New York State’s Largest and Most Active Wine Trail. In 1986, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail was formed in the heart of New York State’s Finger Lakes region to attract more visitors to experience its rich history, beauty, and production of world-class wines. Today, Seneca Lake Wine Trail is the largest and most active wine trail in New York State with a community of over 30 wineries, a distillery, several breweries and hard cider producers and a meadery.
Seneca Lake’s natural combination of deep water, at 632 feet it is the deepest of the Finger Lakes, and sloping hillsides provides the ideal microclimate for grape growing. Its unique geology and topography protect the growth of hardy native grapes and premium hybrids as well as more delicate varieties such as Riesling,Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
The rich wine history of Seneca Lake can be traced back to 1866, when the Seneca Lake Grape Wine Company opened a winery on the western shores. Then in 1882, New York State opened an Agricultural Experiment Station on the northern end of the lake (Geneva, New York) for grape breeding and research programs. Their success confirmed Seneca Lake as a prominent player in the grape growing industry. However, with the passage of Prohibition in 1919, the bottom of the grape market fell out and many of Seneca Lake’s vineyards either closed or were replanted to produce grape varieties for the juice or fruit market.
In the early 1970s, Charles Fournier, a young European, planted 20 acres of Vinifera on the east side of Seneca Lake while at the same time German native, Hermann Wiemer, bought and planted 140 acres of Vinifera on the west side of Seneca Lake. The success of these two vineyards along with the establishment of a wine research program at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station were a catalyst to the revitalization of Seneca Lake as a grape growing and wine producing region.
In 1976, New York State passed the Farm Winery Act to encourage grape growers to expand into the wine production business.One year later, Seneca Lake became home to its first new winery: Glenora Wine Cellars, followed by Wagner Vineyards, Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard and Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.
Today, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s 32 member wineries have won hundreds of national and international medals and are recognized as world class producers of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Honey Wines (Meads).