One of the relative newcomers among the wineries of Seneca Lake isn’t really a newcomer at all. Serenity Vineyards is a small but very able winery located on the west shore of Seneca Lake with a focus on dry, vinifera wines, and doing them well.
Thirty-five years ago, Donald Smith retired from the construction industry and purchased from his parents the farm where he was raised. Arthur and Agnes Smith had owned the lakeshore property since 1940. He loved the Finger Lakes Region, and worked hard to establish a vineyard. In 1981 the property was passed on to his family members, who have carefully nurtured the vines he planted, added new popular varieties, and supplied many wineries in the eastern states with fine grapes and wine.
The Smiths began producing their own wines on site in 2005, were licensed to sell them in 2006, and opened their retail tasting room in 2011. Winemaker Darren Bowker, who has been making wine since he was 5 years old, came on board at that same time to continue making fine wines solely from the grapes grown on the 100-acre estate. A Rochester native, Bowker has built his skills at wineries large and small in the Finger Lakes and in Oregon.
Serenity Vineyards specializes in Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, and Chardonnay wines. Making those wines is their primary focus, so in contrast to the more lavish winery retail “showrooms” that more resemble restaurants than a farm winery, tastings at Serenity are given right on the production floor on planks set atop wine barrels, and the wine vats as a backdrop.
Grandson Donald Smith finds that their visitors really enjoy seeing the production and having the wines poured by the people who make it. “They miss the old days of the small wineries, but really want the more sophisticated dry wines. We can give them both,” says Smith.
As serene as the view of Seneca Lake is, and as simple as the presentation of the vineyards products may be, what the visitors enjoy most especially is the artistry of the winemakers. And that art is certainly not in doubt. Bowker’s 2011 Merlot was recently acknowledged the best Finger Lakes Merlot at the 2013 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
Serenity Vineyards is located on the west shore of Seneca Lake on Route 14 and Davy Road about nine miles south of Geneva and two miles north of Dresden. Look for their new sign near Travis Road. The tasting room is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Call them at 315-536-6701 and look for them on Facebook.