Forge Cellars was hands-down one of my best Finger Lakes experiences. I wasn’t able to visit in 2019 so I marked it down as a ‘must visit’ for my next trip.
While you can enjoy tastings at every winery in the Finger Lakes, none offered the level of wine education that Forge provided. The irony is their guided flight cost the same $20 as a self-guided salon flight, so there’s no reason not to do it.
This is one of the area’s more famous wineries, although it’s not one of the larger ones. Forge has 40 acres of vines and produces of 10,000 cases/year.
Their most famous wine is their “Classique” riesling, but there’s much more to them. All told, they make around 13 different rieslings (most if not all vineyard-specific), plus a pair of pinots and a single-vineyard cabernet franc.
Forge’s guided flights are only done on Friday & Saturday mornings. But fear not, around a year ago they expanded their patio so drop-ins can visit at any time. Visitors can soak up the view while enjoying a self-guided flight, plus they have great cheese boards (and that jamón!).
My guide was Alec, a former Somm who decided to leave the city life for something quieter. He explained the terroir of their vineyards and Forge’s overall winemaking philosophy.
The story of how Seneca offsets the local weather is well known. A few tasting room associates may tell you how deep it is (just over 600 feet at its deepest) and how it hasn’t freezed in living memory.
But Alec was the first to explain how ancient glaciers deposited multiple types of soil in this area, giving winemakers a multitude of options on where to plant their vines. He especially focused on Devonian shale, the ‘mother rock’ of the area which causes the vines to struggle, resulting in better fruit.
Forge has multiple vineyards which take advantage of this diversity of soil types, allowing them to create vineyard-specific wines which showcase their own terroir-driven personalities. I’d never seen one winery with so many rieslings of the same vintage, yet all of them so unique.
He also explained how they use native yeast fermentation and use only neutral barrels, most of them from France or Hungary. They even have a French winemaker, Louis Barruol.
We did a flight of five wines, plus I did an additional five wines on my own on the patio.
- 2020 Freese (riesling): Soft nose, with notes of white pepper and apricot. A ‘classic’ expression of this grape. I liked it so much I picked up two bottles.
- 2020 Breakneck Creek (riesling): Named for the vineyard’ steep slope, this was a ‘bigger’ riesling. Heavier, more intense. Notes of quince.
- 2020 Navone (riesling): This was even more different than the first two. I couldn’t explain why, but this time I got an herbal-spice note. Also notes of tangerine.
- 2019 Classique (riesling): Their “standard” riesling, although their “standard” is high-quality. Lighter, more grapefruit notes. The lightness was also due to the vintage.
- 2020 Leidenfrost (riesling): Lots of texture, heavier.
- 2020 Tango Oaks (riesling): Ripe, with lemon notes. I bought a bottle.
- 2020 Peach Orchard (riesling): Bright and herbal
- 2020 Railroad (riesling): Tropical notes
- 2020 Leidenfrost (pinot noir): Deep color, which did not remind me of pinot noir at all. It was also exceptionally tannic, with an ash finish. I liked it but definitely very different.
- 2020 Tango Oaks (pinot noir): Spicy for a pinot!