Swedish Hill, Goose Watch, Penguin Bay, Leidenfrost, McGregor, Rock Stream, and Fulkerson (see a full list compliments of The Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast, a vegan retreat in Watkins Glen).
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in the Finger Lakes
While there are not many places in the Finger Lakes that are explicitly vegan, there are a lot of restaurants that have farm to table food and are willing to cater to any requests. Here are some options that have vegetarian and vegan options or can easily be altered.
Vegan-Friendly Hotel To Stay At in the Finger Lakes
JuneBug Lodge was created by a couple who decided to drop their corporate lives in 2017 for a large piece of land outside of Watkins Glen. Their goal is to rescue and care for animals, to be close to nature, and to share their space and experience with other people. You can see this in everything on site- there is a commitment to being green, to protecting nature, and to making a little impact as possible on the environment from the composting toilets to the solar power.
JuneBug Lodge has several accommodations for guests to pick from.
- The Lodge includes three different options: The Cow or Pig room which each have a queen bed and shared bathroom, or the Two Bedroom Suite with its own private bathroom.
- The A-Frames consist of three separate wooden A-frames that each have only a queen size bed inside. These three A-frames share a little campsite and bathhouse that has a shower and toilet.
- The Tiny Homes has three options to choose from. One has sleeping space for three while the other two each have one bed. They all include a bathroom, shower, kitchen, fridge and seating area.
In addition to the private spaces, there is a small fire pit with chairs and a main lodge space where the complimentary vegan breakfast is served. If you’re looking for more to do on-site, they have a swimming pond, hiking trails, a tiny house just for yoga, and rescued ducks you can visit. Additionally, you can check out their Farm Sanctuary where they rescue animals of all shapes and sizes.
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