The Nation’s First Wine Trail, the Seneca Wine Trail

The West Coast isn’t the only place you’ll find great wines in the U.S.

Ravinous Kitchen is a hidden gem on the Seneca Wine Trail. 

The general opinion is that if you’re looking for wine country in the United States, you have to fly to the West Coast. While California and Washington State have some excellent wines, there’s a fun adventure to be had in the Northeast, in upstate New York. While it might be a lesser-known fact, New York is third in the U.S. in terms of grape production, only trailing the aforementioned two states. I decided to make a road trip out of it and check out the Seneca Wine Trail while making a number of stops along the way. If you’re a wine enthusiast heading into the Finger Lakes region, follow along for the ideal itinerary:

Ravine Wine Cellars

This boutique winery is nestled in a picturesque setting. The tasting room is inside a barn at White Springs Farm, which offers a really cozy and country feel. On warm days, the doors will be open, and you can sit up at the countertop and get a view of Seneca Lake. Go for the white wines, which are quite enjoyable.

If you have some time afterwards, make the short walk down the hill to check out owner Lisa Hallgren’s miniature donkeys.

Dave Golokhov

Ravinous Kitchen

Ravinous Kitchen is one of the best kept secrets on the Seneca Wine Trail. Chef Scott Riesenberger has worked in some of Manhattan’s top restaurants for many years and has quite the resume. He’s cooked for the likes of Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bono, but he’s had enough of stars and Michelin stars. His heart is in the Finger Lakes, which is why he’s settled in upstate New York at a winery instead of amidst the hustle and bustle. His daily menu is mostly light tasting fare (local cheese and charcuterie) but during the warmer months there is a full menu Thursday to Sunday.

What you’ll want to add to your to-do list is the once-a-month themed dinners — one recent offering was the “Fête de Fat,” where the chef celebrated all types of fats for a creative tasting menu complete with wine pairings. Talk to the winery for more details on themes and dates.

Dave Golokhov

Kindred Fare

Kindred Fare calls themselves a spirited cookery, but that’s their modest way of saying they’re the coolest kids on the block. While a lot of the dining in the neighborhood is classical old school, Kindred Fare is fun, with a creative menu that emphasizes seasonal ingredients. Seared scallops topped with pickled watermelon radish and a lentil-farro-wild mushroom mélange are two of the highlights. The homemade charcuterie boards are bites of salty, meaty heaven. They have an enticing menu that’s exciting to eat through.

Dave Golokhov

Geneva On The Lake

While Kindred Fare is the new and cool, Geneva on the Lake is that classic throwback. Step inside and you’ll feel what the top-notch restaurant standard used to be: warm candlelight, gentle piano and resplendent white tablecloths. You’re not going to find a menu with creative ventures into the raw or molecular gastronomy. Instead, it’s just the timeless staples, like steak and lamb, that are well executed. Go during the day for a spectacular view of Seneca Lake or in the evening for that special night out.

Dave Golokhov

New York Wine and Culinary Center

If you’re looking for some higher learning, the New York Wine and Culinary Center has an extensive menu of classes. From various food and wine pairing lessons to lunch-and-learns to wine seminars, you’re able to drop in and take your knowledge to the next level. I dropped into the chardonnay edition of the wine club series, where the sommelier lined up 10 different types of the popular white wine and walked us through the different nuances.

The New York Wine & Culinary Center is a nonprofit designed to educate, and it’s really welcoming to cooks and epicures of all skill types. You don’t have to come in as an expert.


Dave Golokhov