Touring and Tasting Tips for the Trail

Jul 30, 2015

Touring and Tasting Tips for the Trail

by Cassandra Harrington, Executive Director of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail

I’ve specifically admitted to not being an expert in viticulture or viniculture, but one thing that I can certainly claim expertise in, is enjoying wine. I certainly have my preferences, but I do appreciate everything from a sweet Niagara or concord, otherwise known as “big-kid-grape-juice”, to drier varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Grigio. My preferences change based on the weather, my mood, the setting, and much more. I call myself an equal-opportunity drinker, always on the search for my new favorite wine.

We all know that indulging too much in the pursuit of the perfect bottle can be a challenge, so I have put together some tips for mastering a safe, enjoyable and successful wine search party. First and foremost, if you are planning to visit multiple wineries along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail in the same day, I absolutely insist that one person in your group be designated the driver. Safe traveling is mine and all the wineries’ primary concern. Besides, drivers are treated like royalty by the drinkers as well as the wineries. Believe me, the grape juice alone is totally worth the drive. If nobody in your group volunteers to drive, there are plenty of affordable transportation companies located throughout the Finger Lakes.

Be sure to begin your day by eating a hearty breakfast. Drinking wine on an empty stomach can heighten the effects of alcohol. I also recommend that you pack a small cooler with bite-size snacks. Some of my favorites are cheese, crackers, nuts, fruits and veggies. Keeping a stash of snack items in the car can sometimes slow the effects of alcohol. Even better, I would plan to stop for lunch midday. Many of the wineries have outdoor tables where you can enjoy a self-packed picnic lunch with a spectacular view. The Trail also has some of the best restaurants, bistros, cafes and shops in the region.

Another recommendation – is hydration. I would try to drink water between every stop. You’ll thank me the morning after as well! Bring your own water bottle and refill it before leaving each winery. Keep in mind too, that you do not need to finish every sample. Buckets are provided for spitting or dumping.

I suggest planning which wineries you will visit before setting out. If you have a large group, typically of 10 or more, wineries prefer that you call ahead to make reservations so that they are properly staffed to give your group the right amount of attention. Four to six wineries a day, perhaps two or three before and two or three after lunch is a fair goal. You won’t want your palate getting overwhelmed. All area information centers should have a copy of the Trail Map & Guide, or you can download a digital version directly from our website to help with planning.

Also, because we’re all guilty of over-imbibing once in a while, I certainly recommend staying overnight in one of the many great accommodation locations along the Trail if need be. Spend a couple days here, experience the breathtaking views of wine country and taste all there is to taste, responsibly of course!

For more tasting and touring tips, call the office at 800-684-5217 or visit

Cassandra Harrington is the executive director of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. To learn more, visit