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Wine Tour - August 2003

We visited the following wineries on August 16-17. We spent August 16th on the east side of the lake. We planned on visiting more east-side wineries on the 17th but we decided to move to the west side in order to try the mead and look for a Seyval Blanc. Between breakfast and the first winery on Saturday, we walked the 820 steps from the bottom of Watkins Glen State Park to the top. It's a beautiful gorge with 19 waterfalls. Certainly worth a visit. We also learned a very valuable lesson. Book a B&B or hotel. There are only a few small motels in Watkins Glen and they're all booked in the summer.

 

Wineries (East Side of Lake Seneca)

 

Atwater Estate Vineyards

Overall Grade: A+

Wine Grade: A+

Tasting Fee: $1

Website: http://www.atwatervineyards.com

I started off our wine tasting weekend with a huge mistake. Visiting this winery was not the mistake. Atwater has some really fantastic wines. The server was knowledgeable, polite and pleasant. He suggested that several other local wineries for us to visit and his recommendations were excellent. My big mistake was not buying a bottle of Chardonnay ($15). I also liked their Vidal Blanc ($9). Lesley liked the Riesling ($13)and I think it's one of the few wines that we both can drink. The Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) is a keeper and the Chardonnay was the best on Seneca Lake. I'll be making a return trip in the autumn to correct my mistake. They also have a fine view of the lake. This is a "must taste" for any tour of Lake Seneca.

Bought: 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon  & 2002 Riesling

 

Chateau Lafayette Reneau

Overall Grade: C

Wine Grade: C

Tasting Fee: Purchase of Glass for $3

My enthusiasm for Atwater was enhanced by our visit to the second winery in our little tour. Chateau Lafayette Reneau is a great sounding name for a vineyard. That's the only thing I was impressed with. Then again, maybe I'm crazy. They did win the 2001 International Winery of the Year by Taster's Guild International. The server didn't make any impression on us and I don't recall if they had a decent view or atmosphere. I do remember that they charged us each three bucks for a glass. Lesley found some of their wines passable but wasn't too impressed.

Bought: 2002 Niagara Mist

 

Bloomer Creek Vineyard & Stonecat Cafe

Overall Grade: C

Wine Grade: C+

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.stonecatcafe.com

Bloomer Creek isn't on some of the local wine guides. Their wines were OK as was the server. Nothing special about it but we didn't eat in the cafe which has an interesting menu. Lesley liked the wines more than I did.

Bought: 2001 Heritage Raspberry

 

Red Newt Cellars

Overall Grade: B+

Wine Grade: B+

Tasting Fee: None ($1 for reserve wines)

Website: http://www.rednewt.com

I like Red Newt Cellars. They had a large tasting area and decent variety of wines. I found an inexpensive dry white wine called Salamander White ($9.50). The Riesling ($12.50) was also very nice but we passed on it since it's such a common wine in the area.

Bought:  2002 Salamander White

 

Leidenfrost Vineyards

Overall Grade: C-

Wine Grade: C+

Tasting Fee: None

In most cases, the wine grade dictates the overall grade. In this case, the overall grade was damaged by the several things. The owner seemed more interested in impressing one of his friends and criticizing other wineries. The server was new and seemed to have no training whatsoever. The peanut shells on the floor were quaint but peanuts don't cleanse the palate very well. The view was spectacular and the wine was good enough for us to buy two bottles (Riesling for me, Niagara for Lesley). (We got a discount for buying two bottles.) That said, I don't plan to visit again.

Bought: Riesling & Niagara

 

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards

Overall Grade: A

Wine Grade: A

Tasting Fee: $2 (applied to purchase)

Website: http://www.hazlitt1852.com

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards is operated by the same family that runs Atwater. Their wines are excellent as was the server. Their Schooner Red ($9) was very robust. Lesley like their sweet sparkling wine, Lame Duck ($8.75). Their Chardonnay ($14) was very nice (but not as good as Atwater's). Don't worry about the tasting fee, you'll end up getting it back when you buy a few bottles. The only negative I can think of is that several dry red wines were unavailable for tasting. I would have loved to try their Merlot ($18), Cabernet Franc ($19) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($15).

Bought: Schooner Red & Lame Duck

 

Logan Ridge Estates Winery

Overall Grade: A+

Wine Grade: A+

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.loganridge.com

After leaving Hazlitt, I didn't think we'd find as good a winery for the rest of the day. I was wrong. The view was unbelievable, the server was great, and the wines were fantastic. The amazing thing about the winery was the fact the winemaker perfectly described every wine. If the tasting notes said 'pear and vanilla', that's exactly what I tasted. That Cabernet Franc ($13) was the best I've had in years and Pinot Noir ($15) was also worth buying. Lesley like their sweet loganberry fruit wine ($8). The serving room was formerly the indoor pool of the main house on this beautiful estate. For the 5th time we ran into our days wine-drinking buddies (Hawk & Jessica).

Bought: 2000 Cabernet Franc & Loganberry

 

Tickle Hill Winery

Overall Grade: B-

Wine Grade: B-

Tasting Fee: None

A small winery with friendly server. Frankly, I don't remember much more about them. Lesley says that they only sell fruit wines which is just fine with her. No real view and the owner/server was forgettable. We did give them a grade of 'B-' so the wines weren't too bad.

Bought: Peach Fuzz

 

Rasta Ranch Vineyards

Overall Grade: F

Wine Grade: D-

Tasting Fee: $1

Pass. If you like the hippie lifestyle, it may be worth a visit. I don't. The wines were awful, atmosphere lousy, server was the worst. The serving room was an old barn (that wasn't really converted into a decent room). The only good thing about the place was the Animal Crackers. Left in a hurry.

Bought: None

 

Wagner Vineyards, Wagner Valley Brewery Company & The Ginny Lee

Overall Grade: A

Wine Grade: C+

Beer Grade: A+

Food Grade: A-

Tasting Fee: No charge for most wines

Website: http://www.wagnervineyards.com

With a name like Wagner, it has to be good. This place really deserves three separate write-ups. We started by having an early dinner in the restaurant Ginny Lee. The food was excellent but a little pricey. Our waitress was Ginny Lee (the owner's granddaughter). I had the beer sampler. I chose the Dockside Amber Lager, Seneca Trail Pale Ale, Captain Curry's ESB, Caywood Station Oatmeal Stout, Sled Dog Doppelbock & Summer Sail Hefeweizen. Since they were changing the ESB keg, they brought me a Mill Street Pilsner to "hold me over." The Pilsner was a good example of a Czech pilsner. The lager was better than Yuengling. The pale ale reminded me of Stoudt's Scarlet Lady. I was worried that the ESB would disappoint...it didn't. It was every bit as a good a my favorite, Weyerbacher. The stout and doppelbock tasted exactly as they should have and the hefeweizen was true to the style. This was the best collection of beers from a single brewery that I've ever tried. This alone is worth the drive from Reading. After dinner and beer tasting, we took the winery tour. It was a nice tour with a somewhat knowledgeable tour guide. Perhaps my taste buds were shot by this point but I wasn't impressed with the wines. They weren't as good as Atwater, Logan Ridge or Hazlitt 1852. Lesley really liked their champagnes and the prices were lower than I expected (most were $7-$13). I plan on trying this one earlier next time.

Bought: 1999 Riesling Champagne

 

Must see on the east side of the lake:

Atwater Estate Vineyards (A+)

Logan Ridge Estates Winery (A+)

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards (A)

Wagner Vineyards & Wagner Valley Brewery (A-)

Red Newt Cellars (B+)

 

Wineries (West Side of Lake Seneca)

 

Castel Grich Estate Winery

Overall Grade: B-

Wine Grade: B-

Tasting Fee: $1

Website: http://www.fingerlakes-ny.com/castelgrich

This is one beautiful winery. It's on a hilltop just outside of Watkins Glen. There is a phenomenal view from the balcony. Like several of the other wineries in the area, there is also a restaurant and a bed & breakfast. The wines were decent and the server was very pleasant.  I would have been happier if they had more dry wines. They did have a nice Gewurztraminer ($15) but I didn't buy it. Lesley liked their ice wines ($15 & $20) and we think we can share the Johannisburg Riesling ($11) . We may stay at this B&B during our next visit.

Bought: 2002 Johannisburg Riesling & 2002 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

 

Glenora Wine Cellars

Overall Grade: A+

Wine Grade: A+

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.glenora.com

Another beautiful view and tasting room. When I first saw the impressive buildings, I worried that the winery might be a too "commercial." It isn't. With a large variety and the best wines we tried on the west side of the lake, Glenora is worth a visit. Their Seyval Blanc ($9), Cabernet Franc ($14), Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) were all excellent. The Meritage ($20) was the best I've tried. The Chardonnay ($11) and Riesling ($12) were also very good. Lesley liked the Glenora Port ($17), Peach Passion ($8), Cranberry Chablis ($8) and Blueberry Breeze ($8). She loved the Raspberry Rose ($8) and the Peach Spumante ($10). Overall, this was her favorite winery. The server could have been a little better though.

Bought: 2002 Seyval Blanc, Raspberry Rose & Peach Spumante

 

Miles Wine Cellars

Overall Grade: C-

Wine Grade: C

Tasting Fee: Purchase of Glass for $2.

Website: http://www.mileswinecellars.com

Tasting room is in a beautiful 200 year old home. Most of the wines were average and the servers were too. The most impressive thing about the place was the house. They did have one wine that Lesley really liked called Wysteria Blush. We also bought a Riesling even though several other wineries had better ones. We'll pass on this one next time.

Bought: Riesling & Wysteria Blush

 

Earle Estates Winery & Meadery

Overall Grade: B

Wine Grade: C

Mead Grade: A

Tasting Fee: $1 for six samples (applied to purchase)

Website: http://www.meadery.com

I like mead. If you do too, stop here. They really do have a nice variety. Their wines were average, the serving room below average and the server was a little rude. But I like mead so I'll likely back.

Bought: Traditional Honey Mead & Strawberry Shadows (70% mead, 30% strawberry wine)

 

Four Chimneys Farm Winery

Overall Grade: C-

Wine Grade: C-

Tasting Fee: $1 (applied to purchase)

Website: http://www.fourchimneysorganicwines.com

Four Chimneys tasting room is in a nicely renovated barn. All of the wines are organic. The fruit is bought from organic farms in the immediate area. I didn't like their wines at all. Lesley liked some of the sweet wines. I'll pass next time.

Bought: All Pear Sweet Fruit Wine

 

Woodbury Vineyards

Overall Grade: C

Wine Grade: C

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.woodburyvineyards.com

A small roadside tasting room that was only memorable due to a cat sleeping in one of the baskets they sell. I think they had a mediocre Seyval and a nice gift shop. Lesley wasn't terribly impresses either but did come away with a blush that she liked. Pass.

Bought: Blush Renard

 

Ashley Lynn Winery

Overall Grade: C+

Wine Grade: C

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.ashleywines.com

Shares a parking lot with Woodbury. Sold mainly apple wines. Nice collection of jams, picked garlic, hot sauce, etc. Wines were very forgettable. Server was pleasant but couldn't tell us much about the wines or work the credit card machine. Pass.

Bought: Peach-Apple Wine

 

Lakewood Vineyards

Overall Grade: B-

Wine Grade: B-

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.lakewoodvineyard.com

Again, nothing really jumps out at you. The tasting room was nice and the server was good. The wines are better than most on the west side of the lake. Most of the wines are semi-sweet to sweet. They did have a very nice Dry Riesling ($11) and the 2001 Cabernet Franc ($16) was very nice. Lesley liked the Niagara ($6). Also had a Mystic Mead which was good. Worth a stop if you're in the area.

Bought: 2002 Dry Riesling & 2002 Niagara

 

Arcadian Estate Vineyards

Overall Grade: B-

Wine Grade: C+

Tasting Fee: None

Website: http://www.arcadianwine.com

Unlike most vineyards on the west side of the lake, it's hard to forget Arcadian Estate Vineyards. This is a drinkers vinery. The server was the most original (if not the most knowledgeable) server we met during our weekend. He handed out Mardi Gras beads for telling jokes. They also sold some delicious Amish-made cheeses. The wines weren't as good as Lakewood but the overall experience was. Stop for the cheese & truffles.

Bought: Phantom Port (18%)

 

Must see on the east side of the lake:

Glenora Wine Cellars (A+)

Earle Estates Winery & Meadery (B)

Lakewood Vineyards (B-)

Castel Grich Estate Winery (B-)

Arcadian Estate Vineyards (B-)

 

 

 

Must see on Seneca Lake

Glenora Wine Cellars (A+) - Best wines.

Atwater Estate Vineyards (A+) - Best wines on the east side.

Logan Ridge Estates Winery (A+) - Excellent wines.

Wagner Vineyards & Wagner Valley Brewery (A) - Eat here and try the beers.

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards (A) - Very good wines.

Watkins Glen State Park - Arrive early and take a walk through the beautiful gorge.

Red Newt Cellars (B+) - Nice variety of wines.

Earle Estates Winery & Meadery (B) - Mead.

Lakewood Vineyards (B-) - Well above average wines.

Castel Grich Estate Winery (B-) - Stay here. Breakfast?

Arcadian Estate Vineyards (B-) - Try the cheese.