Wagner Vineyards and Micro-Brewery Review

Wagner Vineyards and The Wagner Valley Brewing Company sits on East side of Seneca Lake in the town of Lodi. This estate winery has been open since 1979 so it has been on the Seneca Lake wine Trail for more than a quarter century. Wagner Winery and BreweryOverall Wagner Vineyards is kind of a one-stop-shop considering that they have a restaurant for lunch (Spring-Fall), wine and beer tasting, winery tours, a hot dog and ice cream stand (in season), an expansive gift shop, Friday night bands on the deck (Summer) and a full wedding and reception operation.

The Wine

One of the things that sets Wagner's wine tasting apart from many of the other Finger Lakes wineries (except Bully Hill) is that they choose, on a monthly basis, which 7-9 wines they are featuring in their tasting. If you want something else, you have to go to a different tasting counter and pay 50 cents per tasting. They consistently feature a range of sweet to dry and variations in color. They often include one sparkler and one ice / desert / late harvest wine. When you realize that Wagner Winery caters to large crowds and welcomes multiple busses at the same time, you start to understand why they run the tasting the way they do. On a positive note, we often recommend Wagner to our guests if they are not sure what kind wine they like. It lets them taste a broad range and begin narrowing down their taste. Wagner does have a very extensive printed set of tasting notes so they can be a help in narrowing down what Residual Sugar (RS) level fits your palate as well as what varietal you might like.

For those that like the sweets, Wagner can be a nice playground. With varietal wines like Niagara, Delaware, Cayuga White, Vignoles, and blends called Alta B White, Alta Blush and Alta B Red (named after Bill Wagner's Mother, Alta) there are plenty of sweet wines to choose from. Many are available in 1.5L magnums so they are good for parties and gatherings. I should also point out that Wagner tends to be a bit sweeter on the wine sweetness scale than other wineries. If a Wagner wine is labelled "Semi-Sweet" it is closer to Sweet, and if a wine is labeled "Semi-Dry" it is more similar to what you would find labelled "Semi-Sweet" at other wineries.

In the Semi-Sweet and Semi-Dry range of things are white wines like the Semi-Dry Gewürztraminer, the Semi-Dry Riesling, Riesling Select (formerly Johannisberg Riesling), and Fantastic Finger Lakes White. The Semi- range also includes a Reserve Blush and a Reserve Red.

At the Dry end of the scale there are two different Chardonnays, a Seyval Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Melody and a Reserve White. The reds usually have a pair of Pinot Noirs (Grace House and a Reserve), a Meritage, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and a DeChaunac.

In the specialty wines, Wagner produces two different desert wines. A Rielsling Ice (icebox), and a Vidal Ice (icebox). IceBOX because the grapes were frozen after harvest rather than allowed to freeze naturally on the vine and picked while frozen producing a true Icewine (notice there is no space). Wagner making the icebox version rather than the natural version allows them to keep the amount of production higher and the cost down. Both ice wines are sold in 375mL bottles.  Artificial freezing aside, the Riesling Ice (icebox) and Vidal Ice (icebox) were quite good. I enjoyed the Vidal Ice as it had a bit more acidity to cut the sweetness. Joining the desert wines is a white sparkler called Celebration Cuvee made from Cayuga and Vignoles.

I enjoy the DeChaunac as it has some unique spicyiness that goes well with food (not typically a great sipping wine) and it is fun to put it in a heated glass as it releases even more flavors and aromas. I also think both the Dry and Semi-Dry Rieslings are enjoyable. The Semi-Dry is good for sipping but the Dry really needs some food with it. The Melody is also a fun wine for those hot days, having a bit of fruit without too much sweetness. This is not to slight the sweet wines Wagner offers, they are all enjoyable, but they just don't appeal to my drier tastes. Wagner's dry reds are decent, but we tend to find that at that pricepoint there are other reds on this side of the trail that we enjoy more.

Wagner offers considerable discounts on case purchases and includes a free bottle of wine (from a select list) with each case.

The Beer

Wagner's Micro-Brewery is producing some great beer in a variety of styles. Word of warning, if you are a fan of Coor's Light or other "thin" beers you are likely to not like what Wagner is producing. Wagner is producing beer with actual flavor, so be prepared ;-) They typically have 5 or 6 styles that they produce year round, then a variety of seasonal beers that come and go.

The standards are a Grace House Honey Wheat, Dockside Amber Lager, India Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Sled Dog Doppelbock, and Sled Dog Trippelbock. While the seasonal varieties have included a Hefeweizen for summer, a Maple Porter for winter, a coffee beer, a lemon beer, a champagne whit, and a few others.

Personally I like dark beer (the good news is they are supposed to be better for you) so I really enjoy their Oatmeal Stout and their DoppleBock. I am not a fan of the flavor of Hops so I avoid the India Pale Ale as it (by design) is very hoppy. However, people who like Hops have very good things to say about it. The Trippelbock is a sweeter beer with lots of malty flavor and 10%alcohol. It is quite unique...and yes, I love it, but am actually more fond of the Doppelbock for it being less sweet and still weighing in at 8.5% alcohol. I also enjoy the Hefeweizen which is an unfiltered wheat beer that is low in hoppy character.

The Setting

The first thing you will notice is the large parking lot (bigger than any other winery on this side of Seneca Lake). Then the building will attract your attention. It is a large octagon building with a truly unique roof-line. This building contains the winery, the gift shop and the brewery. The side(s) of this building that faces the lake has a large deck with picnic tables. Friday Night Band on the Brew DeckIf you pack your own snack you could have some wine or beer and enjoy the deck and its views of the vineyard and the lake. On Friday nights during the summer months the deck is home to Friday Night Bands on the Brew Deck. Bands dancing and pub food are present and only a small cover charge gets you in. It's good fun and of course the winery's wine and beer are available.

The Ginny Lee Cafe is open for Lunch (Spring-Fall) as well as Sunday Brunch. Seating both inside and on her own deck are provided. Just keep in mind the winds can blow pretty fast across the vineyards so check the wind and the weather before deciding to sit outside. The food ranges from burgers and sandwiches to mini pizzas. One drawback can be that some of the big busses stop there for lunch so they are sometimes overwhelmed and your service might be a little slower than you'd like (especially on weekends).

Vineyard Weddings

Vineyard weddings seem to be more and more popular and at last count Wagner could hold two wedding ceremonies at a time in the vineyards. The Ginny Lee Cafe is not open for dinner as most nights it is up and running wedding receptions. We've had a number of wedding guests stay at our B&B and then go to Wagner for the wedding or reception (being only 2 miles away makes it convenient) and they have always reported having a good time.

The Gift Shop

Wagner's Gift Shop is second to none in the Finger Lakes when it comes to wine related gifts. The selection is enormous. Finding what you want can be a bit of a pain as the organization is well....hmmm...let's just say they use the same organizational technique I use in my basement...stuff stashed everywhere. Even with the chaotic organization, if you are looking for a wine related gift to take home to friends or family, Wagner's Gift Shop is a good place to look around.

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Some members of a beer of

Some members of a beer of the month and I went and had a great time tasting all the micro brews that were available. Such great beers a shame not many people know about them.

Nice but .....

I frequent Seneca Lake and with Wagner it's always the same thing. Way too many people there, alot of disorganization, people just kind of everywhere. It's kind of like "party central" and i don't mean that in a good way. Past few times you see the limo/bus people and alot of obnoxious behavior and nobody at the winery seems to care or do anything about. People who are "power drinkers" and dissrespectful should be kicked out. Wine is "ok" beer is better.