12 Jan Brewery and Winery Trails in the Finger Lakes of New York
During our weeklong road trip through New York, we just had to explore some of the brewery and winery trails in the Finger Lakes that we had heard so much about. It sometimes seems as though California gets all the attention for the best wineries in the states, but the Finger Lakes is a world class wine destination and definitely gives California a run for their money. The lakes and rolling hills in the region make for not only amazing scenery, but also fantastic wines, spirits and beers.
Our entire trip was focused on the southern portion of the Finger Lakes region. With more than 100 breweries, over 100 wineries and several distilleries and cideries in the Finger Lakes, there are plenty of fantastic options to pick from. No matter your style or taste, there is sure to be a spot for you.
With literally hundreds of options, there was no way we were going to make a dent in visiting every producer in the region, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Over the course of five days, we made it to four breweries, four wineries, one cidery, one distillery and one wine and cider bar serving local specialties—if it sounds like a lot for five days, it was! But we sure had a great time visiting them and sampling the vast range and varieties offered throughout the region.
Several stops offered full fledged tours of the facilities, while others offered samples and tastings. I’m going to preface this by stating that we are not connoisseurs of anything, so I’m not going to get into any specifics regarding what we tasted. But I do want to share a bit about each stop, such as the atmosphere, history and what we liked about the facility. Here’s a breakdown of the breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries that we visited along the brewery and winery trails in the Finger Lakes of New York.
Iron Flamingo Brewery:
One of the first breweries we visited on the trip was the Iron Flamingo Brewery in Corning, New York. Iron Flamingo Brewery is a family business, and brewing beer has been a passion in the family for generations. After opening in 2014, the brewery became the first brewery to bottle and distribute beer in Corning. The brewery uses local hops and malts from area farmers, and they produce their beers with solar power energy! We tried the Red Ale, Blonde Ale, English Style Ale, Mocha Coffee Porter, Indian Pale Ale and the Sweet Potato Stout, and while they were all good, the Sweet Potato Stout was by far my favorite! The Mocha Coffee Porter and the Red Ale were two of our other favorites, as well.
“Raise your hand if you like drinking Heavily!”, is the catchphrase of the aptly named Heavily Brewing. Located in Montour Falls, New York, inside of a repurposed dairy barn, Heavily Brewing has created a space that is perfect for lounging and listening to the regularly scheduled live music. In addition to brewing and serving their own beers, Heavily Brewing also serves other local New York beers on tap. They want to support the local community of craft breweries, so they hand pick a variety of rotating beers to serve alongside their own brews.
Steuben Brewing Company:
As with many of the others on this list, Steuben Brewing Company also supports local farmers in the making of their beer—I love seeing all the community support offered throughout the region! Steuben Brewing Company is a family run business located right by Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, New York. The family strives to make high quality, great tasting and well balanced beers; there are currently 12 beers in the production rotation, as well as a variety of seasonal options. In addition to the taproom, Steuben Brewing Company has a large patio outside, which is the perfect spot to play a round of yard games or listen to live music.
RailHead Brewing Company:
Located in Hornell, New York, in an area that is considered the outskirts of the Finger Lakes region to some, rests the RailHead Brewing Company. The brewery sits right where hundreds of trains used to stop when they passed through the town of Hornell, and its name comes from the train industry that played an important part in shaping the town’s history. The brewery served some of our favorite beer of the entire trip, and in addition to beer, they also offered fresh baked stone fire pizza. Our neighbor at the bar told us that anytime he is nearby, he makes a special detour to stop in for a pizza—it did look delicious and we were definitely wishing we were hungry enough to order one for ourselves!
Pleasant Valley Wine Company:
We started off our morning in Hammondsport, New York, by visiting the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes region, Pleasant Valley Wine Company. This was the only winery that we took a full fledged tour of, and the buildings were amazing. Pleasant Valley Wine Company started in 1860 and even though it has changed hands multiple times throughout the years, it has never closed down and in 1995 ownership was returned to the original family who started the winery over 100 years prior. Eight of the buildings owned by the winery are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and we were able to walk through several of them on the tour of the facility. We learned all about the history of the winery before retiring to the tasting room for samples. Even though this winery was the only one we visited without a lake view, the beautiful historic buildings and great tasting wines more than made up for it!
Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars:
Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars had perhaps the most intriguing history out of any of the wineries that we visited. Dr. Frank started the “Vinifera Revolution” which changed the way that wine grapes are grown in New York and the United States as a whole. Hailing from Europe with a Ph.D. in viticulture, Dr. Frank noticed that it was not the cold that kept the area from making proper wines, but rather the lack of proper rootstock. This revolution elevated the status of the wines produced in the region to world class levels. He soon began producing his own wines in Hammondsport, New York, and his business is now a family legacy with four generations taking part in operations. The winery and current tasting room overlook Keuka Lake, and they offer fantastic views of both the vineyards and the lake below.
Bully Hill Vineyards:
Bully Hill Vineyards is a winery that branded off from the original family business, Taylor Wine Company, which started over 100 years ago. There was a bunch of controversy over the naming rights of Bully Hill Vineyards after Coca-Cola purchased the original family business. You can read more about what went down here, but ultimately, Bully Hill overcame the obstacles and grew into the flourishing winery it is today. The Bully Hill complex is located in Hammondsport, New York, and it is quite large. In addition to the production facility and vineyards, there is a delicious onsite restaurant, a gift shop, a large tasting room, a museum, and an art gallery. We ate lunch at the restaurant before making our way to the tasting room. I loved the vivid, colorful and artsy labels on the wine almost as much as the wine itself. Needless to say, it was quite the interesting stop!
Set atop a hill overlooking Seneca Lake in Burdett, New York, Atwater Vineyards’ tasting room offers stunning views of the lake and vineyards below. The property’s vineyards date back to the early 1900’s, and after a series of new owners, vines and grape variations over the years, Atwater Vineyards opened in the year 2000. The winery grows 16 different varieties of grapes and they produce more than 25 varieties of wine. While the wines were great, I could have spent all afternoon at this spot just for the views alone! The wine and the views are a win-win combination and make for a fantastic wine tasting experience.
Cideries, Distilleries and More
Cider Creek Hard Cider:
Tucked away on a farm in the hills of Canisteo, New York, Cider Creek Hard Cider is a gem. When we arrived, the cider house was technically closed as they were prepping for an event, but Kevin, the head cider maker, welcomed us in with open arms and let us sample a wide range of the ciders on tap. The taproom is beautifully designed, and they focus on creating progressive ciders that are creative and funky, and they never add water, sugar, or artificial sweeteners or flavors to their products. The eight ciders we tasted at Cider Creek Hard Cider were so different from anything I’ve ever tried before. There were a couple of standard ciders to pick from, all of which were great, and then there were a large variety of specialty ciders that I’m at a loss to even begin to describe. They ranged from a cran-mango saison, to a black stout, to a Bronx pale ale and many more crazy concoctions.
Four Fights Distilling:
Four Fights Distilling is located in the adorable town of Corning, New York. When we visited, the distillery was putting the finishing touches on their new tasting room. We sampled four of the spirits that Four Flights Distilling produces: Crystal City Vodka, Emperial Moonshine Whiskey, Emperial Cinnamoon Whiskey, and Bowers’ Bourbon. In addition to the tasting, we also had a peek into the distilling process which happens one batch at a time in the garage right behind the tasting room.
Graft Wine + Cider Bar:
Although Graft Wine + Cider Bar isn’t a winery or cidery, they do exclusively serve and sell a large variety of ciders and wines produced locally in New York. In this downtown Watkins Glen bar, you can purchase wine and cider by the glass, flight or bottle. They also serve a rotating mix of seasonal and delicious snacks and small-bites that are perfect for sharing. We each tried a cider and a couple of wines and shared the warm roasted almonds, a cheese plate and gnocchi, all while listening to a local artist play tunes on the mic. It was one of my favorite spots of the trip, and if it was closer to where we lived, I would definitely be a regular!
Have you been on the brewery or winery trail in the Finger Lakes? What are your favorite spots to stop at? Share with us in the comments below—we’d love to learn your favorites for our next visit!
Special thanks to the Corning and Southern Finger Lakes tourism board for organizing and hosting us on so many amazing adventures throughout our week in New York. As always, all opinions are our own.