Wineries and Breweries in Watkins Glen, NY: An Honest Review

Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.

Joan Collins

If you’ve been following me for a bit you’ll know that I love Watkins Glen. You can read a few of my previous posts here and here! I’ve never really done a full review of any winery or brewery, so here we go. While I am certainly no wine or beer aficionado by any means, I do love me some wineries with atmosphere, good service, and that something extra (usually food related).

My hope is that I can entice you to visit this tiny town in New York to expand your drinking horizons, explore somewhere new, and help keep these small businesses alive. Plus it’s always nice to go somewhere someone else recommended so you have a road map to make your decisions from. You might love the same places I did and you might completely disagree. That’s perfectly fine! Buckle up, grab a drink, and keep reading.

The Wineries

J.R. Dill

Rating: 10/10

For me, there’s no better wine in the Finger Lakes region than here. I never liked wine until I had their Jaberwaulkie. Now, I can say I like all of their variations of that wine. It’s super sweet, but that makes it delicious for me. They have wines that normal people like as well since my boyfriend and friends all enjoyed themselves as well.

The winery is small, but that makes it feel cozy. All of the staff were knowledgeable and so, so friendly. We brought our dogs inside and on the outdoor patio and they were even treated to a giant water bowl. The view over the lakes was beautiful and we loved sitting outside looking at the view while we sipped wine and ate delicious pretzels.

Can we also talk about how affordable they are? $10-12 for my favorite wine on the planet. That’s per bottle, friends. We did pay extra for the food due to the pandemic regulations, but it was delicious. Kudos to them for adapting and not missing a beat!

Hazlitt

Rating: 10/10

This winery is 100% party and it’s a totally different animal than any other winery on the trail but in a good way. This place is massive which does help with social distancing, although I’ve only ever seen it insanely crowded once. Before the pandemic you could venture inside (with dogs!) and enjoy a tasting and free popcorn. During the pandemic you can only buy wine inside but panic tables are set outside where you can enjoy your tasting and enjoy the views of their mini lake, cabana, and a small view of Seneca Lake.

Hazlitt has so many different wines that it is almost guaranteed to have something for everyone. Their Red and White Cat lines are the most popular and I particularly enjoyed the Brambleberry wine. Outside, they have a cabana where you can buy even more drinks and food. Highly recommend their pulled pork bbq (I’m a southerner and picky so take this as high praise) and the wine slushy (because: yum).

We always have a great time at this winery and never fail to visit whenever we’re in the area. Everything is really affordable too which makes their wines perfect for gifts. Plus, my dogs love the attention they get and the ability to sniff around outside. The only downside is that it gets crowded during peak season, but I’m just happy for them. They’re awesome and deserve the business!

Leidenfrost Vineyards

Rating: 9/10

A friend recommended this winery to me and while I didn’t fall in love with the wine (that’s my weird taste buds’ fault, not theirs) I did fall for their views and atmosphere. The first time we went we got to enjoy a tasting inside and my dog had a longer line for pets/lovings than the winery since he’s the most handsome boy in the world. I loved every second of it.

This time we didn’t know we had to make reservations because of covid, but we did easily find a picnic table outside. Everyone with me loved their wine and got several bottles. Their wine is still affordable, but they are one of the fancier places but don’t worry they aren’t pretentious. Just awesome.

My favorite part? THE VIEWS. Whether it’s from their porch or their outdoor seating area, you can’t beat their view. Well, almost. Regardless, it’s one of the best places in Watkins Glen to relax, drink casually, and enjoy spending time with your people. Bonus points because Atlas and Mickey (my fur children) had a blast and it was their favorite place by far. Even more bonus points for the winery giving us free chocolate.

Ryan William Vineyard

Rating: 4/10

I hate giving bad reviews, but I have to be honest. I really wasn’t a fan of this place. We went for the first time during the pandemic since we always passed it and never made our way back during our other visits. The exterior looks super neat and the indoor space was gorgeous. Whoever designed their building did a fantastic job, but that’s where my praises stop.

The service wasn’t bad, but they did seem understaffed and other customers seemed to get much more attentive service than we did. Our wait for a table wasn’t long, but the service did take a while to take our orders, bring them to us, and give us the check. Hey, it’s a pandemic and there wasn’t much staff. I can forgive that. It happens!

I refrained from the wine as I knew none of it was the sweet wines I liked. Everyone else enjoyed it but didn’t taste anything special that they wanted to purchase. They were pretty busy, so I’m assuming other people loved it. My real problem came with the charcuterie offering.

With the pandemic many places were either charging for food or giving small snacks away and I am always down for food, so we decided to try the charcuterie dish. Cheese, meat, and fruit? Get in my belly. I was severely disappointed. We paid $11 for one plate and it was sad. 3 grapes, 2 pieces of small cheese, a pickle, 1/3 of a baby sausage, and 1 pickled green bean. It all tasted like a pickle. Just pickle. If it was $5 I wouldn’t have been so disappointed, but they charged an exorbitant fee for something that was honestly mediocre. We still talk about how disappointed we were about it…

The Breweries

Two Goats Brewing

Rating: 9/10

I’m not a beer drinker either but my boyfriend is. I mostly judge breweries by how happy they make Will, the food, and the atmosphere. Two Goats Brewing is a small brewery with a lot of heart. They have a bunch of beers on tap and Will always requests we go there, especially since they have so many beer offerings that aren’t IPAs.

They only have one item on their menu (as of the last time we went) but oh man did they do it well. Beef sandwiches can be pretty mediocre, but it was juicy, seasoned perfectly, and just the right size. Their deck and indoor area is dog friendly which will always give a place extra points in my opinion.

How’s the view you ask? Pretty dang amazing. You won’t get a great view in every seat, but if you snag the right one you won’t want to leave. The parking lot is a decent size, but it can fill up, so get there early. The driveway can be easy to miss so make sure to keep an eye out once you get close.

Grist Iron Brewing Company

Rating: 8/10

I love me some Grist Iron Brewing Company, but I loved it a lot more on previous visits. The first two times we went we loved sitting outside and inside with the dogs where we enjoyed some flights and looking out over the water. The brewery is massive and offers a ton of different beers and wines, making it a one-stop drinking spot if you wanted it to be. They even have a hotel attached, but we’ve never stayed there.

Our most recent visit was pretty good, but I’m considering it a fluke, I hope. This time around our (extremely well-behaved dogs) weren’t allowed inside despite us having done this on multiple occasions and we weren’t given an explanation. So, we sat outside and the temperatures dropped quickly to below 40. The staff allowed us to move to the table with heaters, but we honestly couldn’t feel any heat, so that wasn’t fun.

That’s where my concerns ended. We ordered food and enjoyed the big menu with lots of options for us to try and share. They definitely have the most options out of anywhere else we’ve eaten and all of it was delicious. I also bought a 6-pack of beer as an early Christmas present and I got myself a shirt. It’s incredibly soft and I would live in it if I could. Yes, it’s that nice.

The Lucky Hare

Rating: 9/10

This was the last stop on our food and drink adventure for the day. It was getting cold, but we wanted to try one more place before we headed back for the night. Even though it was in the 30s and we were not prepared for the cold, it was worth it.

The new regulations in place in New York say you have to get food with your beverages and they had, by far, the best fries I’ve ever had in my life. I could’ve sat there shoveling them into my mouth for hours. Luckily, I did not. Again, they were dog friendly and made an extra effort to say hi and pet our dogs. It was a super casual and welcoming place to end up in and I really appreciated that.

We got there too late to enjoy the view, but it’s going to be one of the first stops we make next time we’re in town. Their beer variety is on point. There was truly something for everyone and they had a few seasonal offerings as well to spice up their regular menu. My only wish was that there were heaters outside so we could’ve stayed longer.

Accommodations and Food

The Elf in the Oak

Rating: 12/10

It will be a cold day in hell before I go to Watkins Glen and skip eating here. I loved it before the pandemic and I love it now. Before, it was the only restaurant on the strip with all of the wineries and we were unsure whether we could bring our dogs inside… because, you know, food. They welcomed us and the pups and it was great sitting inside with the whole family.

This time around, their indoor dining area is closed, but that didn’t stop them. They have a takeout window, patio on their upper level, and picnic tables down on the grass overlooking Seneca Lake. We felt super safe eating there and had a great time sitting out in the sun.

Now let’s talk about what really matters: the food. Sandwiches are my favorite food (besides chocolate). I could eat a sandwich every single day and be happy and I’ve gotten a little picky with time because I prize quality over quantity. Eat there. Every time. The bread? Great. The meat? Delicious. The toppings? So good. I have zero bad things to say about it. Zero.

Wildwood Farm

Rating: 20/10

I’ve only ever stayed here when we visit Watkins Glen. I was so impressed the first time that I just keep coming back. Mary (the owner) is hands down the nicest host and person you could possibly wish for. The home is sparkling clean and the coziest house on the planet. You can curl up by the fire, play board games, sit forever in the comfy couches, and get so fat on her cookies she leaves for guests because they’re that good.

Her farm is just as neat. Mary raises goats, ducks, chickens, and even a turkey. She grows fruits and vegetables which she turns into jams that I have become addicted to. The breakfast is OUT OF THIS WORLD. She’s not a chef, but she should be since her cooking is basically the best meal you’ll have.

You get 99% of the house to yourself and get to enjoy the yard, which my frisbee loving border collie is obsessed with. She also has a camper and a campsite set up if you didn’t want to rent the house. It’s only a 10 minute drive from everything you would want to see and do in town, making it the perfect vacation spot. Affordable hotels/places to stay can mean the difference between a great time and stress. Mary’s rates are super affordable and you get 110% of your money’s worth there. I’m a customer for life.

Published by Emma Browning

Hey everyone, my name is Emma Browning. Thanks for stopping by. I like to think of myself as a modern day renaissance woman since I basically do a little bit of everything. Here's a few of my jobs/hobbies in case you're curious: Group Fitness Instructor (Zumba, BodyStep and BodyPump), small business owner (string art& travel photography), archaeologist/anthropologist, actress, SCUBA dive master, reading addict, dog mom, cellist, and of course travel enthusiast. I've traveled to over 21 countries and speak French fluently and am learning Spanish. Traveling is one of my all time favorite things to do whether it be a day trip with my dog or a massive international adventure. I created this blog to help others see the world vicariously through my wanderings and also to give useful tips and essential information that will hopefully inspire more people to travel. Hopefully you have as much fun reading these posts and get a lot of useful information from them!

5 thoughts on “Wineries and Breweries in Watkins Glen, NY: An Honest Review

  1. Thanks for this detailed writeup! I agree with you 100% on the only winery I’ve visited in Watkins Glen so far which was Ryan Williams. Excited to try out some new places for our next visit. Ill be sure to share this with friends and family when they get out to visit that area too <3

  2. Supremely well detailed and concisive guide. Every possible important aspect was addressed; with both enthusiasm and respectful honesty. Quite frankly, I have never had an inclination to visit a winery or brewery; but now, I cannot wait to visit the Elf and the Oak, and Wildwood Farm; in spite of an extremely long drive to get there. I am already excited! Most likely, shall not be able to resist visiting a winery and brewery, or two; as well.

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