One of the loves of my life is wine. I love going wine tasting to discover new wines and regions. Knowing this, my good friends Susie and Tim have been telling me for years that I need to go to the Finger Lakes in New York. I’ve always brushed the idea aside because I prejudged the Finger Lakes before I even experienced it for myself. Yes, I was being judgmental to the highest degree. When I think of New York wines, I think of bad, bad and bad. I also associate that part of New York as being deprived of quality food; the only option for dinner being the local Applebees. I finally went last weekend for some nature and wine tasting and I was shocked to find out that the Finger Lakes are not only gorgeous but the wines are delicious and the food is all farm-to-table. Another life lesson learned is to never judge before you experience it yourself.
I never realize how much of a nature girl I really am until I am surrounded by rolling green hills and fresh air. It shouldn’t be a surprise to me since I grew up in the suburbs outside of New York City. Growing up, my Summers consisted of living outside, catching fire flies, playing man hunt until the sun went down, and riding bikes everywhere. The minute we got to the Finger Lakes area, I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t have to rush or elbow my way onto a subway train. I knew right away that this was exactly the kind of weekend I needed.
I can be a planning crazy person. If anyone knows me at all I make lists, schedules and I plan everything down to the second. When I emailed my travel companions the itinerary the night before, several items immediately got crossed off. The reason: we need to schedule more time for spontaneity. I complied because one of my goals for 2014 was to be more spontaneous and leave room to go off the beaten path. I can’t help myself though my natural instinct is to plan to be more efficient with time. Thankfully my friends who have known me for almost 20 years know me well enough to know that with time, I would loosen up.
If someone asked me what my ideal getaway would be it would include the following things: great company-people who are chill and easy to travel with, no high maintenance people please; great wine-need I explain more? Great food; and being in nature. The Finger Lakes delivered on all accounts. I quickly found out that the Finger Lakes region has tons of things to do, a plethora of wineries (we only hit 5 during the weekend), and breathtaking natural attractions. The most mind blowing part of all this is everything is half the price of New York City. For example, an entrée at a really nice restaurant would be $10 versus $25. A glass of wine would be $8 versus $16. I couldn’t believe how affordable everything was. Cheese tasting at $3 sure? Homemade ice cream at $2.75 why not? You could easy have a fun filled weekend here for $150 like I did.
The Finger Lakes region is known for their rieslings which I’m normally not a fan of because they’re too sweet. I heard that the Finger Lakes reislings were different and I was pleasantly surprised to taste drier ones at Red Tail Ridge Winery. It didn’t taste like a classic riesling or any other white wine I’ve tasted but a completely separate class of its own. I’m a pinot noir drinker and I heard there were a couple of wineries that did them really well. I finally found my favorite at Anthony Road Winery. Even if you’re not a wine drinker, the wineries are usually perched on a hill overlooking a lake. My favorite winery was Bloomer Creek mostly because the wines were the some of the best I’ve ever tasted and also because aesthetically it had two of my favorite things a modern barn and a cute dog.
A buttercup post would not be complete without mentioning the food. I did a lot of research prior to our trip. The Finger Lakes region is mostly farm lands so I assumed there would be a lot of farm-to-table restaurants. Luckily for us, I was right. Our favorite place for breakfast was Berta’s Café which happened to be very close to our cabin. They make everything from scratch even the bread and the corn tortillas. What I loved most about Berta’s was that I felt like I was at my friend’s house for breakfast. Our favorite lunch spot was the Stonecat. We loved it because we sat outside on the terrace overlooking a beautifully manicured garden. All of the food there is locally sourced and organic. They make all their desserts in house and let me tell you, it’s worth the splurge. Our favorite dinner was oddly enough Nickel’s BBQ. Who would’ve thought that there would be great BBQ in upstate NY? All the meat is locally sourced so when they run out of meat, that’s it for the day and we came pretty close to missing out. I got the Cornell chicken which is apparently a local specialty. It was incredibly juicy and delicious. The highlight of Nickel’s was the live band that played all night and they were actually quite good. One thing you have to do when you’re in the area is go to Lively Run Goat Dairy Farm for their cheese tasting which is only $3 for the most delicious goat cheese you will ever taste. The baby goats are also SO CUTE!
The other must see in the area is Watkins Glen State Park. I read reviews about this park and thought to myself, what’s so special about it? I’ve been to a lot of parks in my life around the world so it takes a lot to wow me. The minute you walk up to Watkins Glen, you’re in awe of the beauty. It’s such a unique place, the layers of rock erosion are something I’ve never seen before. Every inch of the park was lush with cascading waterfalls. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s like any natural wonder, you kind of have to go and experience it for yourself to get the full effect.
Above all, my favorite thing that we did was chill on the dock with a bottle of wine, a platter of cheese and singing along while my friend played the guitar. We rented a cabin on Seneca Lake. I’m always saying that being on the water, is so calming to me. Relaxing and talking to my best friends, watching the sunset and drinking wine well, that to me is happiness. If you’re on the East Coast and you can’t make it to Napa, go the Fingerlakes for beautiful scenery, great wines, and organic food on a shoe string budget!