On the spur of the moment, we decided to hop into the car, a 2012 Honda Civic, and drive the three plus hours to the heralded ‘Finger Lakes’, eleven lakes, shaped like fingers, hence the name, The Finger Lakes.
Located in central New York state, somewhere in-between Buffalo and Albany, the Finger Lakes occupy four Interstate 90 exits. Some lakes are as long as 34 miles long, others have a depth of up to 415 feet. The glacier, ice age period in history created what now is a wine destination for the world.
This was our first visit-odd, since we live so close.
My wine history is traced to the close to eight years I lived in Europe, specifically in southern Germany, Nuremberg. No, I wasn’t in the military. I was a high school journalism, photography and movie-making teacher for the high school kids whose parents worked on the base or nearby. Those years were the years where my wine curiosity peaked-a time when you could purchase, what is known today as ‘classic’ wines for affordable prices.
But, when you live in Germany, only German wines are offered for sale in the wine shops and supermarkets. Looking back, that was a perfect solution for a novice wine drinker. Consume what the locals consume and through osmosis, you become the wiser about the styles of wines your adopted country produces. As time went by, we attended harvest parties in the Mosel, drank classic wines in the Ratskellers of quaint villages and had the opportunity to sample wines with high enough residual sugar to turn you into a diabetic.
With that history and fast-forwarding 35 years later, my wine knowledge is finally in full-stride, thanks to workshops, intensive wine seminars and travel to wine destinations worldwide.
Unfortunately, Germany has not been one of those destinations. But, after three full days in the Finger Lakes, why go to Germany? The Finger Lakes has it all….
Not to toot my own horn-but, quite the opposite-I feel like the missed opportunities during the years by not visiting the Finger Lakes years ago will be one of the ten biggest mistakes in my life. Having lived in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, on and off since 1982-and only three plus hours to the Finger Lakes and not visiting was a big mistake.
Being a free spirit and working only for myself-Fabulous Phil’s Gourmet Ice Cream-The Candy People-Board Stiff Snowboard and Skateboard Shop-just to mention a few of my entrepreneurial experiences made me blind to the Gateway to Wine in America-The Finger Lakes.
Now that I have seen the light, it’s time to suggest to you to wake up and visit the Finger Lakes. With an abundance of vineyards, beautiful scenery and people who live their life worshipping their favorite varietals, why not take the plunge?
In a three day, two night visit, we had the chance to visit close to ten vineyards-taste barrel samples, chat with winemakers, see wine cellars and learn what makes this area special. Add great vineyard restaurants to the mix with incredibly positive staff and the opportunity to over sample the wines from vineyard tasting rooms to your bed and breakfast-ours came equipped with a resident winemaker, an acre plot, and a host who seemed to feature ‘social hour’ all day long.
If wine hospitality is what you are looking for-visit the Finger Lakes.
There are over one hundred twenty wineries in the Finger Lakes region. The area is known for ‘cool climate’ wines, focusing on those varietals that survive in cold, long winters. Riesling is one of the varietals that is the superstar of the region, thanks to its both sweet and dry personalities. Focusing on stone fruits interpretations has made the regions winemakers ambitious and willing to experiment with other varietals. Some of the wineries are just fun-they provide music, food and a fun loving clientele, while other wineries focus on the art of winemaking. A few do both.
During our life changing visit to the Finger Lakes, I am very happy to suggest that you visit the following vineyards to get a perspective of what the Finger Lakes have to offer. Yes, some vineyards are 45 minutes from the others, but, well worth the drive. Along the way, definitely pop into the numerous restaurants and BBQ mom and pop facilities that offer the ‘BYOB Finger Lakes’ wine logo, offering no corking fee.
Vineyards to Visit:
Anthony Road 1020 Anthony Road, Penn Yan, NY 14527 (315) 536-2182
Heart & Hands 4162 NY-90, Union Springs, NY 13160 (315) 889-8500
Shaw Vineyards 3901 NY-14, Himrod, NY 14837 (607) 243-7000
Hemann J. Wiemer 3962 NY-14, Dundee, NY 14837 (607) 243-7971
Fox Run 670 NY-14, Penn Yan, NY 14527 (315) 536-4616
Dr. Konstantin Frank 9749 Middle Road, Hammondsport, NY 14840 (800) 320-0735
Keuka Springs 243 Route 54, East Lake Road, Penn Yan, NY 14527 (315) 536-3147
Red Newt 3875 Tichenor Road, Hector, NY 14841 (607-546-4100)
New Vines 1138 Travis Road, Penn Yan, NY 14527 (315) 536-4087
Bed & Breakfast suggestion (with an acre vineyard of award winning wines)
New Vines Bed & Breakfast: 1138 Travis Road, Penn Yan, NY 14527 (315) 536-4087)
There are numerous complimentary ‘Wine Trail’ maps, offering a list and a map of where the vineyards are located.
Remember, The Finger Lakes are ‘The Gateway To Wine In America.’
Philip S. Kampe