This is the perfect time of year to go wine touring -- the weather is beautiful, but it's not quite full-on pool weather, yet.
Luckily, the Capital Region is near multiple collections of wineries. It's easy to go touring for the day, or a quick overnight, without too much planning or cost.
Here are three nearby regions where you can make a day out of trying local wines.
If you're anxious to taste right away, the Hudson Valley is the place for you. In just 20 minutes from Albany, you can be sipping wine at Brookview Station Winery in Castleton.
The Hudson Valley has a few different wine trails, or concentrations of wineries. The closest batch is the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail, which has just as many distilleries as wineries. I recommend that you stop at Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, which has a good variety of wines, a welcoming staff, and a cute little tasting room. Harvest Spirits in Valatie is also a nice destination, since you can get a peek into the production of some interesting small-batch spirits.
If you want to have a longer day of touring, you can farther down the Hudson Valley to the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which has an even larger grouping of wineries southwest of Poughkeepsie.
If uncorking New York is not your thing, you can always try wine from our northeast neighbors in Vermont. The wineries are a little bit spaced out, but many are concentrated along Route 7. And a majority of Vermont wineries are within 45 minutes of Burlington.
Tasting in Vermont works especially well if you have a beer lover in your group, since there are dozens of awesome breweries to visit as well.
I recommend that you stop at Shelburne Vineyard, which has a spacious and beautiful tasting room. It's also conveniently located directly across the street from Fiddlehead Brewing Company. Personally, I also love the wines from Lincoln Peak Vineyard, a small winery that often has events and live music.
The Finger Lakes Region, located south of the Thruway between Syracuse and Rochester, is well known for creating superb New York State wines. It's a bit of a drive from Albany, at just over 3 hours, but if you love wine, it's totally worth it.
Out of the series of lakes, Cayuga and Seneca are the best known for their wine trails.
Cayuga Lake has Seneca Falls to its north and Ithaca at its southern-most point. Most of the wineries on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail are on the western side of the lake, and you can easily spend the whole day driving the length of the lake, stopping for wine every 10 minutes or so. I recommend visiting Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery in Ovid, which does tastings in its large open-air barn. There's also a fabulous restaurant on site, The Copper Oven, where you can get pizza and cheese boards. I also enjoy nearby Sheldrake Point Winery, which is a little more polished, and has a wonderful variety of Rieslings.
Seneca Lake -- just to the west of Cayuga Lake -- has one of the largest concentrations of wineries in New York. It's my favorite place to wine tour because there are so many great wineries located in a small area. The best views are at Miles Wine Cellars, where you can walk down a dock to be right on the lake. It's a wonderful place to take a break and enjoy the scenery. My personal favorite winery on Seneca is Villa Bellangelo, which makes a fabulous Moscato, and has a wide variety of sweet wines that are perfect for summer sipping. And if you're looking for a dignified experience with extremely knowledgeable servers, visit Chateau Lafayette Reneau, which has some great red wines.
+ Depending on the winery, most tastings in this area cost anywhere from $2 to $7. You'll get to sample a set number of wines, usually with 2-ounce pours. Some wineries have a set list that you will try, while others allow you to select from a longer list of options. The people pouring the wine will typically give short descriptions, but feel free to ask questions.
+ Make sure that you have a responsible driver. Even though you're only getting a couple of ounces at a time, the alcohol adds up over multiple pours and multiple wineries. You can always share a tasting or skip a winery if it's getting to be too much.
+ If you find a wine that you like, buy it! It's difficult to find bottles from small wineries at most local wine stores, so your only option may be to buy directly from the vineyard.
Lauren Hittinger writes about shopping, crafting, and living well on a small budget at The Thrifty Ginger.
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