19 Wineries in 1 Day? How We Conquered the Famous Seneca Lake Deck the Halls Event
December 20, 2023
If you live in Upstate New York and you are over 21, you’ve heard someone talk about the Seneca Lake Deck the Halls event. The famous wine trail holiday celebration hits several favorite wineries in the Finger Lakes Wine Region. And the best part is that in addition to the wine and food samples at each winery, every location also gives participants a unique ornament to decorate with at home.
What is Seneca Lake Deck the Halls?
Deck the Halls is the Seneca Lake Wine Trails most anticipated festival every holiday season. Spread across two separate weekends at the end of November and beginning of December, it’s sure to sell out every year. The main premise of the festival is like any other wine trail event – visit a bunch of wineries while sampling their creations along with a bite of food at each place. But this one adds some Christmas cheer while festival-goers get into the holiday spirit. (Pun intended.)
When you purchase your tickets for Deck the Halls, you will need to choose a starting winery. This helps the festival spread out the guests, so the crowds never get big. At your first winery you will collect your grapevine wreath and you first ornament. At each other participating winery you visit, you’ll collect an additional ornament.
It is worth noting that some of the wineries go above and beyond with their ornaments while others… do not. Nonetheless, there are plenty that were wonderful, made with the spirit of the winery in mind.
Tickets for Seneca Lake’s Deck the Halls
If there is one thing you should know about Deck the Halls, it is that you have to buy your tickets early! Tickets typically go on sale in July and sell out by August. So while you may not be thinking of Christmas festivities in the hottest part of summer, you’ll miss out if you don’t.
Tickets are available through the Seneca Lake Wine Trail website. Guests can chose a single ticket, a couple’s ticket, or a designated driver ticket. While you save quite a bit of money with the couple’s ticket, keep in mind you will only get one wreath and one ornament per winery. So if you’re not sharing with someone you live with, plan accordingly.
Alternatively, visitors can purchase a weekend package, which includes accommodation for two nights, transportation on Saturday, and tickets to the event.
Tips for Non-couple Couples
If you’re sharing a couple’s ticket with someone outside your home, like I did with my sister-in-law, here are some tips.
Secondly, if you’re visiting on the second weekend (toward the end of the festival), you might be able to ask the winery for a second ornament if there is one you both really want. Some wineries will accommodate if they think they will have extras. Alternatively, many of the winery gift shops have other ornaments (sometimes past Deck the Halls ornaments) for sale.
Visiting the wineries during Deck the Halls
For the 2023 Seneca Lake Deck the Halls event, an impressive 19 wineries participated. To be clear, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail does not recommend that you visit all of the wineries in one day. Seriously, you’d have to be crazy to try it. But… call us crazy. Tickets are good for a full weekend, Friday through Sunday. But we had plans on Friday and I had a 6am flight to Hawaii on Sunday. I had no intention of making it to them all. But when you present me with a challenge…
The biggest MVP of the day was definitely my husband. He was such a trooper, driving the three of us to all of the wineries. He earned the nickname “Coach” as he corralled us and shuttled us around Seneca Lake, keeping us on track to visit them all. Coach even took pictures for us and did the purchasing at the wineries when I found wines I liked so we could move quickly.
Secondly, it’s very important for me to note that we did not try all of the samples at all of the wineries. That would be ludicrous. Each winery has one sample with their food sample and then offers to let you try 3 more (on average). Since a typical wine sample is 1-2 ounces, that’s an average of 6 ounces per winery. Multiply that by 19 and that’s 114 ounces… or almost 5 bottles of wine. DO NOT DO THIS IN ONE DAY. If you plan to visit all of the wineries AND maximize your samples, spread it out over the course of the weekend. Even then it’s still a lot of wine!
While the festival in general is incredible, there were a few things that really stood out to me this year:
As for the overall experience, Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen really outdid themselves. They lit up the winery tanks with Christmas lights and led guests into the tasting area with “snowy” footprints on the ground. They had the most delicious cranberry and brie bites, a photo backdrop, and multiple serving stations. Overall, an A+ experience.
On the food note, there were several delicious options that I am adding to my recipe book (one of which I already made!). Shoutout to the corn chowder at Boundary Breaks and the gingerbread cheesecake dip at Fulkerson Winery. But the real winner here is Idol Ridge Winery with their make-your-own s’mores. Yes, they had mini tabletop fires to roast your marshmallow and a homemade vanilla fudge to pair with it. YUM.
In order to maximize your time and experience at Seneca Lake’s annual Deck the Halls Event, remember these key things.
Have a designated driver. Truly, it’s in everyone’s best interest if the people drinking don’t have to worry about driving. At all.
Buy your tickets early! Don’t let them sell out.
Have a game plan. Know which winery your are starting at and which other wineries are on your do-not-miss list.
Dress up and get into the holiday spirit! Seriously, one of the best parts of the event is joining in the frivolity of the season and checking out each other’s ugly sweaters and other holiday wardrobes.