Finger Lakes Wines : Inside the Winemaking Process and Wine Tasting


"We want our wines balanced. I believe that each wine here should reflect the fruit. We certainly have to do some things while making the wine but we want our Chardonnay to taste like Chardonnay and not like the Oak Barrels, " says Gene Pierce the owner of Glenora Wine Cellars in Finger Lakes. 

Today as we reflect upon the dynamic scene of Finger Lake's Wine & Beer trail, we learn how wine is made, stored, and bottled at our first stop at Glenora Wine Cellars located at the South Side of Seneca Lake.

Glenora Vineyard: Overlooking the Seneca Lake, Glenora Vineyard is a picturesque Vineyard located in the Finger Lakes. As we walked into the Vineyard, we even saw Green lush grapes on the Vines. 

September must be the ideal month to come here, for the weather was pleasant and our mood was jubilant. Truth be told, the ideal time to take pictures would be now when the sampling hasn't started yet. Because once the tours and the sampling starts, we get so engrossed in the practicality of knowing what goes behind the scenes, that often we forget taking pictures. 

Wine Making Process

Gene tells us, " We make 800 wines per acre. That's about 4000 tonnes of wine per acre. And we have got about 10 pounds of grape per Vine. And that 10 pounds of grape would take roughly four bottles of wine. The concentrated wines, such as Icewines, make roughly one bottle of wine per vine."

  • Pressing
Pointing towards the two tin pressing barrels in our back, he says, "The winemaking process starts with the pressing operation. Think of these barrels as the tin can laying on the side with a whole bunch of tiny holes in it. Inside the tin can is a balloon bladder. So we pour the grapes inside the Tin can, and then we inflate the balloon. The inflation results in gently pressing the grapes from all sides, and the juice comes out through the holes. We apply gentle pressure on the grapes is because we don't want to break the seeds. The grape juice then flows into catching trays and is pumped into the tanks in the winery. " 

There is one exception to the rule, however. The red pigment from the red wines, just like apples, comes from mainly the skin than from the flesh. Hence, they add the yeast and let it ferment in the heat so that pigments and the juice break down.  

  • Fermentation

As we walked inside the production chambers, tons of barrels awaited us. They use these barrels for fermentation and aging of varieties of wines such as the Chardonnay and the Pinot Blanc.

Wine Tasting

We were having the wine sample of Cabernet Franc - one of the most popular red wine varietal from here. Cabernet Francs is a full-bodied, rich red wine with a lingering finish and gentle tannins.  

As we sipped onto our samples, they told us that the barrels we saw were mainly French and American oak barrels. They were marked in red for red wines and white for white wines for ferment individually.  

The Cabernet Francs that we had was a 2016 wine. One of the staff at the venue recalls that it was a hot year and a fantastic year for red wines. It was our California year, he says. What made people a little nervous was that year had a little bit of drought, but we weren't affected that much because the wines here are dependent on Vineyard Size.

One of the staff explains, " You see, Wines have roots that grow deep in the ground. So when you have wine that has lots of soil, then the wine has deeper reservoir water. In that case, the wines can survive a few weeks without water because the wine is set 6-7 feet under the soil to keep it going. Whereas if one has wines growing in shallow soil, the wines would run out of the water after a couple of weeks and be stressed out. All in all, it was a bit of a challenging year, but it worked for us. "

Gene continues, "Because there are actual pores, it enhances the speed of the aging process and picks up some flavors from the oak."

  • Sparkling Wine | Yeast, and More...

After we looked inside the vaults of the barrels, we walked into the next stage, where we had yeast going on for sparkling wines, which we were lucky enough to see. They offered us samples of Sparkling wine.

The demand for Sparkling wines is enormous, and Glenora was one of the early ones(since the 1880s) to make Sparkling Wines made out of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. The yeast that we saw gets shifted to another tank where sugar is added and capped. After it has consumed the Chardonnay in 6-9 weeks, the yeast that has no sugar left starts to become dormant and begins to settle and break down. The longer you have yeast, the stronger the flavors get. There'll then be extended yeast in it. As the yeast comes up, fruit diminishes, and the drink becomes more on the yeasty side. What we were having was on yeast for three years, i.e., 2015.  

  • The Egg Shaped Concrete Cask Fermentation Process

Concrete gives creaminess to the wine without the woody flavors. Wines have a lot of acidities, and it leaches onto the calcium that causes a reaction. There is a movement known as Biodynamics going on inside.

The Egg-Shape cask also serves a purpose. The designs of barrels are such that the shape and the material help in further fermentation. The wines are fermented at the bottom of the concrete casks and raise the air upwards and heat everything. When people stir it, it gives flavor and body to the wine.  

Another variety of wines that they carry are the ice-wines. We were lucky to be served Ice-wines on the porch of an inside restaurant that had a great view.  

Gene says, "During winters, the water inside the grape freezes whereas the fresh hasn't. Since it's a bit more solid, it does not freeze. We pick the grapes by hand from Dec to Feb. After we pick them, we directly send them to the press. The juice that hasn't frozen comes out in the press, hence it a real concentration of fruit flavors and the juice, and then you ferment it. That is why these wines are sweeter, more intense, more fruit".

In the end, Gene and I took a stroll into the Vineyard. Our visit to the Vineyard did end on a sweet note of fresh air, hanging grapes, a view of the mighty Seneca Lake, and Great Wines. What else could we want more..!


  1. ammm .. looks yummy .. I want to go there and taste that wine's direct from barrels ..

  2. That is a great blog! thank you for sharng and keep posting

  3. The most awaited blog about the vineyard is finally here and so well articulated your ideas and thoughts.

  4. I love how you captured my attention from the very beginning. Your opening really sets the tone for an interesting read!

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