A Day Trip to the Finger Lakes

In the two decades that I’ve been visiting Finger Lakes wine country, there is one day trip I never tire of. Considered the "Gold Coast" for grape-growing, the east side of Seneca Lake features some of the best wineries, restaurants, and attractions, all within an easy afternoon drive.
This is the site of some of the oldest vinifera plantings in the Finger Lakes – the grapes commonly used in European wines, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearly every winery makes wines to suit your taste, from very dry to very sweet, but Riesling is king in the Finger Lakes, and it’s nearly impossible to find a bad one.
The same glaciers that formed the lakes left behind unique mineral deposits. Combined with the warming influence of the deep lakes, Finger Lakes Rieslings are both crisp and fruity and are fast becoming a versatile choice for sipping and pairing with meals.
My list of favorites in this stretch of highway could go on and on: The expansive view of Seneca Lake’s “dog leg” at Lamoreaux Landing, acres of ripe pumpkins ready for picking at Mennonite farms, the unique white deer behind the fence at the former Seneca Army Depot, a breath-taking view of Hector Falls from the highway, and hiking Watkins Glen on a hot summer day.
Now, about the restaurants. This area used to be a no-man’s land for food, but times have changed for the better. The chef at Red Newt Bistro has a God-given talent for using local produce creatively. One of the finest meals I’ve ever been served was on the porch at Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, which offers a limited but exquisite menu (reservations required). Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca features Viennese-inspired cuisine and a la carte options, perfect for wine pairing.
Be sure to stop in at Skyland Farm, located 9 miles north of Watkins Glen. This 102-acre farm was completely revamped to showcase the work of more than 300 Finger Lakes artisans. You’ll find locally produced maple syrup, honey, and free-range eggs in a rainbow of colors. Look for pottery, beeswax candles, herb-stuffed sachets, lawn art, jams, and hand-dyed wools. Stroll in beds of you-pick perennials or make your way through the labyrinth—and don’t forget to feed the goats out back.
Pick up a Seneca Wine Trail map at your first stop to get your bearings. Then enjoy the best that the Finger Lakes has to offer: wine, food, hand-crafted gifts, and incomparable scenery. You’ll be planning your next visit before the day ends.

If you go
Taste award-winning wines and experience the beauty of the Finger Lakes. For more information, visit:

  • AAA.com/Wine
  • FingerLakesWineCountry.com