How To Have a Vegan-Friendly Wine Adventure in the Finger Lakes

I’ll start this off by sharing that I’m not a vegan, I’m not even a vegetarian. More of a wanna be pescatarian who’s trying to eat less meat. However, I do love vegan food and I am trying to think more critically about what goes into my food and drink, and therefore what goes into my body.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, isn’t all wine vegan? No, actually it is not.

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 you’re a vegan (or if you’re like me and just like new experiences), try out this vegan weekend itinerary!

Note: this isn’t an exhaustive list of wineries that are vegan- there are more out there. I tried to pick ones that are more explicitly vegan, are using low, 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, they are 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 its citrusy and bright notes.

Bloomer Creek

Bloomer Creek Vineyard wine is unique, in fact, 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, they often go through malolactic fermentation and have extended lees contact. The flavors are distinctive and fascinating. Their Petillant Natural Sparkling is one of the most unique wines I’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 is 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 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, as these use 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, be close to nature, and 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, 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 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 have only a queen size bed inside (there is lighting and heat in each). These three A-frames share a little campsite and bathhouse that has a shower and toilet.
  • The Tiny Homes has three options to pick from. One has sleeping space for three, and the other two have only 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.

More Ways To Explore New York’s Finger Lakes Region

See More Articles Written by Kate

5 Seneca Lake Wineries To Visit For Red Wine Lovers

How To Spend a Long Weekend in the Finger Lakes

10 Exciting Outdoor Activities To Do in the Finger Lakes

16 Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes

Wineries in the Finger Lakes Making Old-World Style Wines

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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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