Perhaps the most underrated of the places I’ll write about is the Finger Lakes Wine Trail in New York State. The Finger Lakes Wine Trails are in the other New York, not the city, and are well worth visiting. The hills that rise from the deep cold lakes like Seneca and Cayuga are covered in forests and vineyards. Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka Lakes are ringed with small family owned and operated wineries that grow their own grapes and produce wonderful vintages that are delectable and affordable. For me, this is coming home. I grew up sailing on Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. I first learned to drink wine on the Seneca Lake wine trail. I don’t think I appreciated the sheet beauty of the lakes and the excellence of the wines produced in the small wineries that surround them until I moved away, first to Texas, then Pennsylvania and Florida. In our travels, we have tasted a lot of wine. but the wines of the Finger Lakes remain special to us. My husband and I travelled to Napa Valley eight years ago and France Italy and Spain two years ago and tasted many wines. While we appreciated the wines and beauty of Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes Wine Trail is a much better experience, and a much better deal overall. Maybe it’s the deep cold lakes and that regulate the weather around them during the cold winter months and the hot summers. Maybe it’s that the wineries grow their own grapes with great care. Maybe it’s that the wineries are family owned affairs with winemakers who are passionate about their craft. I don’t know what exactly makes me love the wines of the Finger Lakes most, but they have remained my favorite through the years. Chateau Lafayette Reneau, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, and Lakewood Winery on Seneca Lake have long been special favorites of my family.
I just went wine tasting on the Seneca Lake wine trail this past month, and none of the wineries I visited charged no more than $5 to taste. Glenora Winery charged $4 for 6 tastings, and the delightful older gentleman who poured our wines was quite knowledgeable. He gave us two more tastings for free too! The most expensive bottles of wine I have bought in the last two years was $30. Most wines run around $15 and all the wineries offer discounts if you buy by the case. I can’t resist buying Finger Lakes wines by the case! In comparison, eight years ago, we had a hard time finding any wine for $25 in Napa Valley. Most were at the $50 range. We tasted a lot of wine in Napa, but I couldn’t make any claims that the wines in Napa Valley were superior. The Finger Lakes wines are every bit as excellent, maybe even better because they are made with such care. Many of the Finger lakes wines have won awards, but since the wineries are small, they don’t produce enough to ship nationally. If you live in another state, you can order online and have it shipped or, better yet, visit the wineries.
In addition to the wines, there are many accommodations around the Finger Lakes. I can’t claim to have stayed in any of them because I have always stayed with my parents either on their boat at Captain Bill’s Marina, or in their camp. I have researched some options, however, and would recommend the Inn at Taughannock. which is an old historic inn, with old lake charm and class. While it used to be a country style inn, it now offers fine dining and accommodations. It sits on a hill above Taughannock State Park on Cayuga Lake. If you are an eco traveler, this is the place for you. You can stay at the inn, or in a campground at the state park. There are picnic facilities where you can bring your own picnic. You can swim in the lake, although it is frigid. Consider yourself warned! There is also a gorge which you can hike to stunning water falls. My family docked our boat and my sister and I played in that park many times growing up and it was our favorite of all the New York state parks. From Taughannok State Park, you can visit the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and then go over the hills to visit the Seneca Lake wineries. Chataeu Lafayette Reneau on Seneca Lake now has its own bed and breakfast as well. While the wines may be luscious and inexpensive, the bed and breakfast accommodations are more expensive with both bed and breakfasts running around $300 a night.
When you visit Seneca Lake, be sure to visit Captain Bill’s Marina in Watkins Glen and take a cruise around the lake on a old fashioned tour boat or an elegant schooner. You can always hike the gorge at Watkins Glen as well. The Finger Lakes offer a lot for wine lovers and eco travelers. What you won’t get is much night life except possibly in Ithica at the bottom of Cayuga Lake. It’s the perfect place to relax, get back to nature and enjoy fabulous wines. Next time you decide to go wine tasting, skip Napa and head to the Finger Lakes in New York State instead. Trust me.