Wine Time In The Finger Lakes

Award-winning wines and wineries highlight the Finger Lakes wine trail.

Michael Davis photo

Finger Lakes wine country is a magnet for visitors this time of year. The harvest is under way and the foliage puts on a spectacular show, a colorful contrast to blue skies and lakes and green, rolling hills. You’ll see license plates from all over: It’s the busiest time of year.

New York Wine and Food Classic Governor’s Cup winner: 2016 Riesling from Buttonwood Grove Winery. Michael Davis photo

Customers have been stopping at Buttonwood Grove Winery, on the west shore of Cayuga Lake, asking to taste the 2016 Riesling. In August, the wine won the prestigious Governor’s Cup, or “best of show,” at the New York Wine and Food Classic.

The bad news: The semisweet wine is sold out in the tasting room, according to marketing coordinator Marcia Klue. The good news: You might still be able to find it in some liquor stores. Emphasis on might.

Buttonwood Grove, owned by David and Melissa Pittard, is a small winery producing wines in small batches. The Pittards purchased the property from original owner Ken Reimer in 2014, so they are relatively new to the business of growing grapes and making wine.

About 300 cases of the 2016 Riesling were released in May. By August, they had sold about 100 cases. Then came the announcement of the Governor’s Cup win, and bam!: Everyone wanted a bottle of the 2016 Riesling. Tasting room sales were limited to two bottles per person, and now the wine has evaporated.

“Winning the Governor’s Cup is the most exciting thing that can happen to a winery in New York state,” Klue says. “We are still excited beyond belief.”

Buttonwood Grove Winery. Michael Davis photo

But don’t let the absence of Buttonwood’s award-winning Riesling stop you from visiting the winery. Lovers of white wine will find Chardonnay (both oaked and unoaked), Gewürztraminer, Vidal Blanc and others. Buttonwood’s Blanc de Franc is a limited-edition white Cabernet Franc made from a red grape that is growing in popularity in the Finger Lakes. The skins of the grapes are removed immediately, Klue says, and the result is a white wine that tastes like a red wine.

“It’s a beautiful clear white,” she says. “Not much of a different color than a Chardonnay.”

Visitors will also find a dry rose, blush wine and several reds, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, plus a couple red blends.

Interested in a longer stay? Buttonwood has four cabins on site, each named for a wine: Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Riesling. Cabins are set in the woods and offer views of the vineyards and the lake. Linens are supplied and the cabins come equipped with microwave, small fridge, gas grill, coffeemaker, satellite TV and more. Each cabin has a fire pit and three of the four cabins are pet-friendly. At press time, some dates remain available in October and November.

Buttonwood Grove Winery is at 5986 State Route 89, Romulus. The tasting room is open daily, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. For information, call (607) 869-9760 or visit the winery’s Facebook page.


Over on Seneca Lake, check out CK Cellars/Torrey Ridge Winery, which earned the “Winery of the Year” title at the New York Wine and Food Classic. The winery tied with Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery on Long Island’s North Fork to earn the strongest overall showing for its wines.

CK Cellars is the business name of the company on the west side of Seneca producing multiple brands of fermented beverages: Torrey Ridge Winery, Earle Estates Meadery, Earle Estates Fruit and Specialty Wines, Warthog Cidery and Redneck Wines. The sprawling campus on Route 14, north of Penn Yan, includes a two-floor building with two tasting rooms and panoramic views of the lake. Visitors can sample wine made from grapes, wine made from honey (mead), fruit wines and hard cider.

CK Cellars/Torrey Ridge Winery is at 2770 State Route 14, Penn Yan. The winery is open seven days a week. Groups of eight or more should call ahead to make a reservation. Call (315) 536-1210 or visit


Do you love Finger Lakes wine, but not the crowded tasting rooms? The 1886 Reserve Tasting Room at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars is designed to appeal to guests with a deeper interest in the grape-growing and winemaking process, and for those who crave a more intimate wine tasting experience, paired with delicious food.

Tastings are held in a former storage room above Chateau Frank, a stone building that dates to 1886 and is the site of sparkling wine production at the Dr. Frank facility on Middle Road, near Hammondsport. The reservations-only sessions are upscale and gourmet, with a short educational program followed by a wine flight and paired tastings prepared by local restaurants.

The 1886 Reserve Tasting Room program for October begins with a tour of the original Dr. Konstantin Frank wine cellar, where guests will learn how oak is used for aging wines and how oak enhances the flavor of wines. Guests will sample wine directly from the barrel and enjoy a seated flight of barrel-fermented red and white wines, paired with small plates.

Tours are held Saturdays, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m., through October. Tickets are $35 per person, or $25 for Dr. Frank wine club members. To make a reservation, call (800) 320-0735 or visit

Margaret McCormick is a freelance writer and editor in Syracuse. She blogs about food at Follow her on Twitter, connect on Facebook or email her at [email protected].

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