In addition to the impressive lakes for which its named, the Finger Lakes region is known best for its wineries. Navigating the 100 wineries located throughout the area can be a daunting task, which is why I’ve rounded up a list of the best Finger Lakes Wineries on Cayuga Lake. To note: we took this trip during COVID-19 so my experience may differ from those that visited prior to the pandemic.
When to Visit: We made our trip up to Cayuga Lake in late September which just happened to be a great time to avoid large crowds, while also being able to comfortably sit outside during the day. Due to COVID-19, most wineries were not accepting reservations (unless you have a group of 10 or more), so I recommend starting your day early to ensure that you’re able to avoid the crowds and limit your wait times. We only found that we ran into longer wait times at the wineries we went to later in the afternoon.
Distance from NYC: When visiting the Finger Lakes we decided to stay on Cayuga Lake which was roughly a 5 hour drive from NYC.
How to Get Around: There are a number of private transportation options in the Finger Lakes region but most will cost you a pretty penny so we opted for the designated drive route. If you’d prefer to tour around without having to worry about driving, I recommend checking out these options on the Cayuga Wine Trail website.
Tasting Costs: Most tastings at the wineries and cideries range from $8-12 for 4-5 tastings.
Average bottle cost: ~$16
Review: I really enjoyed our time at Hosmer Winery. They had a great outdoor setup and made the ordering / tasting process safe and seamless, which is so important during these times. The only bummer was given the changes, the only education you received on the wines was what was included on the paper you received with your wine. but Though the wines themselves weren’t my favorite, they had the ideal setting right next to the rows of vines.
My wine pick: 2019 Sauvignon Blanc.
Thirsty Owl Winery
Average bottle cost: ~$13.95
Review: One of my favorite wineries of the day, the Thirsty Owl in my opinion had the best selection of wines and some of the best views of Cayuga Lake. The only downside was the fact that they had essentially no outdoor seating, aside from the restaurant area which had almost a 2-hour wait, and their tasting situation felt a bit rushed and less informational. We made the most of it by ordering a delicious bottle of their Dry Riesling, sitting there on the grass and enjoying the view of Cayuga Lake. I recommend bringing along a blanket to lounge on if you don’t plan on waiting for a table!
Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery
Average bottle cost: ~$17
Review: In my opinion, Cayuga Ridge had the best ambiance of all of the wineries that we visited – rustic, farmhouse, old-school winery vibes. The wines that they had were sweeter than others that we had tasted throughout the day, but the local cheeses and jams that they sold on site paired perfectly with the wine. We had such a great time sipping wine on their deck and taking in the late afternoon sun.
My wine pick: Cranberry Frost.
Average bottle cost: ~$17
Review: Overall, Knapp consistently had the best wine; we left with a bottle of every wine we tasted. This winery appeared to be the smallest with only a small indoor tasting area, but they did the best job educating you on the wines and answering your questions in detail. Plus, I loved the intimate festive feel of the tasting barn. I would highly recommend checking them out!
Bonus: Finger Lakes Cider House
Average bottle cost: ~$19
Review: If you feel like you need a break from all of the wine, the Finger Lakes Cider House is a great place to go. The space has a great ambiance with plenty of outdoor seating, and even has a good selection of local food you can order.
My cider pick: 2018 Baldwin.
There are what feels like endless other wineries in the area but unfortunately we were only able to make it to a few. Here are a list of other Finger Lakes wineries on Cayuga Lake that you can visit if you’re in the area:
Have you ever visited the Finger Lakes? If so, I’d love to know which wineries were your favorite.1