Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery
Meghan Anne Sullivan
Summary: The Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, located in Ovid, New York, is family owned and family run. The winery lures in visitors with its flavorful wines and famous wood-fired pizzas. In addition to its fine wines and food, Cayuga Ridge is a member of the Cayuga Wine Trail and participates in many events throughout the year. Open year round, the winery offers something for everyone.
Susie and Tom Challen came to the Cayuga Lake region from Canada 21 years ago. Tom worked in the wine business for 19 years before moving to the States. He began his career in Niagara, and he spent time working for Seagrams. His dream to own his own winery led him to the Finger Lakes area.
Cayuga Ridge is an estate winery; 100% of the grapes used in the wines are grown on the Challen property. The land has 30 acres of vineyards in production. Grown varieties include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chancellor, Cayuga White, Chardonnay, Orange Muscat, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cayuga Ridge produces 5,000 cases of wine for retail and sells additional grape juice to other wineries.
Cayuga Ridge's most popular wines are the 2010 Riesling, the Cranberry Essence, and the Peach Essence. The Riesling is pale yellow, boasts of luscious grapes on the nose, and coats the tastebuds with its light flavor and hints of honey and peach. It won the "Best of the New World Award" in a wine competition in Germany. Another well-liked wine is the 2008 Chardonnay Select. This wine is unique because it is the only wine at Cayuga Ridge that has gone through secondary fermentation. Other white wines available for tasting and purchase include the 2008 Cayuga Cuvee, the Cayuga White, the 2010 Gewürztraminer, the 2011 Orange Muscat and the 2007 Orange Muscat dessert wine. The Cayuga Cuvee contains juice from the Cuyuga White grape, which was developed specifically for the Finger Lakes region by Cornell University and was first planted commercially at Cayuga Ridge. This wine is almost clear, has a light and earthy nose, and is semi-dry with notes of fruit. The Cayuga White wine, also made from the Cayuga White grape, is almost clear, has a sweet nose, and offers a citrus-filled flavor. The Gewürztraminer is pale yellow with hints of flowers, apricots, and spice in its scent and flavor. The Orange Muscat is made from the Orange Muscat grape, which is also a unique grape grown on the Challen property. Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery is the only producer of the Orange Muscat grape on the East Coast. The Orange Muscant wine is almost clear and imparts a sweet scent with hints of orange fruit. Its flavor is floral and fruity, and it has a smooth finish. The Orange Muscat dessert wine is amber in color, sweet in scent, and refreshing and semi-sweet in taste. It is not very syrupy and is recommended with cheesecake.
Cayuga Ridge's tasting room is located in a restored barn, which is decorated with wooden barrels, rocking chairs, rugs, and benches. It has a warm, rustic feel to it that is guaranteed to make visitors feel at home. Visitors can peruse wine displays and a gift area that features candles, cheese tools, puzzles, wine gift bags, wine racks, t-shirts, and picnic baskets. In addition to purchasing wine, visitors can also bring home local cheese, pickles, and vinegar.
A walkway takes visitors from the restored barn to a second tasting room that is adjunct to the barn. This tasting room contains a tile tasting bar and the kitchen for the winery's restaurant, The Copper Oven. The name "The Copper Oven" comes from the wood fired pizza oven that the Challen's daughter, Mary Jane, uses to make the food on her menu. Mary Jane was inspired to start the restaurant after sampling food from various countries abroad. She attributes her success with the restaurant to her mom, who gave her a love for cooking, and to her dad, who gave her a love for gardening. Many of the ingredients used in the pizzas and other dishes are locally grown. The Copper Oven recently participated in the Finger Lakes Restaurant Week, in which restaurants in the region provided dishes made solely from local ingredients. In addition to making pizza, the Copper Oven offers cheese and meat boards and desserts.
Besides participating in Restaurant Week, Cayuga Ridge hosts events. They hold a "Dancing on the Deck" event with musicians for the Fourth of July holiday. Visitors can participate in Cayuga Ridge's Peace Festival in August, when the Peach Essence wine is uncorked. Cayuga Ridge also puts on an "Experience the Harvest" festival in October, during which they exhibit winemaking equipment in use. Visitors are sure to have an enjoyable visit at Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, whether they join wine lovers for these special events or stop in for a tasting. In Susie Challen's words, "Winter and summer...there's always something that can be offered."
Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery
6800 Route 89
Visit these New York wineries that partner with Wine Trail Traveler.