Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Travel

New York wine country: Sips and scenery in the Finger Lakes

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.

Two million years ago, glaciers clawed 11 long, deep gashes into what is now central New York. The resulting Finger Lakes are among the deepest in the United States, creating a microclimate perfect for growing cool-weather wine grapes.

The region, some 250 miles northwest of New York City, is home to more than 100 wineries and has a reputation for world-class wines. My husband, Rick, and I were eager to explore these vineyards and take in some of the region's scenery: rolling hills, farms, country roads and waterfalls.

We stopped at three top-rated wineries along the east shore of Seneca Lake: Wagner Vineyards Estate, Chateau Lafayette Reneau and Atwater Estate Vineyards.

Having battled the heavy traffic in more well-known wine regions on the West Coast, we were pleased to find few cars on the road when we visited in July and were able to walk right up to the tasting bars. Fall visitors might find the region busier with events and activities keyed to the harvest season at wineries and other attractions — apple orchards, pumpkin patches and the like. October's peak autumn colors also draw leaf-peepers. Even in November, tickets typically sell out for events like Keuka Holidays wine-and-food tastings on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail.

Fees at our stops were reasonable: $4 to $5 per person to taste six wines from a menu of a dozen or more. We were especially impressed by Lafayette Reneau's 2012 cabernet sauvignon owner's reserve. We also liked Wagner's Fathom 107, a 2015 vintage that blends riesling and gewurztraminer, and is named for the depth of the adjacent lake. We picked up a bubbly rose at Atwater as well.

By the end of the afternoon, we had arrived in Watkins Glen at the south end of Seneca Lake and our home base for the weekend, Lake Valley Legends Bed and Breakfast. The house has a spacious two-level deck with a lake view, and our hosts provided delicious breakfasts along with tempting homemade snacks, such as carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies.

Watkins Glen's main drag is on the lake, a short but steep walk downhill to a variety of restaurants including the Blue Pointe Grill and the Crooked Rooster Brewpub.

The next morning, it was off to the famed local racetrack, Watkins Glen International, and the site of a wine festival the weekend we were there. Large garages and tents were filled with booths: nearly 90 wineries, along with crafts, jewelry, nuts, coffees, gourmet sauces and the odd distillery.

We located and like Standing Stone's riesling, Three Brothers' Jazz Infusion red blend, Glenora's Trestle Creek chardonnay and Ravines' pinot rose.

Rather than having people lugging around boxes of wine, the festival offered wine claim checks. When you buy wine, you give a numbered sticker with your name and phone number. Golf carts pick up the purchased bottles and ferry them to a tent where you can pick up your wine on your way out.

Drivers leaving the festival must pass a Breathalyzer test to get out, and many camp at the racetrack for the weekend. We had caught a ride to the track with another couple from our B&B and called an Uber for the trip back, which took quite a while: Uber was very busy there that afternoon.

On our final day, we ventured west to Keuka Lake to visit three wineries that weren't at the festival: Heron Hill Winery, Keuka Lake Vineyards and the highly rated Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars.

Heron Hill's 2013 vintage was one of the better dry rieslings we tried, and we had lunch on the winery's outdoor patio, serenaded by a guitar player. Keuka Lake has had success with French hybrid grapes: Leon Millot, a fine lighter red, and vignoles, a dry white.

Dr. Frank's wines, however, stood out to us as the top of the class. We especially enjoyed the 2014 Hilda chardonnay, the 2016 dry riesling, the 2016 rose of pinot noir, the 2014 saperavi (a dry red) and the 2012 sparking blanc de noirs.

Before going home, we took a break from wine to tour the breathtaking Watkins Glen State Park, walking 840 steps up the gorge trail to view 19 waterfalls, some close enough to touch. After the 2-mile hike, we were happy to take the shuttle back down to the parking lot.

Then we started the drive home, looking forward to sharing our new wine with friends.

 
Comments
In Sitka, Alaska, food doesn’t get more natural than this, or cheaper

In Sitka, Alaska, food doesn’t get more natural than this, or cheaper

SITKA, AlaskaA hefty brass bell hangs from a rafter in the middle of the Pioneer Bar. The P Bar, as everyone calls this down-home dive on Baranof Island about 90 miles southwest of Juneau, is a smokey haven for locals and fishermen. And it could be w...
Published: 12/07/17
Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage with the adventure, expense of a cruise

Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage with the adventure, expense of a cruise

JUNEAU, AlaskaNaturalist John Muir didn’t have Patagonia waterproof Yulex gloves Amazon Primed to him. He did not have Gore-Tex or special wicking fabrics. His socks were probably wet the whole time.These were my thoughts as I looked up from a cabin ...
Published: 12/07/17
A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

Instead of shoveling snow, Christmas in Florida means celebrating the holiday season in shorts and T-shirts at theme parks and local attractions. Some parks even haul in “snow” for an authentic holiday vibe. While the last two weeks of t...
Published: 12/06/17
The challenges of being a chef on a remote Alaska cruise ship

The challenges of being a chef on a remote Alaska cruise ship

James George, 49, executive chef aboard the Safari Endeavour, has the kind of resume that makes you double-take. A graduate of Johnson & Wales in Miami, he went the hotel and country club route, spending eight years at the fabled Breakers in Palm Bea...
Published: 12/07/17
Tampa Bay's most unique Airbnb rentals include the RV parked behind Ferg's

Tampa Bay's most unique Airbnb rentals include the RV parked behind Ferg's

These are some of the most unusual vacation rentals available on Airbnb in Tampa Bay.
Published: 12/05/17
Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

MIAMI — Stiltsville, a stubborn relic of Miami’s less-glitzy past as a sun-soaked outpost, has survived Hurricane Irma’s brutal winds and waves, much to the surprise of the landmark’s caretakers and fans. Perched at the edge of sea grass flats where ...
Updated one month ago
Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

NEW YORKAs travel changed, so did luggage. That’s the story told by an elaborate exhibition about Louis Vuitton, the luxury luggage and fashion brand. The exhibition, free to visit and on display in Lower Manhattan through Jan. 7, is called "Volez, V...
Updated one month ago
Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday isn’t just for stores. Many theme parks and attractions in Florida are also offering up deals that could make a nice gift or family splurge. The smaller the park, the bigger the deal, so Legoland, Gatorland and SeaWorld are toutin...
Updated one month ago
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Updated one month ago
With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

ORLANDO — Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando in a new holiday attraction opening Saturday. In addition, Universal Studios has completely upsized its holiday parade with more Macy’s balloons, stunning floats and snowy effects ...
Updated one month ago