Review: Glenora Wine Cellars – Finger Lakes, NY

Official Review by The Traveling Winers

138-Glenora Wine CellarsBy making Glenora Wine Cellars one of your must-see winery visits in The Finger Lakes of New York, you will have the opportunity to experience a legend. As the first winery on Seneca Lake, this establishment has grown from its humble beginnings in 1977 to now being home to a first class winery, a restaurant focusing on culinary creativity and an up-scale Inn with amazing backdrops of vineyards and Lake Seneca. During our visit, we had the opportunity to spend some time doing a tasting, learning from their winemaker and taking in a scrumptious lunch at Veraisons.

The pioneers of Seneca Lake wineries

An important year in history for the New York wine industry was 1976, the year the Winery Farm Act came into law, allowing grape growers to finally open wineries and sell their creations to the public. And first on the scene to take the big leap of faith was Gene Pierce and his three business partners who broke ground on Glenora Wine Cellars. Still owned today by Gene, and his new business partner Scott Welliver, the business continues to flourish and provide their guests with a first-rate wine country experience like none other. The story is best told by Gene himself in this You Tube video, reflecting on the past 40 years.

Class is in session: Hodgepodge 101

73-Glenora Wine CellarsSteve DiFrancesco, head winemaker at Glenora since 1995, is a real down-to-earth guy that just loves to share his knowledge and love for wine making. We were very fortunate to have him show us around is office, the winery production area, during our visit and to impart a deeper understanding of the life cycle of grapes.

He explained a bit about the primary, secondary and tertiary budding of the vines and how, just like with a hydrangea plant, the buds that appear this year, usually in the fall, will be the flowering buds the following spring. Although this may be elementary for someone that works in the wine industry, it is not quite so obvious if you haven’t walked a vineyard during autumn and had an experienced farmer pointing out this part of mother nature.

Steve also explained how the flowers are pollinated by the wind and are therefore quite small, or at least smaller than one would expect since the flower does not need to attract the attention of insects for cross-pollination. Again, to date this is not something we have personally seen up close in a vineyard so it has not been drilled home in our memory banks…so thanks, Steve, for the botany lesson!

Finally, Steve goes into how they go out into the vineyard and randomly pick grapes for sampling, why it is important that it be random and the challenges to some grape varietals because of the tightness of their clusters. Again, a hodgepodge of information that was generously offered, readily accepted and much appreciated. Well, here…watch for yourself…

Class is in session: Sparkling 201

The next class we unknowingly enrolled into was Sparkling Wine 101 and our professor, as it turns out, has years of history making sparkling wine, all the way back to the late 1970’s. To sum this ‘course’ up….it was awesome! We got to see the folks at Glenora bottling their Brut that day…

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…full-bore action from oxygenating the wine prior to bottling, to bottling, capping and crating the wine to lay down to rest for the next 4-5 years. Watch the couple of videos below as Steve conducts class and Miki soaks it all in!


Class is in session: Tasting 301

15-Glenora Wine CellarsAnd the experience and education did not stop with Steve but continued throughout our tasting as we were craftily lead by Joe SerPhillips, a long-time employee of Glenora, through a side-by-side comparison of Pinot Blanc fermented in three different types of containers.

This side-by-side experience is to show how different fermenting vessels can each bring unique flavors and characteristics to a wine and is available for all to try for an additional fee, is held in their private tasting room and is WELL worth the money! Here is how it goes:

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From the same Pinot Blanc grapes, same year, same lot…

42-Glenora Wine CellarsStainless steel – (TA 0.54, pH 3.34, RS 0.3%, Alcohol 12%, MLF 65%) – This fermentation method produces some very crisp, clean tasting wine, with flavors of pear.

88-Glenora Wine CellarsConcrete egg – (TA 0.46, pH 3.51, RS 0.1%, Alcohol 12%, MLF 70%) – The concrete egg is a porous vessel and therefore allows some air to come in contact, similar to barrel fermentation, but obviously does not impart any of the barrel flavors such as oak and additional tannins. This wine still has the pear flavors but also has a strong minerality component present.

43-Glenora Wine CellarsFrench oak barrel – (TA 0.55, pH 3.29, RS 0.25%, Alcohol 12%, MLF 65%) – As typical with oak aging, the wine has a light oak texture and taste and a smoothness of the fruit that occurs because of the time in contact with the barrel.

And when you mix the stainless and barrel together, you get….

2013 Premium Blend Pinot Blanc – (TA 0.54, pH 3.32, RS 0.25%, Alcohol 12%, MLF 60%) – A very nice, delicate wine with a full finish, multiple layers and smooth yet crisp fruit. We rated this one a “B”.

So, that’s it from Glenora Wine Cellars.  The oldest winery on Seneca Lake. A winemaker that welcomes you to ask questions and learn. A staff that really know how to do interesting and educational tastings. All that is missing is you!


Tom Joe
“Hops ‘r Better” Winer

From the panoramic views from the tasting room, to watching a bottling operation in action, to photographing a concrete egg, this was an awesome visit.

“Hippie” Winer

Got to sample the Brut Sparkling Wine from Glenora Wine Cellars AND listen to Miki tell us about the business of making sparkling wines.  The wine was just terrific, not too tart.  The flavor (to me) carried hints of apples in the barn as I rolled it across my tongue.

“This Is The Life” Winer

Two highlights came from this visit.  First, the comparison of fermentation processes of Pinot Blanc was educational and one that, because it was a side-by-side, I will never forget the differences that fermentation materials can make.  Second was watching the bottling of sparkling wine as they filled the bottles,  capped them and then stacked them into huge crates to be laid down for the next 2 plus years.  Amazing!

“Timeless” Winer

Excellent Brut Sparkling wine that was shared at the table.  Much better than what I was expecting and I wish we had more than one to send on its way.  I loved watching the bubbles rise, every one visible through the clarity of the wine.  The flavor was not too tart and just the right dryness.


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The Winer’s Experience

With the tasting bars hidden from view upon entering, the initial visual is of merchandise for sale, with a bit of a commercial flare. Upon further wandering, we entered a more dedicated tasting room with a beautiful view of Lake Seneca, setting the stage for a relaxing wine tasting experience. The grounds are quite large, with the winery and tasting room at the top of the hill, the restaurant and Inn situated  down the hill toward the lake, vineyards to the right of the property, with an overall view of Lake Seneca. There are three tasting bars: one located near wine-related merchandise so that you can browse and taste at your leisure, one located in an overflow room that is capable of catering to larger groups (think buses!) and finally an anteroom which serves as a reserve tasting area.
George set us up for an unique wine tasting of Pinot Blanc.  From the same block, Glenora’s winer maker fermented the juice in stainless steel, concrete egg, barrel, and a blend of barrel and stainless steel. Each wine has a unique profile which demonstrates the differences between fermentation processes. These differences are best learned through a side-by-side tasting. Great.  The staff were polite and attentive. George knew the operations very well, as well as how to describe the wines and lead us through our comparison tasting.  The wine maker, Steve, was excited to share the process, from grape to bottle, of sparkling wines, since the crew was in the process of bottling during our visit.

Vineyard & Winery Information

Glenora Wine Cellars 5435 State Route 14, Dundee, NY  14837
Nov 1 to May 31 – Sun-Thurs 10am – 5pm, Fri – Sat 10am – 6pmJune 1 to Aug 31 – Daily 9am-8pmSept 1 – to Oct 31 – Sun – Thurs 10am – 6pm, Fri – Sat 10am – 7pm
Special events – check calendar Yes $5/6 tastes
Yes Full menu restaurant


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