The Finger Lakes Wine Region
The Finger Lakes region, located in the North West part of upstate New York is as beautiful as Tuscany, Italy, the Loire Valley of France or any of the other European wine regions.
According to Native American legend, God thought the area was so magnificent he reached down and put His handprint upon the land-thus the long, narrow, “finger like” shaped of the lakes and how the area got its name.
There are eleven Finger Lakes but the largest and perhaps the most well-known are Cayuga Lake, the longest, (38.2 miles) and deepest and Seneca Lake, where dozens of wineries are located along three main trails: Cayuga, Keuka, and Seneca Lake Wine Trails.
Finger Lakes is the second largest wine producing region in the country after Napa, California and produces Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Lemeberger and a Riesling good enough to stand up to old world wines of Europe.
Lake Erie and the historic Erie Canal, an engineering marvel in its day and a major shipping route, lie just north of the Finger Lakes. Visitors still come to see the canal but mainly to enjoy the recreation pursuits, Victorian-area restaurants and retail shops along side of the canal. And the gorges, waterfalls, historical attractions and winter sports simply add to the area’s vast appeal.
Charming B&Bs and small inns look out over the lakes providing a calming effect for those who visit. The innkeepers are proud of the Finger Lakes and readily arrange sightseeing and wine tasting tours to show off the area.
Depending on whom you are speaking with, the number of wineries may vary, but according to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, there are approximately 117 wineries as of 2009.
Passions naturally focus on the wine but the love of agriculture is reflected in the restaurants and gourmet foods produced from New York farms, gardens, orchards and vineyards.
People here have been at the forefront of the organic and buy local foods movement. The ability to pair top-rated local wines with just-picked fruits and vegetables is immensely appealing and Finger Lakes, an area slightly larger than New Jersey, claims as many top-rated chefs and restaurants as Manhattan.
However, in keeping with the casualness of Finger Lakes, dinner jackets or high heels are not required for fine dining.
The New York Wine and Culinary Center is a non-profit institution, founded in 2006 with assistance from New York State. It promotes the state’s food, wine, and agriculture through unique interactive experiences that teach and entertain visitors through museum-like exhibits, wine classes and cooking demonstrations.
Executive Chef Carlo Peretti directs a team of chefs who teach hands-on-cooking classes in state-of-the-art kitchens to individuals or pre-registered groups. Fees vary, depending on the food prepared. But you are able to prepare a four-course meal as simple or as elaborate as you would like—using only the freshest herbs, spices and vegetable, then eat it in the main dining room of the center’s New York Restaurant.
A New York Wine and Culinary Center wine expert will have you comfortable enough to, “swish, sniff, swirl and spit” before heading out on a wine tour. The center also features a beer tasting room, where the libation is made, where else, in New York State.
“It’s been very exciting, as there is nothing else like it in the country. We receive 65-70,000 visitors annually,” said Alexa Gifford, Executive Director of The New York Wine and Culinary Center.
“We keep it exciting with events like outdoor barbecues held in the rose garden, Renevoi with Riesling, Barilla Italian Cooking, and maple madness cooking classes, Gifford said.
The Finger Lakes are popular for weekend getaways. But, after a few of days of sightseeing, kick back with your favorite beverage and watch the main attraction as Mother Nature bounces orange and yellow colors sun rays off of still, lake waters.
If you go:
Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance
309 Lake Street
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Toll Free: 800.548-4386
Photos provided by: www.fingerlakes.org
History buffs will enjoy the wealth of museums and historic homes found in the Finger Lakes as well.
Other notable attractions:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State under President Lincoln, and the man credited with negotiating the purchase of Alaska, lived in Auburn along Cayuga Lake. It is on the National Register of Historic places and operates as The William H. Seward House Museum.
Located in nearby in Auburn, is the burial place and last home of Harriet Tubman, the famous conductor of the Underground Railroad.
Seneca Falls is recognized as the birthplace of the Women’s Rights and The Women’s Rights Historical Park is located here as a tribute to the first women’s rights convention held in 1848. Each July a celebration marking that first convention is held in Seneca Falls.
The home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founders of the movement, is available for tours under the direction of the National Park Service.
Tour the National Women’s Hall of Fame, an extraordinary place that features photos, documents and artifacts of some of the world’s well-known women such as Oprah, Julia Child and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and hundreds of accomplished lesser-known women as well. Each October a group of women is inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
By PJ Thomas