Everywhere I go, Heron Hill Winery is there- Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca… they have a tasting room on each of these lakes. Their wine is also easily found in shops around Rochester. The combination of these two factors makes them one of the more frequent wineries you hear about when discussing local wine. But the real question is, how does their wine taste? We stopped by the tasting room on Canandaigua Lake, only a 45 minute drive from Rochester, to check it out.
Heron Hill Winery was founded by John and Josephine Ingle in 1977, though they started planting the grapes in 1972. The tasting room on Canandaigua opened in 2010. Their current winemaker is Barry Tortolon, who came on in 2015. If you’re familiar with their wines, then you know that their famous for their Eclipse Red and Eclipse White. I vividly remember ordering one of these bottles at a restaurant in Syracuse back in 2009- the bottles are quite distinctive.
One of the interesting things about Heron Hill is that their wine comes from a few different vineyards and they make different styles of the same varietals. This means that you can compare two fairly wines from different vineyards to see how the terroir (micro-environment) impacts the flavors, or how old versus new vine changes taste. When you do a tasting, I suggest comparing Reserve versus Classic, Old versus New Vine, and different styles against one another. Not only is it delicious, it is a great way to start comparing wines and developing your mad tasting skillz.
Wine Tasting at Heron Hill
For $5 you can try any five of their wines, except the ice wines- these you will need to pay a separate fee to taste, which makes sense because they are a much higher price point. If you’re not into wine, they also offer tastings of Nedloh Brewing Co beer, 1911 Cider, South Hill Cider, Blue Toad Hard Cider, and Black Button Distilling spirits. For $6 you can try any three of those. If you’re driving, they also offer lemonade and iced tea- a nice treat for those who are enjoying the hard stuff! Totally impressed when they offered this to our designated driver.
Now to tasting the wine!
2015 Reserve Unoaked Chardonnay: The wine had big notes of pineapple, pear, and other tropical fruit that continued onto the palate when sipped. It has a bright acidity that is balanced by a lingering mouthfeel that makes you want another sip. We compared this against the 2015 Classic Unoaked Chardonnay, and there is really no comparison- the Classic was more one note- smelling primarily of pear, whereas the Reserve had layers of flavor.
2013 Ingle Vineyard Dry Riesling: Made from new vines, this Riesling has notes of petrol (gasoline, but we fancy wine folk say petrol instead cause it sounds better and is meant as a positive attribute), lime, and unripe pear. When tasting, it is quite mineral and earthy, with a lower acid than expected.
2016 Eclipse Rosé: Seems like everyone has a Rosé wine now, with Heron Hill’s consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The nose has notes of watermelon, strawberry, and just a hint of something minty. On the palate it has a refreshing effervescence, good acidity, and lingering notes of strawberry. You can compare this with their 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé which has stronger notes of cherry and is slightly more floral, with a bright citrus flavor on the palate.
2013 Ingle Vineyard Cabernet Franc: Made with old vines from Canandaigua, this wine has a nose of black cherry, green pepper, leather, and vanilla that carries through on the palate. When sipped has a fantastic chewy tannin and big mouthfeel that was balanced out by the acidity. We compared this against the 2014 Classic Cab Franc made from new vines. The Classic almost tasted more like a Merlot, which notes of mocha and cherry. The tannin was still big, but not as refined as the Ingle Vineyard, and the Classic lacked the big mouthfeel, feeling much thinner and lighter.
Planning Your Visit
Hours: The hours vary by tasting room and season, but are currently Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm, Sunday 12 pm to 6 pm.
Tasting Fee: $5 for 5 wines, $3 for one or $5 for 2 samples of the ice wine, and $6 for 3 samples of beer or spirits.
Group Wine Tasting: They do allow groups, but for those that are 10 people or larger they ask that you call in advance.
Wine Prices: Their wines range from 10.99 for a white blend to $39.99 for their Chosen Spot Bordeaux-style red blend to $79.99 for their 2013 Ingle Vineyard Riesling Ice Wine. If you’re buying multiple bottles, you get a discount from 5-20% off.
Other Amenities: Enjoy the view by getting a glass of wine or taking your samples outside to their deck. On Saturday nights the Canandaigua tasting room has live music and wood-fired pizza for you to enjoy. There isn’t much else directly in this area, but it is a nice stop on the way to Naples if you’re looking for a cute town to explore and more wine tasting.