French Wine Tutor

A Francophile in the Finger Lakes

Otherwise known as: I’m finally starting to enjoy American wines.

After dozens of tastings, a hundred bottles I hated, and several followers trying to convince me that American wines were worth trying again, I’ve found a U.S. region that speaks to my cool-climate, European style affinities: the Finger Lakes. I can honestly say these wines are the best American wines I have ever had – and some even rival my beloved Alsace and Loire. Where did I go, what did I taste, and what do I recommend everyone tries? I’ve broken it all down for you. But if you take away even just one thing from this post, it’s this: do not sleep on the Finger Lakes – and book a weekend up there ASAP.

Where We Stayed:

The first time we visited the Finger Lakes, we stayed a little farther away from FLX Wine Country, and while it was cute and wonderfully quiet, it certainly wasn’t ideal to get to those wineries. The second time around, however, we stayed at the beautiful Glen Hollow and cannot recommend it enough. 

Staying at Glen Hollow is like stepping into a rustic American fairytale. Built at the turn of the 20th century and initially used as a garage, it was reconverted and updated into a stunning hotel in 2015. The guest house, where we stayed, is a charming little two bedroom that was renovated from a horse stable. Beautiful wood beams adorn the entirety of the space and the full glass doors allow light in from every angle on the first floor, making it the perfect place to cozy up in and read or enjoy a glass of wine. 

Plus, Glen Hollow is about a 45 minute drive or less from our favorite wineries in the region and is also ideally located between a few little small towns, which means you have a wealth of dining options between Canandaigua, Naples, and even Hammondsport. We opted to (mostly) stay in, since it snowed almost the entire weekend and we didn’t want to spend too much time out on the snowy roads, but we hope to return to Glen Hollow again and explore more of the restaurant scene upstate.

Another thing to note? Glen Hollow is pet friendly! Our dog Niles stayed with us in the guest house and thoroughly enjoyed his stay. We spent hours letting him run in the back side of the property and even down to the stream and the woods, where he met other dogs on trail walks with their owners, too. The guest house even has an extra pet bed, stuffed toys, and bowls in one of the closets in case you forget something. This was such a relief for us!

Hosts Chris and Lisa and kind, passionate oenophiles and voracious readers. They are always happy to help you plan your Finger Lakes visit and offer some sample winery itineraries and restaurant recommendations to boot! And if you are in the wine industry don’t be shy about mentioning it – they are also dedicated to promoting the Finger Lakes wine region to those of us lucky enough to work in the wine world, too.

Domaine LeSeurre

The first Finger Lakes Winery we ever visited was the French founded and owned Domaine LeSeurre. Located directly across from Keuka Lake, this stunning tasting room blends the best of American modernity with French tradition. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and accommodating. When we first visited in 2021, the tasting room was cozy but a little on the smaller side. Our friends at Glen Hollow let us know that LeSeurre had expanded and has bigger plans to continue to do so, including possible event spaces. The cost of the reservation was $20 and includes five wines (but our somm, who was equally passionate about the LeSeurre wines as he was making sure we tried wines to our Francophile tastes, snuck us a couple extras free of charge).

Which wines did I love?

I am in love with LeSeurre’s Rieslings. We tried the 2017 Dry Riesling and the 2017 Barrel Select Riesling and loved them so much we brought home multiple bottles of each. Our first glass on the property was the 2017 Dry Riesling. At first sip, my fiancé and I stopped and looked at each other incredulously. We knew immediately that we were about to get into some seriously good wine. I felt like I was tasting a Riesling from Alsace – and a damn good one at that. It was balanced, mineral-driven, medium-acidity, and generally delightful. I cannot say enough about the Rieslings from LeSeurre.

We also went home with a bottle of the Chardonnay 2017 Barrel Select, which instantly reminded me of more regional level Burgundy Chardonnays I’ve had and enjoyed in the past. The balance here is again what drove it home for me – similar to the Rieslings, it’s aged on the lees, which added a lovely earthiness and complexity to those delicious green apple and pear notes. You can shop all their wines through their e-shop.

Another thing I appreciated about LeSeurre was the egalitarian, educational approach that our sommelier took in the tasting. “I’m not going to tell you what this wine tastes like. Everyone has a different palate, tastes different fruits, and has different experiences. So, you tell me, what did you taste?” LeSeurre also isn’t hung up on ratings like the others were. Instead it’s about you – did you like the wine? Why, or why not? That for me, is the most important part of wine tasting – and certainly in the French tradition.


On our first visit to the Finger Lakes in 2021, Weis’ now brand new, sleek, modern tasting room was still under construction. Today, it’s finished, and is a stunning place to try the Weis wines, with a full view of Keuka Lake. Like most Finger Lakes Wineries, it is also dog friendly and everyone here was overly patient and kind with our anxious rescue dog Niles – he got all kinds of treats and made best friends with the wine educator behind the counter. Plus – it’s right next door to LeSeurre, which makes everything just a little bit easier!

After the tasting, I snuck downstairs to the barrel room to ogle at those beautiful oak cylinders a little more. Many of Weis barrels come from Loire Valley and Burgundy cooperages, which adds to their European-style pedigree. 

Which wines did I love?

As with many of my favorite wineries from the Finger Lakes, the founder and head winemaker at Weis comes from a place that has a strong tradition of exceptional Old World Rieslings: the Mosel Valley in Germany. It should come as no surprise then, that both their Dry Riesling 2021 and their Winzer Select Riesling K (short, unofficially for Kabinett style) are two of my favorites. That being said, their Dry Rosé is also fantastically quaffable and so is the Blaufrankisch. We came home with bottles of all! 

Hermann J. Wiemer

As we walked up to this stunning property, a soft, quiet layer of snow began to fall. It was as though we’d entered an alternate universe. Wiemer’s exceptional attention to customer service continued that fairytale vibe all the way through the tasting and beyond. Their thoughtful and accommodating approach to hospitality is one every winery can take notes from and definitely set us up to love them.

Which wines did I love?

We tasted through six wines in Wiemer’s cozy tasting room: three Rieslings, one Gewurztraminer, and two reds (a Cabernet Franc and a Saperavi blend from their affiliate vineyard, Standing Stone). I’ll be honest – I expected the Rieslings to blow me away, but I was a bit disappointed. Still, these are some solid Rieslings – particularly the one from the Magdalena plot – but I still prefer LeSeurre’s or Weis’, especially with regard to the quality price ratio.

That being said, while the reds at LeSeurre left me wanting more, Wiemer’s reds were standouts from our tasting. The Cabernet Franc Magdalena 2017 was without question the best red wine of the day. When I closed my eyes and took a sip, I was transported to the Loire – or at least, Loire Valley’s younger cousin. This is a beautiful, complex CF with many of the characteristic notes and finesse I’d expect from a Chinon or a Saumur-Champigny. In comparison to those Loire Valley standards, I found a bit more liveliness from Wiemer, which makes sense – aren’t Americans louder and livelier than the French anyway?

We also thoroughly enjoyed the Standing Stone Vineyards Saperavi/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (called the “Farm Blend”). If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I have had a historic aversion for Cabernet Sauvignon – whether from Napa or Bordeaux – but this one changed my mind about the grape and I entirely attribute that to the climate and European-style that has taken root in the Finger Lakes.

Aside from the impeccable hospitality, Wiemer’s commitment to sustainable vineyard practices is admirable – particularly when you take into the consideration the fact that the climate in the Finger Lakes is extremely challenging to contend with without help from agrochemicals. Organic, biodynamic, and otherwise ecologically responsible vineyard practices are clearly a passion and a focus for Wiemer, and I hope that their promotion of it changes American wines for the better.


Ravines stole my heart on our first trip to FLX. Their Geneva tasting room is an enormous farmhouse space that was the most COVID-friendly (and dog-friendly!) of all, with tons of room between tables, individual space heaters, and diverse, perfectly sized tasting flights. We tasted 12 wines at Ravines – and they even followed my page before we got there and extended an industry discount for us!

Which wines did I love?

The best Riesling of the day was from Ravines – no contest. Our favorite one was the Dry Riesling 2017 from White Springs Vineyard. Wow, did this one deliver! This was a beautiful textbook Riesling with notes of pear, lemon, and peach. I loved the acidity and the wet stone mineral undertones of this as well. For the quality of wine it was, $22 is a steal – we left with a few bottles.The other wine we walked away with was the Maximilien 2017, which is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Yes.- you read that right, me, liking not one but two Cabernet Sauvignon based blends in one day! I left eager to try more cold climate Cabernet Sauvignons. It had those lovely green bell pepper notes combined with a luscious velvet of dark berries from Merlot. An unexpected combination that truly left me wanting more.

Dr. Konstantin Frank

Dr. Frank was one of the Finger Lakes’ pioneers, so a stop here was inevitable. A Ukrainian immigrant, Konstantin Frank was a globally renowned soil scientist and viticulturist who was one of the first to ever plant the vitis vinifera vine in the United States. He experimented with all kinds of vines but ultimately was one of the first to identify the potential of Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir in the FLX region. Today, the winery is in its fourth generation of family ownership, which isn’t something you hear about too often on this side of the Atlantic.

Which wines did I love?

While I found myself intrigued by a variety of the wines at Frank, the one that won me over – both in terms of history and wine quality – was the Old Vines Pinot Noir 2020. The fruit used to make it comes from some of the oldest vines of Pinot Noir in North America – some of which are over 70 years old! While it certainly does not have the elegance of old vine Burgundy Pinot, there is something very special about this wine. It’s incredibly fruit forward but not overpowering and the mouthfeel is soft and supple. We went home with a lovely bottle I have no doubt we’ll treasure on a special occasion again soon.

If one thing is clear, it’s that this stunning, bucolic American region has come a long way since winemaking first began here in the middle of the 20th century. Between the European know-how and the fact that Riesling truly loves the terroir here, I have no doubt this region is destined for continued ascendancy. If you only have a few days in the Finger Lakes and are a Francophile like me, you won’t be disappointed by the five lovely wineries I’ve listed above. We’ve only just gotten back, but we can’t wait to start planning our next trip. After all, how can I possibly say no to visiting what feels like a little slice of France right in my backyard?

Looking for more winery and travel recommendations? Check out my Travel Guide to the Alsace Wine Region or The Magic of Bandol at Domaine de la Bégude. Santé !


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