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Magnus Ridge
Terry Sullivan

Magnus RidgeSummary: The name Magnus Ridge foreshadows something great. Visitors to the tasting room along the south western side of Seneca Lake will experience great, even magnificent views. The experience does not stop with the setting, the tasting room is thoughtfully designed and lives up to the word magnus.

The vineyards are on a ridge gently sloping down to State Route 14. The vineyards hide the highway and one has the feeling of being away from traffic and city life. This ridge is what gave owners Matt and Sandy Downey the idea of using the Latin word magnus. It aptly describes the area as a great ridge.

Magnus RidgeHistory

In 1992 the Downeys started making wine for themselves. They purchased juice from Fulkerson Winery in Dundee. Ten years later they purchased 57 acres of land and began the arduous task of clearing the land of trees. It took a few years to prepare the land and by 2005 the family planted eight acres. During the years of preparing the vineyards, Matt commented that they would, “Go camping with the kids and get some work done.” The first commercial vintage was produced in 2007. The impressive tasting room opened in 2011.


From the top of the ridge of vineyards one can look downwards and view the distant tree line hiding Seneca Lake. Beyond the lake you can view the eastern slopes bordering Seneca Lake. This is an ideal visual setting for the vineyards. The vineyards are planted with the white grapes Riesling, Pinot Gris, Traminette and Gewürztraminer. Red grape varieties include: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Noiret and Lemberger. Future plans include expanding the vineyards.

The grapevines next to the parking area recently went through veraison. The photos are of the red wine grape Noiret and the white wine grape Traminette.

Magnus Ridge     Magnus Ridge

Magnus RidgeTasting Facility

The main tasting room is in the center of the long facility. This main room is flanked by two other tasting rooms. Further down the hall are other tasting rooms for bus groups. The center tasting room has a square-shaped tasting counter. Above the tasting area an interesting light fixture is made from wine glasses. The handsome light was designed by Cazenoiva College students. Throughout this tasting area there are retail items. Wines are artistically displayed as are many wine-related products. Amble through the area while tasting wines. Notice the hand crafted tables in the area. The tables bring an old-world craftsmenship glow to the room.

On each side of the main tasting room there are sit down private tasting rooms. A stone fireplace is at one end of the room. Stacked oak barrels add to the rooms' charm. Wine bottles are in shelving units that make it easy to identify the wines. Two long narrow-width tables are in the room with a pathway between the two tables. The tables were made with oak casks from Pleasant Valley .The tasting room staff can easily pour wines at each table from the center pathway.

Magnus RidgeAt the end of a hallway there is a larger tasting room designed for bus groups. The room can accommodate more than 60 people. This room also has long narrow tables where a staff person can walk between two tables and pour wines for tasting. Oak barrels are stacked three high throughout the room. There are also display shelving units for the wines. What draws one's attention in this room is a wine bottle window. The window was made out of clear, green and olive colored wine bottles. From a distance the window looks like stained glass. Close up, you can make out the wine bottles.

Behind the tasting facility is a beautifully landscaped area that includes tables and chairs. There are paths to walk along the landscaping, ponds and water falls. Plan to spend some time in this area enjoying the setting.

Magnus RidgeWines

All wines are sold at the tasting room. We tasted several wines in the private tasting room adjacent to the main tasting room. The 2014 Chardonnay was a light yellow color. The wine offered pear, apple and citrus aromas and tastes. The mouthfeel was very smooth. The finish was crisp and fruity. The 2014 Reserve Riesling was a light yellow color. There was floral and citrus on the aroma while the taste had honeysuckle and tropical fruits. The finish was crisp and fruity. There was a long peach aftertaste. The 2013 Riesling was a yellow color and offered peach and tropical fruits on the aroma and taste. It had a crisp and fruity finish.

The 2013 Gewürztraminer was a light gold color. The aroma was floral and spicy. The wine had skin contact during fermentation. The taste offered honeysuckle, roses and spices. There were very mild tannins. The finish was crisp. This wine was paired with a wasabi cheese. The wine tamed the heat from the cheese.

Pinot Gris 2014 was a light yellow color. The wine was aromatic with a little lemon. This Pinot Gris was crisp.

Traminette- Gewürztraminer is the number one seller at the winery. This light yellow wine was crisp and delicious. Thie wine would be great on a hot summer day or anytime with food.

Magnus RidgeThe 2012 unoaked Cabernet Franc had a translucent ruby color. There were blackberries on the aroma and taste. The smooth mouthfeel was accompanied with tannins and the finish was crisp.

Plan to spend extra time when visiting Magnus Ridge, a winery working to be a destination center. After tasting the wines, walk the outdoor pathways and enjoy the serene setting.

Magnus Ridge Winery
6148 State Route 14
Rock Stream, New York 14878

GPS N42 27.886 W76 55.023


Article written August 2015




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