Ahhh…summer--the time when full-time teachers like me are supposed to gallivant around, play non-stop, and do absolutely no work. However, not all teachers are part-time sommeliers who feel like summer is a time to re-immerse themselves in the wine culture since they have no papers to grade! That was me this summer. I mixed family vacation business with the pleasure of wine when my family and I visited the Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York.
Several years ago, when I was at events with fellow wine lovers, I began to get many recommendations to visit northern New York. After some research, I learned that these New York state wine lovers knew what they were talking about, and our two-week family vacation to Pittsford near the Finger Lakes region began to take shape.
The Finger Lakes is a beautiful area of our country growing many vinifera species of grapes commonly thought of only growing in Europe or California. However, these vinifera grapes’ ability to grow in the United States is actually because of Dr. Konstantin Frank, who grafted historically European grapes onto American root stock in order to survive in the U.S. Thus began the wine revolution in our country! Dr. Frank’s winery was a wonderful stop for us with its personalized tastings and wonderful wines. I even had to join the wine club so I could continue to enjoy these special libations.
Of the eleven lakes in the area, Keuka Lake, Cayuga Lake, and Seneca Lake have the majority of the wineries. The beautiful green hillsides surrounding the picturesque lakes create a wonderful backdrop for some great white wines that thrive in the colder climate, such as the dry Riesling and sparkling wines of Belhurst Winery. However, don’t believe that this region can’t produce wonderful red wines; in fact, one winery, Shalestone, specializes in reds only. A stop at the beautiful, iconic Heron Hill Winery (or one of its satellite tasting rooms) is also a must. However, also producing wines are many small, family owned wineries like Wilhelmus Winery, whose tasting room is actually in the front porch of the family’s home. Other wineries worth mentioning are scattered around every lake: Casa Larga Vineyards, Magnus Ridge Winery, Anthony Road, Heart and Hands, and Zugibe.
I could go on, but the ultimate lesson is this area is more than an up-and-coming wine region; it is a region producing some high quality wines that are worth a taste. It is also an area worth a visit. If you can’t visit, the next best action to take is read Summer in a Glass by Evan Dawson. It is a wonderfully written book telling the story of the Finger Lakes and the people who are working to put it, and keep it, on the wine map. My real advice: read the book and go to the Finger Lakes! I know I’m going back…as soon as summer allows me.