Finger Lakes of New York State

Discussion in 'Travel Stories' started by giradman, Jul 5, 2014.

  1. giradman

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    Susan & I just returned from a short trip to the Finger Lakes area of New York State which is most famous for the natural scenic beauty and the wine industry. Below are an aerial view of the numerous 'long' (i.e. finger-like) lakes in the area & towns on the lakes; the largest are Seneca Lake & Cayuga Lake; Keuka Lake is smaller and has two northern branches (looks like a sling-shot).

    We stayed in Watkins Glen at the southern end of Seneca Lake at the Harbor Hotel (pic of the hotel side facing the harbor & the scenic view that we had from our room - both from the web). We had 3 full days which included visits to wineries on Seneca Lake the first day, Keuka Lake on day two, and to Corning, NY museums on day three (there was a threat of rain).

    This travelogue will not have the history of my recent ones, so will concentrate on the scenery and the wineries. Dave :)
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  2. scifan57

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    Your travel threads are always a welcome addition to the forum. Whenever one is finished I'm wondering about what we'll see and learn about next.
     
  3. giradman

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    Finger Lakes - History & Formation

    The Finger Lakes (which total 11) are located in the west-central area of upstate New York (below a beautiful satellite view of the lakes and their relationship to two of the Great Lakes - my arrows/labels added). The lakes are long and narrow (looking like ‘fingers’). The two longest are Cayuga & Seneca Lakes, which are also among the deepest in the USA. Both of these lakes are nearly 40 miles long but averaging only several miles across; Cayuga is the longest & Seneca the largest. Keuka Lake is smaller but unusual with the two upper branches.

    The lakes originated as northward flowing streams, and formed through a series of glaciations starting two million years ago. Salt deposits below the lake bottoms remains an important local industry. Shale is also a prominent feature and impacts importantly on the wine produced in the area, particularly the Riesling grape (more later). The three lakes mentioned above have sloping hills on both east and west sides w/ the vineyards catching either the early morning sun or the late setting sun at this latitude. Of course, the lakes have an important modifying influence on the microclimates enhancing the viticulture.

    Also, numerous outdoor activities are available (e.g. boating, fishing, hiking, etc.) - an abundant number of waterfalls are in the area (just one shown below) - more information HERE - Dave :)
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  4. Mickey330

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    Ah, thanks for this.

    This is MY neck of the woods (the Fingerlakes). And, IMNSHO ( :p ), some more prettier countryside you'll never see! :D

    Glad you enjoyed your trip here.

    Marilyn
     
  5. giradman

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    Hi Marilyn - thanks & thought that you were from that area of NY State - I'm quite familiar w/ the eastern part of NY & Long Island (and the wine industry there), but our first visit to the Finger Lakes (been trying to convince Susan to go there for years - AND she did enjoy many of the wines and the beautiful scenery).

    I'll add a post or two a day until I run out of ideas - only had 3 full days and we did one in Corning because of potential rain (enjoyed the museums there) - Dave :)
     
  6. giradman

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    New York State Wines & the Finger Lakes Wineries

    New York State has a long tradition of grape growing and wine making and is now the third largest producer of wine in the United States (behind California & Washington State). Wine is grown in many regions of New York but the two areas w/ the most wineries are the Finger Lakes (over 100) and Long Island (over 60) - now I've been visiting Long Island wineries since the 1970s, but this was our first trip to the Finger Lakes.

    The grapes used are numerous and include native American varieties (e.g. Vitis labrusca, such as the Concord), European varietals (i.e. Vitis vinifera, such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and others), and many hybrid grapes (Seyval blanc & Vidal blanc being just two of many examples). The types of wines made are diverse and include table wines, sparkling offerings, dessert wines, and others made from non-grape fruits - even if you're not a wine lover, there are plenty to sample that will pique your interest, and the beauty of the area can be breath-taking.

    The Finger Lakes district has many AVAs (American Viticultural Areas - see second map) which are centered around the lakes; most the the wineries are concentrated near the larger ones, such as Seneca & Cayuga Lakes, and also along the shores of Keuka Lake (third pic illustrates the location of many of these wineries w/ dots).

    The first two days of our stay centered on visiting a small number of wineries around Seneca & Keuka Lakes - before making this trip, I read the book Summer in a Glass (2012) by Evan Dawson - this is a short guide that centers mainly on individuals who have impacted importantly on some of the recent developments and improvements in using the Vitis vinifera varietals, especially Riesling & Pinot Noir - the next few posts will describe our visits to a half dozen of these wineries although we drank wines @ meals from others. Dave :)


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    #6 giradman, Jul 6, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  7. giradman

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    Seneca Lake Wineries - First Day

    First full day toured both east & west sides of Seneca Lake (just the southern half) - below the Watkins Glen pier (a brief walk from our hotel) and more detailed map of the Seneca Lake wine trail. I selected 3 wineries for us to visit (we do 4 @ the most/day) from the book mentioned in the previous post.

    Hermann J. Wiemer - first winery visit in the morning on the west side - below is the entrance to the tasting room & Susan next to some stainless steel tanks. Wiemer was born in Germany and brought a LONG tradition when he emigrated to the Finger Lakes region; quote from the link "Hermann knew it would work. At a time when few believed in the potential of vinifera varietals, when most thought that the harsh western New York winters would kill the noble vines, he believed that Riesling and Chardonnay could thrive on the western side of Seneca Lake." Indeed the white wines were excellent - the red wines were just OK to rather light and thin (the latter was true at most the the wineries visited) - SO for me the 'whites' and 'sparklers' are the vinous stars in the Finger Lakes.

    We had lunch at Glenora Winery & Restaurant - the views from our table were magnificent (2 of my pics below) - also a great lunch, we shared a caesar salad & a smoked salmon BLT (fish smoked on premises).

    Our next stop was to the east side of Seneca Lake at Wagner Winery (a restaurant & brewery are also on the premises - last two pics below w/ beautiful views of the lake). Again the white wines were excellent - my main interest was in trying the Rieslings from these various wineries, which are among the best made in America (and have gleamed many top prizes in both local, regional, and international competitions).

    Our final stop for the day (also east side) was Red Newt Cellars which also has a bistro (the owner's wife who created a renewed interest in the cuisine of the area was killed in an auto accident a few years ago, so the restaurant is still recovering from that tragic loss).

    The next day to Keuka Lake and topic of the upcoming post - Dave :) P.S. click on the winery links!
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  8. The OB

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    I really enjoyed this (and the foregoing) Dave. This is excellent reading. The amount of work put in here by you, the background research, and the breadth of interest displayed by you in a particular geographical area is just fabulous! And of course those photos are great. Thanks:)
    Andrew


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  9. scifan57

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    A very enjoyable thread. I sure hope you plan on bringing home lots of souvenir bottles of wine.
     
  10. giradman

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    Keuka Lake Wineries - Second Day

    On our second full day, we drove west for just over a half hour on some beautiful country roads to Keuka Lake - map below shows the 'sling-shot' shape of the lake; our visits included 3 wineries, the northern most one where the upper branches start - could spend many more days exploring the rest of both Seneca & Keuka Lakes (not to mention Cayuga Lake)!

    Our first stop was Ravines Wine Cellars on the east side of the lake which is seen in the pic below (the land between the two water branches is at this latitude). Again, the white wines pleased the most, especially the Riesling & Chardonnay; I was not as impressed w/ their Pinot Noir (light in color & thin in body - and I've had a LOT of wines made from this grape over the years - actually my current favorite red to drink). Susan liked some of the sweeter & hybrid grape wines - the Chardonnay was the best of about a half dozen that I tasted over our stay in the Finger Lakes. We have a half case of whites (including 2 bottles of the Chardonnay) coming in the mail this week!

    We then drove into the delightful town of Hammondsport on the southern end of Keuka Lake - lunched at the Village Tavern (a recommendation from the book shown previously) - started by sharing a half dozen oysters (taking a chance but were quite good!); then, headed up the west side of the lower lake to one of the most historic wineries, i.e. Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery - just a couple of quotes from their website: 1) "A European immigrant, Dr. Frank and his family arrived in the United States in 1951. After a brief stay in New York City, Dr. Frank, a professor of plant sciences who held a Ph.D. in viticulture, moved upstate to take a position at Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station." & 2) "Dr. Konstantin Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” a movement that forever changed the course of wine growing in the Finger Lakes and the United States. Dr. Frank’s vision, knowledge and determination are credited with elevating the New York wine industry from a state of happy mediocrity to a level that today commands world attention." (B&W pic of Dr. Frank below).

    Dr. Frank's winery is now run by 3rd & 4th generation family - he was instrumental in bringing the Riesling grape from the region to the world's attention - his Rieslings (of all sorts from dry, semi-dry, dessert, etc.) were excellent and still gleam plenty of medals in wine competitions. Also, a bunch of sparkling wines are made by the traditional method used in Champagne, France. The winery is in an elevated position and commands superb views of Keuka Lake (two below, one w/ Susan gazing at the vineyards). We ordered a mixed case of whites (including a few bottles of the Blanc de Noir sparkler) - should hit our doorstep in the next few days!

    Our final visit of the day was the Heron Hill Winery, a beautiful building high up the hill (below a pic of the winery and then the last the view of vineyards & the lake from the patio of the winery). A bewildering variety of wines are made here, but I did enjoy the Vinifera wines by far, especially (yet again), the Rieslings; and yes, we did ordered a half case of mixed wines to be shipped - SO, we have 2 cases of wines on the way.

    On the way back to Seneca Lake, we stopped at a local cheese producer (YES - their is a Finger Lakes Cheese Trail), and sampled a wide variety of cheeses and bought a sharp cheddar to go w/ our bottle of Wiemar dry Riesling back in the frig of our hotel room. Yet another lovely day topped off my some 'goodies' coming in the mail! Dave :)
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    #10 giradman, Jul 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014

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