Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finger Lakes trip: Oct. 2011

So Ben and I just got back from the NY Finger Lakes and had such an amazing time.  Fortunately, it is only a 5 hour trip for us so its a vacay I think we are going to be taking commonly.  There are so many things to see, eat, smell, taste and do (pleasure central!) that I had to keep telling myself, "you don't have to do it ALL now, there will be other visits."  So I will give the rundown on what we did do and what it was like.  I'll do sort of a photo journal type thing to keep it organized.

Day 1:
View from Dr. Franks

We woke up early on Saturday to drive the 5 hours to Keuka Lake (the chromosome shaped lake).  Our first stop was Dr. Konstantin Frank's winery.  This was an essential stop as Dr. Frank was the dude that put NY wines on the map by planting and successfully growing European varietals (vitis vinifera).  Being that it was Columbus day, it was quite busy.  Even so, we were still whisked away to a tasting area pretty quickly.  I thought maybe we would be rushed along in the tasting, but that wasn't true.  We were given lots of info and plenty of time to savor.  Our personal favorites were the dry Riesling and the Chardonnay.  If you like very austere, crisp, lightly Chardonnay, then this one is for you.  We also really loved the Pinot Noir.  They had some tasty sparklers as well if you are in the mood.

Next, we headed to Heron Hill Winery which is the next logical visit after Dr. F's, being that it is so close.  This winery was gorgous and also has a cafe connected to it, though we opted for a picnic on the hillside.
Heron Hill
They had a few very drinkable wines, but nothing that completely knocked my socks off.  I thought the Blaufrankisch (Lemberger) was interesting, but I have a hard time spending more than $25.00 on a wine unless its pretty special.  We did get a bottle of the Eclipse Red (Bordeaux Blend) which Ben really liked. 

Our third stop was Keuka Lake Vineyards, which is a small farm winery that does limited production wines.  They keep the best of the grapes grown on the farmstead for their own wines and sell the rest to other producers.  We loved the dry Vignoles!  Though the place didn't look impressive, I thought it was worth the pit-stop there.

On the other side of Keuka Lake was Ravines Wine Cellars.  Due to the fact that this was our last tasting stop for the day and the pours were generous, this one is a little blurry for me.  We did not do the food and wine pairing because there was a bit of a wait for that, but I would come back again and choose that option.  I thought the wines here were great QPR's (quality per price ratio).  They had dry whites that really represent the region.  The Riesling and the Sauvignon Blanc were winners in my book.  They really represent what NY Finger Lakes wines are all about.
Ravines Wine Cellar

Pearl, lakeside at the Viking Motel
After doing our tastings we decided we better figure out where we were going to stay.  My recommendation is obviously to plan this ahead.  We decided to live on the edge and find either a camp site or motel once we got there (on one of the busiest weekends of the season).  We got lucky and found a vacancy at a motel resort called Viking Motel.  The rooms weren't anything amazing, but it was right on the water.  They had bonfires every night.  They also have a hot-tub and pool.  Plus they are dog friendly!!  At $100/night, this fit the bill for our purposes.  Though if you want something a little nicer, there are lots of adorable b&b's and great rental homes on the lake.

That night we had dinner at The Switz, which was chosen b/c of how close it was to the Viking.  The carry local wines there (though honestly I forget what I had...).  The food was fine, but if you want gourmet I'd go somewhere else.  We liked that it overlooked the water, though b/c of that it was pretty crowded.

Day 2:
We decided to head over to Seneca Lake for the 2nd day of the trip and our first visit was the Sunset View Creamery in Odessa.  We really wanted to pick up some cheese curds for the rest of the tastings.

Our second stop was Silver Springs Winery, which Ben and I really enjoyed.  The winery itself isn't much to look at, but the wine was great.  This was the first winery where the reds really were the highlight.  John, the winemaker, did a nice job of describing each one.  The 04 Cab Franc and the 08 Cab Sauv were among the best in my opinion.  I thought the Pinot Grigio and Riesling were kind of kick ass too, but the reds were killer so that's what we got.

Finger Lakes Distilling
Next we decided to visit a distillery, as per Ben's request.  I am not much for hard liquor so we split the tasting at Finger Lakes Distilling.  In other words, Ben tasted 80% and I tried the remnants.   He loved the Seneca Drums Gin and the Maplejack Liqueur.  I thought the cherry liqueuer was good (like cherry pie!).  The building was gorgeous.  We also picked up a jar of lavendar asparagus that had been pickled in hard cider.  Those lasted all of one day and they were gone.

Stop number four was Atwater Vineyards.  This was not one we had planned on, but the location on the water drew us in.  I thought the wines were pretty decent.  The Riewurtz (Riesling and Gewurtztraminer blend) was worth trying, as well as the Chardonnay Ice Wine.  It was certainly worth a visit.

Our last visit for the day was for lunch/dinner at Rooster Fish Brewing in Watkins Glen on southern tip of Seneca Lake.  This place was GREAT!  They had so many great beers to choose from and a lot of vegetarian options on the menu (which you know I love).  The Firehouse Blonde and the Dark Nut Brown Ale rocked.  Though the other two that I like are not online and I forget the name.  Both were Belgian style...and that's all I remember.

At this point we headed back to the Viking and hung out on the water.  They had a bonfire and we got some hot tub time.

Day 3:
This was our last day so we really didn't do a whole lot.  We needed to get on the road since Ben had a presentation the next day that he needed to practice.  We decided to make a few last stops though after having some breakfast at a cute diner called Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor in Hammondsport (tip of Keuka lake).

First we went to Shtayburne Farms for some more cheese curds.   They had a large variety of cheddars and curds in many flavors.

Hermann Wiemer Vineyards Fermenting Tanks
Stop two was Hermann Wiemer Vineyard.  I'm really glad we snuck this one in.  They had some very classy wines here.  The family has been making german style wines for over 300 years so of course this place had a lot going for it.  In fact they were recently named in the top 100 wineries in Wine and Spirits Magazine in 2011.  I thought the Riesling was pretty perfect and the Gewurtztraminer was super mouth watering and racy.  Next time visit I will bringing more money to spend here!

Our final destination was the first organic winery in North America, Four Chimneys Organic Winery.  This was a miss as far as I'm concerned.  I was curious and it seemed promising.  The barn that it is in is very cool.  You can see the ax cuts and tell that it was hand made.  But the wines were disappointing.  If you like very foxy sweet wines, then it might be for you.  Their big cellar is the Eye of the Bee which is Concord grapes that are sweetened with honey...PASS.  Another disappointing thing was that they did not serve wines in glasses, but rather in plastic cups.  If they are trying to go green, this seemed counterproductive.  It was still fun though.

Final thoughts...
You simply can't have a bad time here!  Even if you aren't a wine lover, this place has a lot to offer.

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