Updated: Jul 17
Rolling vineyards, dramatic hilltop views and a charming lake town...welcome to Keuka Lake. What draws me back, time and time again to Keuka wine country is its combination of quality wines, with a small-town ambiance.
An Amazing Beginning
The birth of traditional winemaking on Keuka and to the Finger Lakes can be attributed to the important work of a pioneer, Dr. Konstantin Frank. As a viticulturist and a winemaker who immigrated from Ukraine, Dr. Frank was initially ridiculed for his then far-fetched idea to plant traditional European vines here in the Finger Lakes.
In 1958 he purchased a plot of land on the western side of the lake to begin planting the more traditional European rootstock. And guess what? In 1962 Dr. Frank released the very first vitis vinifera wine from the region -- a Johannisberg Riesling made from botrytized grapes. He did it! Showing the region and the world that our cold climate could in fact grow the noble grapes of Europe.
Fast Forward to Today
From Keuka Spring Vineyards* in the north (Penn Yan), to Chateau Renaissance Wine Cellars past Hammondsport, you will find 22 wineries scattered along the lake.
While neighboring Seneca Lake grabs a lot of the attention, Keuka Lake is a definitely a gem of the Finger Lakes wine country region. The wines of this area are generally dry, white and vinifera in nature. You will find less traffic and the tasting rooms tend to take their time to ensure you enjoy your tasting experience.
What makes touring this lake so fun is the hills, the vineyards and the views! You will find a few more wineries on the west side, along with scenic drives (directions needed) through the vineyards over-looking the lake. From the east side you will use State Route 54 to easily find most of the wineries.
Here are some of my winery notes....
Hunt Country Vineyards* has an expansive tasting room with a nice selection of wine related items and a robust wine list covering all the bases, as well as a nice picnic spot.
Point of the Bluff Vineyards* hosts fun events, intimate tasting room, and a limited but impressive wine lineup.
Keuka Lake Vineyards reservation is recommended given the tasting room is small and worth the stop. Produces five Rieslings and their Leon Millot is one the best reds around.
Dr. Frank Wine Cellars is the most sold FLX winery in the US, just received a 91 rating (WE) for their 2017 Reserve Gewürztraminer. They offer many different wine tasting options, and I recommend the 1886 Experience.
Keuka Spring Vineyards* is a fantastic producer of Gewürztraminer with an extensive portfolio of fine wines. There is a nice view of the lake from the front patio and they are a multi-winner of the Governor's Cup
Weis Vineyards* is a producer of traditional German style wines and there is not a bad wine on the list. They offer an intimate tasting room and I personally love the Schulhaus Red blend.
Domaine LeSeurre Winery* focuses on dry wines with a French influence and their tastings are educational and informative. They offer a few tasting options (inquire with Holly) and they have a lovely tasting room set above. the lake. You can walk over to Weis Vineyards from this spot.
Ravines Wine Cellars is one of the most awarded wineries in the Finger Lakes, They are exceptional producers of fine wines and offer some "Drink & Eat" options. They also have a tasting room on Seneca Lake.
Expert Tip: Take a day to tour each side of the lake, while visiting 3-4 wineries per day. Pack a nice charcuterie or a picnic lunch to pair with a favorite wine you find at the tasting room.
Coolest Small town in America
According to Budget Travel, the base of Keuka Lake has the "Coolest Small Town in America" - Hammondsport. The combination of outdoor activities, scenic lake views, award-winning wineries, and small-town appeal continue to draw people to this charming lake town.
"At the base of Keuka Lake is my favorite of the Finger Lakes small towns, Hammondsport. Idyllic in every sense of the word, this village of 800 people boasts the most charming town square, veterans memorial &, like any good small town, both a tavern & ice cream shop. I love Hammondsport's small town friendliness & easy access to the chill-est of the Finger Lakes." – Christina Saul, View From My Middle Seat
If you have not visited Keuka Lake wine country recently, put it on your list of things to do this summer. Spend a couple of days and an evening (so many charming B&B's to choose from) exploring what has become a gem of a wine region. Cheers.
Here's a list of some of my DON'T MISS places along Keuka Lake:
Top Dog: Dr. Frank Wine Cellars
Most Popular: Bully Hill Vineyards*
Top Lake View: Domaine LeSeurre Winery*
Most Amazing Tasting Room: Heron Hill Winery*
A Hidden Gem: Point of the Bluff Vineyards*
Best Wine List: Keuka Spring Vineyards*
Off the Beaten Path: McGregor Vineyard Winery
Best Red Wine: Black Russian Red from McGregor Vineyard Winery
Best Place to Stop for Lunch: The Olney Place
Best Brewery Stop: Keuka Brewing Co.
Best Distillery Stop: Krooked Tusker Distillery
*Denotes Wine Travel Card destination