Review: Leidenfrost Vineyards – Finger Lakes, NY

Official Review by The Traveling Winers

100-Liedenfrost VineyardsAlthough there are numerous family operated vineyards/wineries in The Finger Lakes,  our visit to Leidenfrost Vineyards turned out to be the most intimate experience of them all. What this small family owned winery, owned by John Leidenfrost, Jr. and his daughter, Elizabeth “Liz” Leidenfrost, lacks in size, it makes up for in commitment to quality wines, a welcoming “your now our new family” atmosphere and some gorgeous views of Lake Seneca.

“COME ONE, COME ALL” to the Circus at Leidenfrost!

Liz was an amazingly fun host! She invited us to the winery for an after-hours visit, mainly because our schedule was so packed that we couldn’t make it during business hours, but really wanted to visit and this was the only time we had free. Lucky us! There is nothing better than a one-on-one tour of the front and back of the house with no interruptions. and the time to not be rushed and get “inside” the creative mind of a winemaker and business owner.

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Liz Leidenfrost

18-Liedenfrost VineyardsThe Leidenfrost Vineyards really go way back to Liz’s grandfather, John Leidenfrost, Sr., when back in 1947 he was busy on the family farm raising cows, chickens and, his crop of choice, grapes. Upon John Sr.’s passing, the farm was handed down to John Jr., who now had a farm full of grapes at a time when nobody was buying. Having to decide what to do with this fertile land, John changed the direction of the varietals and started planting vinifera.  Now, 26 years later, with 35 acres of varietals including vinifera, labrusca and hybrids, the family business thrives as a combination of estate grown wines at their own winery and selling approximately 2/3 of their crop to other wineries in the area.

3-Liedenfrost VineyardsJohn Jr., before his vineyard days, had a background in art and architecture, which turned out to be very beneficial in his new business. John designed and built the current tasting room which is spacious but cozy and intimate at the same time. They display some art on the walls, but that’s about it. John believes strongly in not cluttering the tasting room with ancillary products for sell as he wants his “extended family”, his wine tasters, to be able to experience the quality of the wines without distraction. Holding firm to your beliefs…..noble.

Liz, quite an interesting young woman who does what we hear is an amazing burlesque show with the Whiskey Tango Sideshow, works side-by-side with her father in the cellar, the vineyards and the tasting room. Liz has developed into quite the young business woman and winemaker as you will see in the videos below.

You are putting WHAT in my wine?

We learned so much about winemaking basics during our visit with Liz and were lucky enough to capture a great deal of it on video. You will notice as Liz talks about the winemaking process and how she crafts her wines at Leidenfrost, that, in her own words, she is “not a scientist”, but has learned from her father, from others in the industry and from self-study. It becomes very apparent that you don’t need to be a scientist to make great wine. You just need a passion for what you do. And you can surely see through her expressions that she loves what she does and loves to express herself through her wine.

This first video is Liz explaining the process of how she makes a sweeter white wine with grapes that don’t necessarily come off the vine with enough sugars (Brix) to go through the fermentation process and yet leave some residual sugars behind so that the wine remains a sweet wine. Remember, we are talking New York here, where the growing season is shorter than most, so the grapes don’t always have the time to ripen to the desired sugar content. She also explains to us how the juice and wine get moved around in the production area. It may not be rocket science, but we thought it was quite interesting especially for those folks that might not have ever seen the “bowels” of a winery before. 🙂 Enjoy!

Fermentation….explained the easy way

Our next topic of interest is about the fermentation process. We have talked about the process in other articles, but it seems that…well, at least with us….that repetition helps drill it into the memory banks. The interesting component to this discussion, however, is that Liz describes it very basically, and that is probably because, as she even mentions herself, she is not a scientist. But still…boy, does she know her stuff and can she explain it to others? Yep! Watch and see…

A Private Affair!

No, no, don’t get all excited!  It was only a private tasting.  Just had to come up with a catchy headline. But seriously, it was one of those highlight experiences of any wine trip…a private barrel tasting with the winemaker, including a blending session where the winemaker wants your feedback on the blend. Way cool! So here is how ours went with Liz. We tasted white port from the barrel, each barrel of a different vintage, and continued blending combinations together until we got the proportions in our glass that tickled our tongue. Watch the video and see for yourself. If you ever get a chance to participate in one of these, take it!


So remember, do not skip this winery on your visit to Seneca Lake in The Finger Lake wine region. Come and plan on staying a while and enjoying their company and their view. Say “hi” to Baco if he happens to be bounding around!

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Tom Joe
“Hops ‘r Better” Winer

Being keenly watched by Baco from the second story window of this Dutch-style winery, we entered a dimly lit “Victorianisque” tasting room.  We were greeted by Liz who shared with us her favorite wines (all reds!) and showed us her cellar where she makes her creations.  At the end of the tasting, Baco joined us for a few minutes on the deck as we watched a beautiful sunset to end a beautiful evening.

“Hippie” Winer

Baco Noir, 2013, is the one I wanted to try.  A lovely dry red that was a pleasure to look at in my glass.  I found the rich scent of plums in my nose that actually made me stop there to take a sip.  Oh man, earthy with the taste of plums.  A great wine.

“This Is The Life” Winer

This tasting experience was very intimate and personal, being held after hours, near sunset, with Liz’s only guests being myself and Tom Joe. My wonderful, sweet Tom Joe, although nearly perfect, is actually WRONG! He doesn’t understand my sappy, touchy-feely ways, and, when he thinks I am not looking, may roll his eyes. Well, I’m here to say…SHUT UP! 🙂  This tasting with Liz was amazing. She resembles everything I feel about my nickname “This is the Life”.  Liz lives her life with passion and to the fullest, and this shows in her wines. Delicious, vibrant, and expressive. I feel like there is some type of a kindred spirit that we share.  Thanks, Liz, for being you.

“Timeless” Winer

The Cabernet Franc, 2013, was my pick.  That rich dark red color.  On the nose, a touch of currants and caramel.  The taste an explosion with the caramel coming through and a touch of pepper.  The finish was excellent.  Should have listened to my mouth and got a case.


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The Winer’s Experience

The building appears to be built in some type of a Dutch architectural fashion, with the tasting room furnished in dark wood providing a nice intimate, warm feeling.  From the deck, you can overlook the Pinot Noir vines, looking out to Lake Seneca..and if you stay long enough, see the most beautiful sunset.  Built by the owner, John Leidenfrost, an architect in his previous life, the tasting room, although feeling cozy and warm, has a large U-shaped tasting bar with plenty of space for multiple tasters. This tasting room is ALL about wine.  You will not find anything for sale here other than wine…John’s strict philosophy.
We had the pleasure of tasting with Liz Leidenfrost, the winemaker.  Such an intimate experience learning of Liz’s passion for wine, favorite varietals, and listening to her speak of how she uses her artistry to create the wine. Although Liz is typically not behind the tasting bar but in the cellar below, she availed herself for our tasting.So…needless to say, the customer service was exceptional. She’s the winemaker….enough said!

Vineyard & Winery Information

Leidenfrost Vineyards 5677 Route 414, Hector, NY 14841
May – Nov Daily 10 am – 5pmDec – April Sat & Sun 10 am – 5pm
Special events – check calendar No $2/6 tastes
No No


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