It is noon and I am shamelessly drinking a fantastic pinot noir that has hints of plum and spicy oak on the finish. The wine is light and complex and you can practically taste the time and love that went into making it. I am taking in the view around me–the silhouette of mountains, the idyllic puffiness of white clouds, the swaying leaves of vineyards and the feel of the cool breeze off the lake. It is one of the last few days of summer and I cannot think of a better way to toast the end of a season and usher in a new one.
The wine, the view, the company–it is one of those perfect moments that catches me off guard and has me smiling deliriously. Am I really a travel writer? Is this really my life? I know the answers but it hits me at times like these when my reality seems to live up to my dreams and sweep me off my feet. A favorite quote goes: “give me wine to wash me clean of the weather-stains of cares;” the saying comes to mind now as I swirl the wine in my glass and let any worry of my life back in New York City melt away. It’s hard to imagine I’m merely five hours away from the city but here in the Finger Lakes Wine Region, I might as well be in a different country. For anyone looking for an NYC getaway or new destination, consider this your guide to what to see and do in the Finger Lakes.
Heron Hill Winery
Named as one of the ten most spectacular tasting rooms in the world by Travel+Leisure, the Heron Hill Winery overlooks Canandaigua Lake with its surrounding rolling mountains, vineyards and lush greenery extending as far as the eye can see. Since 1977, Heron Hill has followed the ebb and flow of the Finger Lakes Wine Region and is hailed as a premiere winery. Heron Hill makes eight varietals of Rieslings, fantastic Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and other wines that are delicate and complex in flavor. Their winery sits on top of a hill with beautiful views from both the tasting room and their Blue Heron Cafe, which serves meals made with quality local ingredients and organically farmed products. Perhaps the most admirable aspect of Heron Hill Winery is their efforts to support local farming by farming sustainably and vowing to make their wines in the most fresh, healthiest and natural of ways.
The Charming Town of Watkins Glen
When you’re out in the Finger Lakes there is a lot of open space, greenery, woodlands, and small towns that seem to fly by your window in the blink of an eye. Watkins Glen, on the edge of Seneca Lake, is a charming town with Mom & Pop-owned stores lining its main avenue, sailboats swaying in the harbor, families idling around past ice cream parlors and cute bakeries selling fresh pastries. The town is small–so small that perhaps you could walk from one end of it to the other in half an hour–but it has that small-town Americana vibe mixed with natural vistas and friendly locals.
Farm-to-Table Dining at Veraisons Restaurant at Glenora Wine Cellars
Farm-to-table dining is perhaps one of my favorite culinary trends to surface as it promotes healthy eating and the knowledge of where your food is coming from. There is something truly wonderful about enjoying a meal and knowing that the ingredients on the plate have come from ground to farmer to chef without the interference of chemicals, pesticides or factories. Veraisons Restaurant at the Glenora Wine Cellars serves farm-to-table American fare whipped up by Executive Chef, Orlando Rodriguez. The restaurant overlooks the Glenora vineyard and features country-chic decor with a stone fireplace, balcony seating (which I highly recommend if weather permits) and a view of the lake. I had the awesome fortune of dining here on the night of the super moon, which was absolutely stunning to witness the full, orange moon rise above the lake, vineyard and mountains.
Apple Picking at Reisinger’s Apple Country
About three miles outside of Watkins Glen is Reisinger’s Apple Country, where apple orchards extend in all directions offering all varietals of this classic autumn fruit. The family working at Reisinger’s are lovely and when they’re not laughing with you about their playful cat, Olaf, they are selling homemade jams, apple butter and apple cider donuts (which are definitely worth the purchase). No matter what age I am, there is something wonderful about apple picking in the fall–it just brings up images of cozy nights spent sipping pumpkin beer, watching a scary movie snuggled next to the person you love and roaming through Central Park when the leaves change (can you tell I’m excited for autumn?). If you’re not at Reisinger’s during apple picking season, the orchards also grow peaches, plums and berries.
The Rainbow Falls at Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park has over 19 waterfalls that are stunning! Walk the Gorge Trail, which is not a difficult walk by any means…there were baby strollers on the path! The Gorge trail will reveal dramatic landscapes and beautiful waterfalls–including Rainbow Falls–as it follows Glen Creek and the path it has cut through the gorge. There are many different trails you can take–the Indian trail, South Rim Trail, etc.–but the Gorge trail is the one that will take your breath away with its beautiful views.
The Seneca Wine Trail
With more than 30 wineries surrounding Seneca Lake, perhaps the best way to get a feel for the Finger Lakes is to hop on the Seneca Wine trail and visit the many wineries and their tasting rooms. The Seneca Wine Trail is one of the largest in North America and hits many award-winning wineries whose tasting rooms offer splendid views of Seneca Lake. There are organized tours and drivers to take you from winery to winery so you don’t have to worry about designating a driver and can just focus on sipping your pinot noir and enjoying life.
*For more information about traveling to Finger Lakes Wine Country visit the official tourism website. How are you ending your summer? Share your stories, comments and feedback below!
*I visited the Finger Lakes Wine Region as part of a press trip with the FLX Board. The Pin the Map Project does not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage, as always all opinions & experiences expressed are my own.