So far, on our 2-week vacation, we’d covered the mesmerising Rhode Island and Connecticut. After the exhilarating roller coaster of emotions on the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway‘s drive of a lifetime, it’s time to relax in the Finger Lakes Wine Country. 28 Oct 2014 was filled with autumnal exquisiteness. As a wine aficionado, I’d visited numerous US wine regions in my lifetime. If I were to ask you to name a wine region in the US, I do hope you will remember to tell me about the luxury grandeur of the Napa Valley in California. For example, we’d visited the adjacent Sonoma County, Russian River Valley and North Coast Wine Country. Particularly memorable were the sublime pinot noir of Anderson Valley cooled by the ocean fog and the utterly delectable Roederer Wine Estate sparkling wines. Pinot noir acts as the structural backbone, its breath is the aromas of champagnes and thereby infuses the longevity of taste. If you’d savoured Louis Roederer champagne or its Cristal before, the Roederer Wine Estate is its Californian winery operation, building upon its legendary centuries of winemaking traditions. Before I digress any further into the world of wine, I promise you that I will cover our California adventures one day. Stay tuned! If you’ve never heard of Finger Lakes, I hope you will be truly inspired after a good few moments. Let me help you to discover one of my favourite New York wine regions. Finger Lakes is truly a hidden gem destination for lovers of wine and breathtaking sceneries!
Autumn was in full swing on the I-86. Guided by our faithful Gas Buddy website, we made a brief pit stop at Dandy Mini Mart in Sayre, Pennsylvnia. As we continued the journey, the harvest season had unfolded just like an elegant ball gown across the landscapes that had passed before our very eyes. The hills were dotted with trees ablaze with golden yellow, warm reds, stunning orange and relaxing green hues caught my attention. My eyes had rested on the rustic old farmhouses and the golden heads of wheat lining up in an orderly fashion in the fields of Savona and Campbell, ripe and ready for harvest. Are you aware that wheat has been a major crop in the NY state since the late 18th century? Wheat is valued for its wheat grains and bales of wheat straw. Rural America had captivated our hearts and we were so thrilled to witness its magical splendour! Turning into the Route 54 at Bath towards Pleasant Valley Wine Company (Great Western Winery) in Urbana, the houses in Bath were draped to its Halloween finest, telling ghastly tales of cute to scary spectrum by the plethora of carved pumpkins, scarecrows (what an interesting choice!), witches and ghosts adorning the front lawns.
Are you ready to hear about our adventures on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail? The Great Western Winery is the oldest winery in Finger Lakes, dating all the way back to the 1860’s. Enjoy a complimentary self-guided tour around the Great Western Winery Visitor Center and wine tasting. Feast your eyes on exhibits of winemaking, historical wagon heavily laden with cases of wine, the B&H Railroad working model and a unique Theatre-in-a-Wine-Tank. Learn how to differentiate between a Magnum (1.5L), a Jeroboam (3L), a Mathuselah (6L) and a Salmanazar (9L). 9L is a lot of sparkling wine, equivalent to 12 bottles of 0.75L! The $5 guided tour, conducted daily from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving also includes a visit to the eight historical buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I enjoyed the generous hospitality and customer experience provided by the outgoing and passionate wine tasting staff. Be spoilt for choice with blush (rosé), reds, whites, desserts (marsala, madeira, port, sherry) and sparkling wines. It’s ok to make use of the wine tasting dump bucket once you’ve tried and tasted the wine, especially if you are making multiple winery visits on the day. Never feel obliged to drink everything that is on offer. Be self-controlled always to truly enjoy your wine tasting experience! Check out Great Western Winery’s wine list. Buy the ones you enjoy from the winery showroom.
Cruising along the Keuka Lake, its color reminiscent of sapphire sparkling in the glorious afternoon sun, we continued along the West Lake Road or Route 54A towards our next winery stop, the famous Dr. Konstantin Frank winery, established in 1962. The legendary Dr. Konstantin Frank (1899–1985) was a professor of plant sciences with a PhD in viticulture. When he first set his foot in America in 1951, he could not speak a word of English though he can speak 9 other languages, and thereby was forced to wash dishes in the New York City. When his finances were on a stronger footing, he took up a position in Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station. Speaking a fluent French, he had found a listening ear in Charles Fournier, the french champagne maker of the nearby Gold Seal Winery. An ode to his Ukrainian background, his efforts of persuading local winemakers to embrace proper European rootstock of Vitis vinifera that can thrive in the cold upstate NY, was initially met with ridicule. Dr. Frank bought the current plot of winery in 1958 and after a mere 4 years wait, he released his first vintage with a Trockenbeerenauslese Johannisberg Riesling made from botrytized grapes. Slow and steady wins the race! Dr. Frank is a role model to us all! Dr. Frank soon proved his naysayers wrong and his persistence helped ignited the Vinifera Revolution. In Nov 2001, Dr. Konstantin Frank received his posthumous recognition in the Wine Spectator Hall of Fame. Be inspired by the humble beginnings of the Finger Lakes Wine Country of today. If you truly believe in your dreams and work towards it with all your heart, you will surely achieve success one day!
History aside, I actually truly enjoyed the wines served during the wine tasting at this winery. We will surely return to purchase its spectacular wines next time. The featured image was captured as we were strolling and enjoying its serene and picturesque winery grounds before the wine tasting of at least 7 wines.
I had hand-selected Heron Hill Winery, established in 1977, as the final winery stop. The year it had opened its doors to the world, the seven wines it had entered into the New York State Fair were awarded gold medals. Journey through the rolling hills brought us to a most spectacular tasting room on a slate hill and as you savour your wine, don’t forget to admire the beauty of Keuka Lake. I truly agree with the ‘Top 10 most spectacular tasting rooms in the world’ accolade bestowed upon this beautiful winery by the Travel + Leisure magazine in 2009. The portfolio of wines were equally impressive. I truly adore the luxurious elegance of its rieslings and I enjoy its icewines too. At about 5.45 pm, as I looked out of its windows, I watched the crushing, desteming and pressing of grapes. As my first time, I was totally thrilled! Be entertained by free live music events from July – October. Catch lunch at its Blue Heron Cafe (open summer – fall). If you know me personally, you will surely believe that I can hold my wine well. 😉
A good 1.5 hour’s drive later of further sceneries showcasing the magnificence of fall, we finally arrived at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Rochester/Greece hotel where we will stay for 2 nights. Yup, just in time for our complimentary Evening Social! It’s truly amazing to be pampered by the generous hospitality after a long day’s drive. I wonder what’s for dinner as I certainly felt the hunger. Can’t wait to check the food out! I think I will give wine a miss. 😉
Hopefully you’d follow in our footsteps and give Finger Lakes a chance to touch your heart too. We were really impressed by our Finger Lakes adventures and hope to return one day. Until we meet again on our Niagara Falls adventures, do take care and happy autumn!