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When people think of wine country in the United States, the first place that’s thought of is Napa Valley, California. But for people on the eastern coast of the United States, wine country is the Finger Lakes in New York and Erie Pennsylvania!
The Finger Lakes is a series of narrow lakes at the border of Pennsylvania and New York. Visiting the Finger Lakes is very popular in the summer and spring because of the beautiful vineyards are in bloom. The Finger Lakes makes for a perfect getaway with friends and family, events like weddings, bachelorette parties, and engagement parties, and of course for wine lovers!
While most people visit the Finger Lakes in the summer, if you’re looking to visit the Finger Lakes during the off-season, this travel guide to Seneca Lake during the winter is for you! We visited the Finger Lakes during the winter for a Valentine’s Day, couples weekend getaway from Pittsburgh! The Finger Lakes during the winter is just as beautiful as during the summer. With snow blanketing the vineyards and cuddling up with a glass of wine, the Finger Lakes during the winter is the perfect escape! And as an added bonus, the wineries are less crowded! So keep reading to see our sample winter Finger Lakes itinerary and suggestions for visiting!
Why are there so many wineries at the Finger Lakes?
Because of the lake effects from the Great Lakes, the small, narrow lakes with branching rivers the climate at the Finger Lakes is perfect for growing native varieties and European varieties of grapes! As you drive through the Finger Lakes, you’ll notice, honestly hundreds of vineyards scattered around the edges the of the lakes. The vineyards are strategically placed where the grapes can thrive in the microclimate!
Three Day Seneca Lake Itinerary: Romantic Winter Weekend Getaway to Finger Lakes
Since there are so many wineries and small towns in the Finger Lakes, we couldn’t possibly visit them all. We visited Seneca Lake almost exclusively since it’s is the largest lake of the Finger Lakes and has the most wineries surrounding it! As first-time visitors to the Finger Lakes, it worked out well for us to visit the most popular of the lakes.
So in this winter weekend getaway guide to the Finger Lakes, we’re writing specifically about Seneca Lake and it’s surrounding wineries and activities.
Planning Your Seneca Lake Weekend Gateway
Where to Stay at Seneca Lake: Waterloo Airbnb
The Finger Lakes is interesting as there aren’t many major hotel chains in the area for lodging. This is where Airbnb is awesome! Airbnb costs the same as or less than traditional hotels and gives you the chance to stay in some adorable cottages and homes in the Finger Lakes. Interestingly, there is a lot of beautiful architecture in the Finger Lakes including 19th and 20th-century style housing with Greek Revival and colonial influences.
During our stay, we stayed in Waterloo, a small town between Seneca and Cayuga Lake. The home was absolutely adorable and our host was so kind and helpful! She provided freshly baked bread every morning and even gave us a small gift at the end of our stay! The home was so colorful and charming inside. It was perfect for our winter Valentine’s Day weekend in the Finger Lakes
Consider Seneca Lake Winery Tours
Obviously, if you’re visiting the Finger Lakes, the top thing to do is visit wineries! Since there are so many wineries, considering a winery tour is a great option. By doing a Finger Lakes winery tour, your transportation is included (yay!) and you get to see tons of wineries! The one setback would be that you could possibly be in large groups and not have as much time as the wineries as you would like. But this is the nature of doing tours anywhere. Check out this list of awesome tours and see which one fits your wine desires!
Picking Which Seneca Lake Wineries to Visit
Since there are so many wineries in the Finger Lakes, take some time before you arrive to select some to visit. We recommend planning for wineries that are close to where you’re staying and in the same area, making it easier for transportation if you are driving. Since many of the wineries along Seneca Lake are on the main road around the lake’s perimeter, visit them in a logical order! When browsing which wineries to visit, look at their wine lists online, their history, or “thing.” By thing, we mean their theme. Many of the wineries have a brand and theme that they uphold. For example, one of the wineries we visit was Medieval themed, clad with shield and tapestry decor and wines with witty names.
Wineries and Top Things to Do at Seneca Lake
Day One: Seneca Lake Itinerary
For our three-day, Valentine’s Day weekend getaway to the Finger Lakes, we left Pittsburgh on a Friday afternoon so we could arrive at the Airbnb in the evening. This gave us all of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to explore Seneca Lake and it’s wineries. So we are starting with day one on Saturday!
Three Brother’s Winery
We ended up spending half of our day at Three’s Brothers Winery because it’s actually three wineries in one plus a brewery! Each winery had a different theme and vibe and wines! The best deal is to get the passport option was for $20 you get a tasting at each place, plus a coupon at the shop.
The first winery is located right in the main shop and is called Passion Feet Wine Barn. Here you’ll get started with a range of wines, anywhere from sweet to very dry. This winery features their own slushy mixes which you can try during your tasting
The second winery, Stoney Lonesome Wine Cellars, is located in a beautiful modern building and overlooks the vineyard. Here, you can also try a wide range of wines.
The brewery, War Horse Brewery, was WWII military themed, which was very cool! In addition to beers, they also make homemade sodas. The brewery offered tours as well.
We personally loved the winery, Bagg Dare, the best because it had sweeter wines with bold and soothing flavors all while in a
We really loved Three Brother’s because of the hospitality and staff at each of the wineries and brewery. If there was anything that we learned from this experience, it was to be kind and friendly to the people working in the tasting rooms. If you are, the might give you some extra tastings!
Belhurst Castle Estate and Winery
Belhurst Castle and Winery is not only a winery but is two restaurants, a spa, and an inn! Bellhurst Castle is a Romanesque Revival mansion that was constructed between 1885 and 1889. Bellhurst offers food and wine pairing dinners. Unfortunately, our meal at the one restaurant, Stonecutters, was not up to our expectations.
de Lago Resort and Casino
If you’re feeling lucky, there is a casino a short 15 minute drive from Seneca Lake! de Lago Resort and Casino features your standard casino games and made for a fun evening. Our Airbnb host indicated to us that the buffet was very good at del Lago; however we did not have a chance to try it.
For those who love to go shopping, the Waterloo Premium Outlets is for you! The outlets featured a variety of affordable and luxury brands for all interests.
Day Two: Seneca Lake Itinerary
Montezuma Winery and Hidden Marsh Distillery
Montezuma Winery is located on the Cayuga Wine Trail and is located next to Montezuma Wildlife Preserve. It was only fitting that many of the wines are named after nature!
Montezuma produces a unique variety of wines
In addition to trying wines, you can also sample from liquors made at the distillery! Our favorite wine was the Diamond, a very refreshing and sweet wine.
Visit Seneca Lake
If you’re visiting Seneca Lake during the winter, don’t skip on on finding beautiful views of the lake! With snow-covered shores, Seneca Lake looks beautiful even in the winter! Stop by the Welcome Center in Geneva to get some beautiful photos of the lake!
Fox Run Winery
Fox Run Winery was a very classy and modern winery with both dry and semi-dry to sweet wines. The entrance with the iron gate of trees and animals was beautiful! The property is on the west shore of Seneca Lake and it is on the hill, so you have a beautiful view of the lake during your tasting! During the summers, Fox Run offers vineyard tours and has a small cafe that overlooks the lake!
Seneca Shore Winery
Seneca Shore Winery is located, as the name suggests, on the west shore of Seneca Lake. This winery is medieval themed inside with tapestries, armor, swords, and costumes! The names of the wines are very clever. Seneca Shore has all varieties of wine from the driest of the dry to incredibly sweet ports and berry wines.
Miles Wine Cellars
Miles Wine Cellars is located in an 1800’s century Greek revival home right on the shore of Seneca Lake! The wines ranged from dry to sweet ports. It was a very pleasant tasting experience!
Eddie O’Brian’s for Dinner
For dinners, Geneva, another small town right on the shore of Seneca Lake has urban wineries and
Day Three: Seneca Lake Itinerary
Since we were driving south back home on our third day of our weekend getaway, we decided to visit Watkins Glenn to shorten the long drive back home.
Watkins Glenn State Park
Watkin’s Glenn is another small town located at the very south end of Seneca Lake. The top thing to do in Watkin’s Glen is the state park! Watkin’s Glenn State Park is among one of the many beautiful state parks with waterfalls and stunning scenery. Watkin’s Glenn is the most visited for
Who’s Ready to Plan Their Weekend to Seneca Lake?
Hopefully, this sample weekend getaway itinerary to the Finger Lakes gave you some inspiration for your trip! Since we loved the Finger Lakes so much, we hope to make it back during the summer or fall to see what it’s like. Let us know in the comments which winery you would visit!