If your purpose for coming to the Finger Lakes is to taste great wine, you’re in luck. Great wine is being made (and has been made), at dozens and dozens of the many wineries that dwell within the nearly 11,000 acres of vineyards between and around these cherished lakes, for decades.
But only a select few of these wineries have been chosen to be on this page…the Gold List. Wineries on this list are here because they make the best wines in the Finger Lakes.
Other wineries also produce great wine, and some people may prefer certain wines from particular wineries, better. And we don’t pretend to think that some people may have disagreements with this listing, usually because a particular winery has been left off the list…we get it.
But, these are the wineries that are consistently making the best tasting wines each season. We don’t consider every wine they make necessarily better than any other particular wine from another winery, but they have consistently produced outstanding wine from one, or multiple styles.
We introduce these wineries to you in alphabetical order.
DOMAINE LESEURRE – Keuka Lake
LOCATION: This French-style winery is located near the middle of the east side of Keuka Lake, in the township of Wayne. You can access the winery from either the main highway – State Route 54, or from Day Road ( local route 95).
HISTORY: The actual winery facility and business are only a decade or so old, but this is an endeavor that began generations ago in the best vineyards of France. Celine and Sebastien Leseurre bring their combined family histories from the old world to the Finger Lakes, and use their varied experiences to produce some of the new world’s best new wines.
WHY YOU WANT TO GO: Like French wine? Then you need to get to this winery. What exactly does it mean to say their wines are made “in the French style”? The Leseurre’s generational experiences of family traditions making wine in France show up in everything from wine making techniques to the bottles they use. And we get to experience the results of these efforts in great tasting wine, while listening to some cool French jazz, too!
You also come to Domaine Leseurre for a wine education. Their tasting room staff is passionate about sharing their in-depth knowledge of not only their wines, but also wine-making, and wine-making in the Finger Lakes in particular. You’ll come away with a real understanding of the relationship between the particulars of a vineyard’s geographic properties – proven wine production techniques – and quality aging standards.
WHAT WE RECOMMEND: It might seem odd to recommend a German style wine from a winery known for it’s French style wines (which says a lot about the variety and excellence of all of their wines), but if Gewurztraminer is one of your favorite wines to drink, this is the winery for you. And if you are new to this unique white wine favorite of many people, Domaine Leseurre would be a great place to get your introduction to it. And if you like a great Rose, we highly recommend their 2020 Rosé Cabernet Franc Cuvée Classique Dry.
We also recommend keeping up with their newsletter for their special events, often associated with cultural holidays – their Valentines Day weekend is an annual favorite.
THE BASICS: The tasting room at the Domaine Leseurre Winery is open seven days a week, 10am-6pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Days. Tastings include 5 wines. They also serve their wines by the glass, to enjoy as you look over Keuka Lake, perhaps with their delicious charcuterie or dessert food options.
SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: Reservations are highly recommended for larger groups (8 or more), though they will try to accommodate you if they can.
SHAW VINEYARD – Seneca Lake
LOCATION: This incredibly independent artisanal winery is located on the west side of Seneca Lake, about one third the way north of Watkins Glen on route 14, less than a mile north of another winery on The Gold List, Missick Cellars. It’s a rather small and unassuming older-gray wood-paneled tasting room, so look carefully.
HISTORY: Shaw Vineyard is the inspiration of a man named Steve Shaw. Like many people, Steve spent his younger adult life trying to find his calling. For Steve, this was in the Hammondsport area at the south end of Keuka Lake. Needing a new home, he ended up purchasing an older vineyard property on the east side of the lake. With the guidance of local legendary winemakers like Dr. Konstantin Frank, Charles Fournier and Herman Wiemer, Steve set out to learn how to be a grape farmer. Today, Steve has over four decades of experience growing vinifera grapes and his own winery on the west side of Seneca Lake, and he makes some of the absolute best wines in the Finger Lakes. Providing the Yang to Steve’s Yin, is his son, Steven Shaw Jr., and together, the pair provide a great experience for your visit to their tasting room.
WHY YOU WANT TO GO: You go to Shaw Vineyard, not to taste the most recent vintage offerings, but to taste and purchase the best vintage wines when Steve Shaw decides they are ready for you to taste and purchase. Shaw does not just reel out the “next” wine up, as in “Ok, this year is sold out, bring out the next year’s wines”. At Shaw winery, they will do the aging for you, and we don’t get a chance to try any of their product until Steve Shaw decides each is ready for us to try…at it’s absolute best. No need to take any of their wines home and set aside for aging, these bottles are ready for you to open and enjoy tonight.
WHAT WE RECOMMEND: Whatever they have available for you in the tasting room. Seriously, it’s ready for you, and it’s going to be a great wine. Do a tasting and find the one’s you enjoy most!
THE BASICS: As briefly mentioned above, the property is very unassuming, when compared to other wineries in the area. We say this because it could be easy to pass by if you’re not looking carefully, even though it is right next to the road (Route 14). They’re not much on landscaping, but they have a really nice timber-framed tasting room inside. As of this writing, Shaw Vineyard is closed on Wednesdays, but open 11-5 each of the other days.
SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: Steve Shaw didn’t start a winery to “be a winery”. The visitor experience here is going to be different than at other wineries in the Finger Lakes. You don’t go here for the view (it’s over their vineyards, it’s fine) – or the beautiful landscape (the inside of the tasting room is cool) – or a group experience (make sure you call ahead if that’s what you’re trying to have). You come to Shaw Vineyard to taste great wine, because that’s what they are focused on. And for that, we highly recommend that you go.
Check back for our write ups of our other selected wineries to be added to the Gold List soon.