The Keuka Wine Trail Experience

Amen (only to a certain extent )

“Here’s to the corkscrew – a useful key to unlock the storehouse of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship, and the gate of pleasant folly.”
-W.E.P. French

I went to a wine tasting tour yesterday and I must say that that was an experience to remember and something I would definitely do again. It was my friend, Andrea’s birthday and she mentioned to me that she’s tagging along with her sister and her co-workers on this tour since it falls on her birthday. And I immediately got invited invited myself volunteered to go and begged her to ask her sister if I could tag along as well. To which she said yes because otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

We went to the Keuka Wine Trail which is about an hour and a half from Rochester and it is one of the few famous wine trails in the Finger Lakes region. We left Fairport (where we rendezvoused with friend’s sister’s friends) and headed off to Keuka in a beat up, burgundy rental van. The route was very scenic and the little towns we passed by were so picturesque. I strongly suggest you have a designated driver (preferably one who is not very fond of wine or at least ok on missing out on the booze) or better yet, go in style and hire a limo to chauffeur your group to and around the lake (the wine trail is literally around the lake). The roads on the trail are very tricky for a sober driver, let alone one who’s had a little too much reisling.

When you go on a wine tasting tour, you are given a souvenir wine glass that you take with you to each winery to sample their wines. They also offer cheese, crackers and in our case, BBQ as well, because it was part of the summer event that we went to. And at every winery, you can sample 3-5 wines. You are free to choose from their list except for the first glass.

My glass with a tinge of the Ruby Port at Hunt Country Vineyard

The first winery we went to was Hunt Country Vineyards. For the first tasting, they gave us three choices between sweet white wine, semi dry red and dry reisling. I tried the semi dry Hunter’s Red to go with my grilled pineapple, bbq and jalapeno cream cheese on toast. I fell in love with it. I usually find a hard time looking for red wines I like. This one is light, but the flavors are so full. From the nose to finish, it was a nice transition of flavors and undertones. I am no wine connoisseur or sommelier but I definitely know what I want. And this Hunter’s Red is perfect. At the tasting hall, I was given a list to choose from. You can check three of your choices but Anna, my sommelier allowed a fourth tasting of their dry champagne, which was very good by the way. I tried their Ruby Port, most of my friends liked it but it was too sweet for me. It was so sweet you can make slushies with it, seriously. I guess the sweetness didn’t sit well with me because it reminded me of spoiled grapes. I kind of surprised myself because after the tour, I realized that I’m more of a semi dry/dry wine person than sweet. WOW! I also tried their Vignoles 2009, something I haven’t had before. I liked it for its clean and crisp finish. The citrus flavor cuts through the sugar and makes for a refreshing summer drink to pair with your spicy foods. I also tried their Foxy Lady blush which was average to me. Also, and I know this is weird but I didn’t like the label. It’s a painting of a lady’s face.

This is our group on our first tasting at our first stop

I wasn’t too thrilled about the second stop- Stever Hill. Their tasting area’s in a tight, cramped, musty barn and their food was kind of questionable. Kudos on the choco covered chocolate mousse though and the Redneck Riley’s Concord which was sweet but just the right amount of sweetness and was perfectly chilled. It was a good thing I enjoyed it because it was the only thing I liked from their cellar. I had a sampling of their blueberry wine, I wasn’t too crazy about it either. It was just sweet and had no character too it. The residual sugar from their drinks were too high that I couldn’t even detect any other flavor to it but just fermented fruit and then the sugar. No other tones or character played in my palate. Their wines are boring and sloppily made. I’m sorry Stever Hill.

Stever Hill Barn and Scarlet (our rental van. I named it.) teehee.

If you want a majestic backdrop overlooking Keuka Lake, Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars is your place to be! If i didn’t enjoy the wine, the place made up for its to-die-for spot. I sat out on their deck while munching on my really good barbecue and just took in the majestic vista. It was perfect. Little did I know that Salmon Run wines came from their cellars so I’m pretty much familiar with their list. I had the Reisling only because it comes with the food. And I also tried their Gerwurztraminer Reserve which was a very crisp white wine but with bold flavor. It was semi-dry but it was leaning more towards the drier side. Perfect for the summer. My sommelier was a little snob with a string of pearls around her neck. But ok. At least I enjoyed the food and the small amount of booze she gave me. 🙂 I guess the only thing I’m so mad about is not being able to capture the scene. I’m getting rusty with my photography skills. I’m just glad I have 5 more trails to go to wash my worries away. 😀

Need I say more?

My wine glass at the Dr' Konstantin's Vinifera Wine Cellars overlooking the lake.

Lunch in miniature proportions

Because nothing says vineyard than rows and rows of grape vines looked over by an old stone house.

We skipped Heron Hill because they said it was stuffy. I was a little confused at first, “stuffy as in hot and clammy?” But they said people there are too “hoity-toity”. Snobs I suppose. I don’t mind snobs and hoity-toities. That’s me! But we passed by the winery and there stood a white grecian structure on a sea of green. It was beautiful. So I checked out the website and learned that the Eclipse wines hail from their cellars. Next time I go back to this trail as I am being very optimistic that I shall come back and conquer, I will visit this place.

So Bully Hill became our fourth stop which was anything but “hoity-toity” or “stuffy”. As we approach the tasting hall, we hear crowds cheering and little did i know that that would become us when we enter. We had to pay $2 since it’s not part of our trail but it was well worth it. The hosts provide entertainment and audience participation is a must. Woody, the head honcho and his sidekick Dusty were so good at what they do. I guess everyone’s funny after a couple of drinks. They sampled four wines and a joke or two came with each pour. Delightful! Nothing beats a room full of strangers laughing and slamming booze in unison. We tried the Chardonnay Elise, it was semi-dry but more on the drier side because the yeast action ate up all the sugar. But from what I remembered, i liked it because it was light, soft and had a vanilla undertone to it. They poured us a sample of their red wine. for the love of me I couldn’t remember what it was. I even check out their website to refresh my memory but I guess it wasn’t any help. Anyway, I guess it’s ok because I didn’t like it anyway. It dry as dry can be. Fermented fruit and a leathery, earthy, spicy finish. I’m sorry but I really don’t see how people like it. Then They gave us a choice between their Le Goat which was a semi-dry blush and Sweet Walter Red. I picked the blush and I loved it. It was the right amount of sweetness that doesn’t mask the undertones and finish. It also has a good aroma. Andrea let me try her Sweet Walter but once again, too sweet for me. Sorry. One more thing I loved about their bottles is that they have a “sweet-o-meter” on their labels. It takes away the guessing when picking wine from off the racks.

Woody pouring wine as he throws his scripted yet still funny jokes.

Well, nothing's hoity-toity about cut-out picture boards!

Bully Hill also has a restaurant and is well seated on a high enough altitude for your viewing pleasure of Keuka.

Ravines Wine Cellar was our fifth stop. I loved the simplicity of their tasting hall. It’s cute and reminds me of California. I haven’t been but it’s what I’ve always pictured California suburban houses to be. Their wines are more serious in a sense that they are all dry. But in spite of their lack of sweetness, they make up for full body of character and they are surprisingly light. Their Pinot Noir was good and the leathery finish wasn’t too harsh. I loved their Keuka Village White 2008. It was nice and clean and the hint of pears and lime stand out. (Wow! I’m becoming better and better at this.) By this time, we were already getting closer to 5pm which was the time wineries close. So we were lucky to make it to two more.

Ravines Wine Cellar. What my future house could potentially look like.

Their barbecue and the Cerise wine pairing.

A friendly reminder

Our sixth stop was what I thought “Oh no, not another barn!” But it turned out to be my favorite! McGregor Winery’s barn was a lot friendlier to a claustrophobe like me. People are friendlier and of course, their wines, superb. I only tried two kinds but it’s all I need. I tried the Sunflower White which is a semi-dry white wine but more on a sweeter side. It’s citrussy, crisp and light. It has a soft undertone-caramel or vanilla? I don’t know but I love how the aroma, the initial taste and the undertones all transition nicely all they way to the finish. i loved it so much that I bought it. I also sampled their  Traminette which reminds me of D’Asti MOscato only without the fizz. i don’t know why I didn’t buy it. I checked their website and they didn’t have it online. I loved the place so much I’m going to go architerctural as well, I loved the ceiling beams lined with strings of light. The simplicity of how they presented their drinks, the friendly ambiance and cute guys,too. 🙂 I’m so happy we made it to this one. I really couldn’t care much about the 2 other wineries left. I found what i needed.

(not the cute guy I was talking about)

Although, I really wouldn’t mind another stop. Our sixth and final stop was Barrington Cellars. If sweet wines are what you’re looking for, I would highly suggest this place. Their sweet wines don’t taste like fermented version of kool-aid. Their sweet wines are rich but not overpowering. They have a full body with flavors that meld with each other. The finish is clean and refreshing. I had to try the Buzzard Blush, the name was fun and the flavor didn’t disappoint. At this point I was tired and a little tipsy. So I tried one more and it was the pink blush. It was a semi-dry wine but on the sweeter side. I love the apricot flavors and it would be a perfect summer drink. Like the Dr. Konstantin’s Vinifera, it also boasts a view of the Keuka Lake as you sit back and relax on their upper deck. That’s what I did, I sat quietly and enjoyed my barbeque and dessert as I sipped on my glass of pink blush as we were getting ready to say goodbye to the Keuka Wine Trail.

I would love to be the person who lives in that house across the lake.

Pink Cat blush and mac and cheese and bbq

So in  spite of the uncertainty the weather brought, and the massive annoying sniffles my allergies (which miraculously disappeared up in the mountains) gave me, it was an altogether fun and educational experience for me. And I made new friends. What can be a better Saturday than that.

Wine Trail Touring Tips:

1. Assign a designated driver or better yet, hire a limo and a driver.

2. Bring water, it is important to stay hydrated in between wineries.

3. Pack little snacks, cheese and crackers work well to cushion your stomach against alcohol and it’s a very nice complement to your spirits.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask the sommelier, that’s what they are for. If they appear to be a little snobby, try to find another one. More importantly, don’t allow anyone to dictate what wine you like.

5. Rinse your wine glass in between samples to get a full taste of the wine you’re trying.

6. Don’t be afraid to try new things. What’s the worse thing that could happen? (I’ll leave that for you to answer)

7. Socialize, make friends, laugh and have fun.

8. Wear comfortable shoes.

9. Check the weather and dress appropriately.

I am not a wine expert. I guess a well versed wine lover would easily notice if he decides to open this blog. But, I am eager to learn more since I am becoming more of an avid wine drinker than as I lose interest in my friday night staple, beer. When you go to a wine store, don’t be afraid to ask and look around. Tell what you need the wine for or share what is served on the table the night your wine’s being served, they always want to help out. For quick Wine 101’s, the internet is a good resource to get yourselves started with the basics. Here’s one link that is very helpful with the basics of wine pairing.



2 thoughts on “The Keuka Wine Trail Experience

    • Thank you! I love wine tasting and would love to visit Napa, too. I heard it’s really nice. Napa to me is limited to what was shown in Parent Trap (with Dennis Quaid and pre-inebriated Lindsay Lohan) lol. So I would really love to visit the place.

      Cheers! 🙂

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