NewYork wine coun­try: Sips and scenery in the Fin­ger Lakes

The Record (Troy, NY) - - LIFE + TIMES - By Sally Car­pen­terHale

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 com­piled a list of top- rated winer­ies and nar­rowed it down to those near our base on Seneca Lake over a long week­end visit.

We be­gan at the north end of the lake and stopped at three winer­ies along the east shore: 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 wine­and­food 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 likedWag­ner’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 & Break­fast. The house has a spa­cious twolevel 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’smain drag is on the lake, a short but steep walk down­hill to a va­ri­ety of restau­rants in­clud­ing the Blue Pointe Grill, with a lake­side ter­race, and the Crooked Rooster Brew­pub.

The nextmorn­ing, 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 were dis­ap­pointed to find that many of the winer­ies on our list weren’t there. We did lo­cate 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 the win­ery 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 ( 3.2 km) 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.

IF YOU GO

FIN­GER LAKES WINE RE­GION: http:// www.fin­ger­lakeswinecoun­try.com/ and http:// www.fin­ger­lakes.org/ . Lo­cated in cen­tral New York, about 250miles north­west of New York City. Ac­com­mo­da­tions and wine tast­ing events of­ten book up so plan ahead. Up­com­ing events in­clude the Watkins Glen In­ter­na­tional Fin­ger Lakes Beer Fes­ti­val, Oct. 21; Keuka Hol­i­days I and II, Nov. 11- 12and Nov. 18- 19; Cayuga Wine Trail’s an­nual Hol­i­day Shop­ping Spree, Nov. 17- 19; Seneca Wine Trail’s Deck the Halls Week­end, Nov. 17- 19.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

This un­dated im­age pro­vided by Fin­ger Lakes Tourism shows wine bar­rels at Heron Hill Win­ery in Ham­mond­sport.

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