1. Try to plan at least one weekday into your trip. The wineries can be crowded on the weekends, especially during the fall foliage and holiday season from October to December. However, if you visit the wineries on a week day, the wineries are a lot less crowded.
2. Plan which wineries or which lakes that you want to visit. There are more than 80 wineries on Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka Lakes. There are around 50 on Seneca, and perhaps 15-20 each on Keuka and Cayuga. It is impossible to visit them all on just a weekend. In my experience, a reasonable goal is 5 or 6 wineries maximum per day. If you know what your taste in wine is, I would suggest researching the wineries and the wines they offer by going to their websites. The Finger Lakes Wine Country website has a good winery directory with website links. This way, you can eliminate the wineries that do not have wines that appeal to you and get more information on the wineries that interest you. Or you can email me with your wine taste preferences and I can suggest wineries that I feel would match your palate. To email me, just fill out the form at the bottom of this page.
3. Once you have narrowed down your winery visit list, plan your route. The Uncork New York website has some good maps of the wineries on each lake. The roads in the area are very good, but if you have never driven in this area before, you will definitely want a good map because it is a rural area and it is easy to take a wrong turn. But the area is very safe and the people are very friendly and will point you in the right direction if you ask. The lakes are within a 20-30 minute drive of each other, so if you want to choose a few wineries on one lake and a few on another, it is reasonably easy to do. Keep in mind that most of the wineries are open from approximately 11am to 5pm, so schedule your time accordingly. As far as driving yourself as you taste wines, please use good judgement. Most of the wineries offer 5 to 8 tastings resulting in perhaps a half glass of wine being consumed at each stop. Take water with you to hydrate and take a meal break at some point and don't overindulge and you should be fine. The police in the area do not target winery visitors, but if you are driving erratically, you will be stopped. If you want someone else to do the driving so that you can taste wine safely and enjoy the trip without the hassles of driving, try my friends at Finger Lakes Wine Adventures for a Fun & Educational Wine Tasting Tour of The Finger Lakes- http://www.fingerlakeswineadventures.com/
4. Allot at least 30 minutes at each winery for tastings; more than that if the winery has a museum, or gift shops, or additional features to see. Some are still free, but most of the wineries now charge one or two dollars for 5 to 8 tastings; sometimes an additional dollar or two to taste their premium wines, so bring along some cash for tasting fees. Still, even with the fees, you are getting about a half a glass of wine for about a buck. And bring your credit card to buy the wine that you like, as well as all those neat gifts that the wineries have for sale.
5. Please be polite and respectful to your fellow wine tasters, especially when the wineries are crowded. The wineries are used to serving large crowds and they will serve you as quickly as possible. A little bit of patience goes a long way. Besides, what could be better- you are in a winery, tasting wine with other wine lovers. And wine people are some of the friendliest people around. You are sure to make some friends as you see the same people traveling from winery to winery on your wine tasting day.
6. Dress for the weather. The Finger Lakes can be very cool in spring and fall, very hot in mid-summer, and downright brutal in winter. There is almost always a breeze blowing off the lakes, which can make it feel even cooler, so it is wise to take a jacket with you in spring and fall. You will be standing a lot at wine tasting bars & walking a lot from the car to the wineries so wear comfortable shoes.
7. Ask questions about the wines that are being served. The winery staffs are very knowledgable and ready to answer any questions. Take good notes about the wines, so that you can remember what you like and don't like. A lot of people like to taste on one day and then go back around and buy based on their tasting notes on another day. Bring your camera. The wineries and tasting rooms are beautiful and the views around the lakes are spectacular.
8. Take a look through the Archives here at Finger Lakes Weekend Wino. There are posts on things to do and see in the Finger Lakes. Have Fun on your trip to The Finger Lakes and maybe I'll see you on the Wine Trail. If you have any questions, please email me at the email address at the top of the page.