The winter is without a doubt one of the best times to explore wine country in New York. Not only are the vines often blanketed in winter white, there are fewer visitors, a range of imaginative events and more opportunities to learn from and interact with the people behind the wines.
With more than 470 active wineries in the Empire State and 35,000+ acres under vine, there is plenty to discover for new and experienced wine lovers seeking a range of activities.
An Education in Cool Climate Wines Across the World
Ready to expand your viticultural horizons? Bruce Murray and his wife Diana Lyttle have crafted the perfect program for you at their Lodi winery in the Finger Lakes, Boundary Breaks.
“There are so many great events in wine country that are designed for people who want to go out and socialize, and maybe hit 15 wineries in one weekend,” Murray says. “They’re a great deal. What we do is a little different though.”
The pair created a Winter Wine Exploration Series designed to explore different aspects of cool climate wines from across the world. The series is held on weekends from January through March. Its goal is to put Finger Lakes wines in context with other regions’ cool climate wines within different parameters. Deep dives include a blind tasting of cool climate whites, a blind tasting of cool climate reds and a sparkling wine exploration.
“We do six distinct events, three a weekend,” Murray says. “We’ll compare our wines, with other cool climate regions, like Germany and Switzerland. Each event includes 10 wines, for $35. It’s a way to understand what we’re doing in the Finger Lakes, and understand how it fits into the world of wine.”
About half of the attendees are wine club members, many of whom have been attending these weekends for years. Others are younger wine lovers out to explore and meet new people.
The events tend to sell out, so book ahead.
Creating Connections, Warmth and Conviviality
Colloca Estate Winery has designed a range of programs in the winter to keep wine lovers entertained and social during the gorgeous but long winters on Lake Ontario.
“We try to make the winter as fun as we can at the winery,” says Dr. Chris Colloca, founder, CEO and chief wine taster at Colloca Estate. “We do a range of ticketed and weekly events, and we’ve gotten a great response, and really good turnouts.”
In addition to regular events like the Friyay Happy Hour & Pizza Night (half price wines, $10 pizzas) and Sunday Football Specials (pizza + wings for $22 / a bucket of domestic beers for $20), Colloca has held cookoffs, major wine sales (buy big and save), and is set to hold it’s first Winterfest on January 27.
“We have a really fun day planned for the entire family,” he notes. “We’ll have live music, face painting, great food and wine pairings and fireworks at 5 pm. Admission is free with a cash bar.”
“Our staff is as excited about it as our wine club members and other attendees have been,” he says. “It’s a great way to be social, get to know our wines better and do something out of the ordinary in wine country in the winter.”
Elevated, but Cozy Elegance
At Sparkling Pointe on the North Fork of Long Island, the hospitality team works hard to make their winery and tasting room a cozy, but elegant resource for visitors who want an education in wine, while also enjoying a truly indulgent experience at the opulent Tasting House or VIP Bubble Lounge.
“One of my favorite winter activations is our fireplace tasting package,” says Melissa Rockwell, Sparkling Pointe’s direct to consumer sales manager. “We have packages for small groups or couples and groups of 30. In each case, you sit by the fireplace and a staff member talks you through the méthode champenoise winemaking process we have here, while tasting a flight of our sparkling wines.”
Guests can order from the menu, or add a caviar or cheese pairing experience.
“We are celebrating 20 years this year, so there are going to be a lot of special experiences and opportunities to taste library vintages,” Rockwell says. “We love offering people a truly special experience here. It’s not the norm to have such a beautiful, elegant tasting room with restaurant-level service and caviar pairing options in wine country, and we love offering that to our guests.”
Whether you’re seeking an education, connection, or a taste of luxury, New York’s wine country has it this winter.