My last getaway was my trip to Walt Disney World for my full marathon back in January and since then, amidst my final semester of graduate school and then an uptick at work, I had not had the time to actually get away from things.
In the meantime I had booked a trip to the United Kingdom in October and am planning a Christmastime trip to South Africa currently, but as that is still far off, I felt the need to find a new place, regionally, where I’d find it interesting, close enough to warrant driving, and relaxing to some extent.
Enter New York State’s Finger Lakes and its multitude of wineries. There are 5-6 lakes in total but the three main lakes are, from west to east, are Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, and Cayoga Lake. We stayed in Horseheads (yay hotel points!) at a Fairfield Marriott about 8 miles south of Watkins Glen.
Our trip started on a sour note – as we were about to leave, my dad had a mishap that involved breaking a thermometer – with that dreaded mercury. Cleanup delayed us by about 2 hours, but we were all sorted out. We arrived about four hours later and managed to make dinner reservations at Jerlando’s Pizza, which was a very good Italian place carrying a lot of the local fare – and local wines.
We split a margherita pizza and had a few glasses of wine. My dad had a riesling from Glenora – which ultimately guided us to that place, amongst many other places.
The next day we got up and had breakfast, as provided by the hotel. Overall our hotel was outstanding and even more than expected for a Fairfield, which makes sense as they have to compete with all the B&Bs and private hotels in the area, and closer to Corning and up Watkins Glen. The service and quality is worth the drive, not to mention the hotel was in the middle of a shopping center which made getting any essentials or other things easy.
Monday was a good day to hit a load of wineries. What I failed to do properly was plan for the rest of the trip, as my parents wanted to go hiking in Watkins Glen State Park. I had little problem with this – other than my fear my heights, which I quickly overcame if only for that day – except it was not communicated how long she wanted to spend there. What would further compound the issue is that my mother is NOT a morning person and my dad and I were very much so. This amounted to getting out of the hotel a serious challenge in of itself, and getting an early start on the sights/wineries/hiking was crucial as many places closed at 5pm. It was not like the city where you had a few hours in the evening to see things.
Unfortunately this was not something my mother easily understood or was willing to accept, culturally speaking, she takes things in a very relaxed manner. If I’d had planned for it, I would have avoided a lot of the problems we had on the trip. While I can adapt to sudden changes in schedule such as illness or poor weather (and we had plenty of that during our trip) or other things one cannot control, usually, there is some understanding as to what will happen in the time we had. But that said, it’s a good lesson learnt for future trips with others.
On Monday, we managed to squeeze in a load of wineries, all on the west side of Seneca Lake. We started off with Lakewood Winery, where I purchased a berry red win that would work for sangrias after their $2 tasting. Might I also add that nearly all the wineries’ pricing for tasting was quite competitive. The rest of their wines weren’t so bad, my dad and I had the dry lineup, whilst my mother had the sweeter lineup.
We then headed off to Fulkerson, another place that my friend from Rochester recommended. I didn’t dig their wines, but my parents did. Dry wines were too flat for me, the sweet wines were way too sweet. 11% or greater residual sugar…no thanks.
Our next stop was Glenora Wines, where we clearly enjoyed their tasting the most. This is where I purchased a Gewerztraminer, nice and dry but still worked extremely well with spicy foods. We had our pick of six or seven wines here, though they had plenty of food samples.
After this, we stopped at Herman J. Weimer, another one of my friend’s recommendations. My mother sat this tasting entirely out as they had no sweet wines, but to their credit, she got one taste on the house, their sweetest at 5%. Of course, she is one to go for 10% or more.
Our last winery for the day was Fox Run Wineyards, where I purchased dessert wine for under six bucks! That never happens. A monroia, a dessert traminer. My mother got the same bottle.
That night, we hit up Wildflower Cafe, great fresh food at a reasonable price.
Tuesday, as mentioned before, proved to be an even more problematic day. Knowing that the weather would be an issue in the evening, we knew that we had to hike early in the morning and clear the park by midday so we could attack the cheese farms and more wineries on the East Side of Seneca Lake.
Watkins Glen State Park was overall a great place to hike with loads of waterfalls and plenty of shade. There was the option of a side trail but we all preferred the most scenic route out and back.
We cleared Watkins Glen State Park despite running late, but the day was ruined as on our way to the Lively Run dairy farm, we paid too much attention to our GPSes and not enough attention to the speed limit. We wound up getting dinged by a cop well after we passed the area in which the speed zone dropped.
Although I wasn’t driving, I was more than sour on the issue.
When we reached the goat farm, my mother took a stroll down memory lane herself seeing all the goats, as she used to raise goats in her homeland when she was younger. We had samples of the cheeses though, unable to preserve anything in the heat, had to move on without buying anything.
We then took a jaunt along the East Side of Seneca Lake and squeezed in a few more wineries: Lamoureux, Wagner (along with the brewery) and Hazlitt with a 15-minute suicide squeeze.
At Lamoureaux, I found the riesling I so badly craved. Check. This was unfortunately for my mother, another place, which she sat out, as there were no sweet wines. Here you had your pick of five wines. My dad bought a Moscato from here.
At Wagner, I took to the brewery to also try their brews in addition to their wines, but I found I did not like the beer. Interestingly I had spoken to my friend who also said that Wagner beer was poor. At their winery, we had the option of their pre-picked lineup of seven wines, or any four we wanted. My dad and I picked the pre-picked lineup, whereas my mother went for the four sweetest wines possible. I wound up taking a semi-sweet red table wine for a cool six bucks. Not bad.
Finally at Hazlitt, my mother found more of her sweet preferred wines, which she took to purchasing a whole lot of. I purchased a few of the smaller bottles of wine, notably a Brambleberry and a White Stag. The Brambleberry in particular is FANTASTIC with dark chocolate.
After we wrapped up our wine tasting this day, the rain came pouring down again. We made it to a Mexican place on 4th Street, and had some very delicious food.
On Wednesday morning, we took a trip to Shtayburne Farm, where they were selling cheese. The cheese was very good, but with a six plus hour journey ahead of us, we would not be able to preserve any cheese in the July heat.
Finally it was time to call a wrap down here. Didn’t want to leave, but had to.
Overall the trip was something I would not regret. Despite the bumps on this trip, I’d definitely come back here to celebrate a bachelorette here, or just spend a weekend her with friends or perhaps in the future, a significant other. Well someday, I suppose. It’s extremely peaceful and I love wine and I can see this being a nice retreat area for me on a long weekend. At the end, I not only learnt a lot about wine but a bit about travel planning and that can’t really be a bad thing, now can it?
My biggest regret though? Not buying enough bottles of wine.
You can view a full gallery of pictures here as well. Any questions on recommendations, feel free to ask.
Any wineries you recommend, either in this region or elsewhere in the Northeast?