Wine Tasting on Keuka Lake

I’ve been trying to get out to Keuka Lake to go wine tasting ever since I moved back to Rochester. It’s only a little over an hour away, and has two wineries that are particularly renowned, one for their legacy and one for their recent achievements. Keuka Lake doesn’t have as many wineries as Seneca, but it does have an impressive number for its size, and wins for having picturesque roadways that wind through the woods and along the lake. For our wine tasting tour, we picked three wineries on the lake that we had to visit, making for a nice easy day trip.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine

If you’re going to Keuka Lake, especially for the first time, you need to visit this winery. Named for the man who began the cellar, Dr. Frank is the winemaker who really started off our whole wine region. In 1962, he demonstrated that one could grow European vines in the Finger Lakes, and became particularly renowned for his Rieslings, made in the German style. His legacy has continued with his son producing one of the first sparkling wines in the region using the traditional “methode champenoise”, and they continue to innovate with new varietals and methods of production.

This winery is a must-go simply to learn more about where winemaking in our region began, and taste the vines that started it all- their Eugenia Riesling is made from the original planting of Riesling from the 1960s, and they have some of the oldest vines outside of Austria for Gruner Veltliner and the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir vines in the United States.

Tasting fee: 6 samples for free! The tasting is a little different- they go through a pre-selected group of wines where they offer two options, a sweeter or drier wine. At the end, they will let you try others if there was something they missed that you really want to taste. (Pro tip: if you go towards the end of the day like we did, they may even let you try some on the “Not Available for Tasting” section).

Visit their website for details.

My Top Picks: 

2014 Eugenia Dry Riesling: The nose had notes of slate, lime peel and a high minerality that continued on the palate and was complemented by a high cleansing acidity. Crisp and refreshing, with absolutely zero sweetness- a classic dry Riesling that is perfect for summer.

2015 Pinot Noir: The nose had clear notes of cherry, tobacco and a hint of grapefruit, with a nice chalky tannin and high acidity on the palate. An impressive Pinot Noir, especially for this region. You can also sample their 2016 Pinot Noir Rose: The bright pink wine had the classic notes of strawberry, cherry and watermelon, with a slightly oily mouthfeel that lingered.

30th Anniversary 2007 Brut: This wine isn’t normally on the tasting menu, but they happened to have an open bottle and I asked politely whether we could sample. This sparkling wine is made with a dosage of cognac (dosage is the sugar added to the sparkling wine right before it is corked to aid in carbonation, it also determines the sweetness of the sparkling). It had amazing notes of macademia nut, white cherry, pear, brioche, and hints of citrus. AMAZING.

Domaine LeSeurre

This winery was founded by Céline and Sébastien LeSeurre, both of whom were originally from France and grew up making wine. After traveling the world making and selling wine, in September 2011, they moved to Keuka Lake to begin their own winery; the first vintage was in 2012, and they opened their tasting room in October 2013. As they say, they took their “French heritage and New World experience” and used it to create fantastic wines.

Tasting Fee: 5 taste for $5, and $2 per taste from their “limited collection”.

Visit their website for details.

My Top Picks:

2014 Barrel Select Chardonnay: The wine was aged in old and new French oak for 10 months, which gives the wine buttery notes and complements the fresh apple on the nose. The palate has surprisingly bright notes of lime and apple, with a great acidity.

2013 Barrel Select Cabernet Franc: Aged for 22 months in French oak, the wine has strong notes of tobacco, leather, and cherry, with a smokiness that continues to the palate. It has a nice chewy tannin and bright acidity.

Keuka Spring Vineyards

The winery began in the early 1980s, when Len and Judy Wiltberger purchased 30 acres of land on Keuka Lake. They planted several grape varietals, and with help from their family, opened a tasting room. Their first vintage was 1985. In 2016, Keuka Spring was awarded “Winery of the Year” at the New York Wine & Food Classic, also winning “Best White Wine” for their 2015 Gewürztraminer, and best in class for their 2015 Humphreys Vineyard Riesling, 2015 Semi Sweet Riesling and Keuka Spring Vineyards Celebrate blend.

Tasting Fee: 6 samples for $3 (which will be refunded if you buy 3 or more bottles).

Visit their website for details.

My Top Picks:

2014 Seyval Chardonnay: Seyval isn’t a grape that you normally hear of, and when you do it is often blended away in white table wines. This blend, however, really features the Seyval, with clear tropical notes of mango, apple, and hints of lemon that continue through on the palate. The tropical fruit notes are complemented by its bright acidity.

2014 Dry Riesling: Notes of lime peel, slate, with hints of peach come out of the nose, and the palate has a nice bright acidity with lemony characteristics. A great summer wine that cleanses the palate.

Now get out on the wine trail and enjoy yourself!

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