Tag Archives: finger lakes

Three Days of Finger Lakes Wineries-Day One

AKA How to not to bruise your palate, get a DWI, and have enough energy for dinner.

Jake’s 40th was supposed to be grander than this. Afterall, my 40th was spent at Victoria and Albert’s eating and getting proposed to; how does one top that? Well, initially I’d planned a few days in Sonoma. We’d never been and in my typically self-serving fashion figured what was good for me was good for Jake! However, some health concerns for my parents meant that we couldn’t be sure Adam would have a place to stay. It seems the authorities and mommy bloggers frown on leaving your four year old alone for several days and get even more angry if you suggest taking them to wineries.

So I revised and decided to spend two nights in Hammondsport on Keuka Lake visiting wineries and restaurants we hadn’t been to before. This post is about the wineries, how I selected them and what we liked and did not like.  The full itinerary is on a weebly site I made for Jake’s birthday–this keeps the links to each destination and daily plan organized in a way that (in a perfect world) would allow me to add content, reviews and pictures. Let’s chuckle about the best laid plans…we both know I never bother with that nonsense!! You want pictures? Go to instagram!

We visit the wineries on the northwestern side of Seneca Lake often; Ravines, Billsboro, Fox Run, Red Tail Ridge and sometimes Hermann J. Wiemer. These are with 60-90 minutes of our house and can be done in day trip while Adam is at daycare or with a babysitter. But we never make it further, mostly because further requires over night or much longer day, and if we’re going to be gone past Adam’s bedtime, we might as well be gone all night, amirite? So my plans were to take us further south and east than we typically go, basing my choices on award winners, interesting stories, and Evan Dawson’s Summer in a Glass.

Our first day started with lunch at the New York State Wine and Culinary Center, where we were able to sit outside and enjoy a bottle of Boundary Breaks Riesling (more on that winery/vineyard later!), a pork belly app, and summer squash pizza. My brief review: I like the dedication to NYS wine, the interesting menu, the good food, and the building; I dislike the amateur service (it’s not bad, but it’s not up to the menu), the view of the parking lot/marina, and the regular ‘we’re out of X’ every time I order something.

The only two wineries on our list today were Dr. Konstantin Frank and Keuka Lake Vineyards. Dr. Frank has a long history in the Finger Lakes, has won many awards and has a breath-taking view. And yet I never really find myself in love with their wine. I’m sure it’s just me, as my palate pretty much stinks, I can’t ever tell you what I smell or taste, and all those somms can’t be wrong. In any case, I will tell you that Keuka Lake Vineyards is AMAZING. Tiny, no view, limited amount of wine but what we tasted we bought (in fact, I just ordered more). I’d recently read Lenn Thompson’s (of the New York Cork Report) brief instagram review of their Vignoles:

Fascinating take on vignoles… Chilled it was just too harshly structured and lacking fruit. At room temp it blossomed with dried pineapple and apricot… Not for everyone. And not going to impressed within 30 seconds. Take your time and tease out the layers and complexity.

Damned if he wasn’t right. We tasted this after it had been opened earlier in the day and at room temp and it was just as he described; we liked it so much we bought a bottle. But what really impressed us was the Leon Millot Fournier 2014, a red that had no business in the FLX, with its deep inky color (picture grape jelly, really) and incredible roundness. Just really impressive. We bought one and ordered two more the other day. Must be those 70-year-old vines…

And that was that for wineries that day. We made our way to our hotel (McCorn Winery Lodging-more later!) and a lakeside dinner (I’ll write about that another day too!) and shamelessly went to bed around 9:30.

Day two, coming up.

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Jake’s Birthday and the Bragdon House Bed and Breakfast

While eating breakfast with six other guests of the Bragdon House B&B following our day and night of celebrating Jake’s birthday, this conversation happened:

Other Guest: where did you have dinner?

Jake: We didn’t.

Kim: We just went to Halsey’s and had drinks.

Jake: Well, we ordered a pizza there.

Kim: So, I guess that was dinner.

Jake: And then we went to Parker’s for a drink.

Kim: We did?

Jake: Yeah, you had a White Russian.

Kim: I did? Why did I do that?

Jake: They didn’t have any coffee for an Irish Coffee, so you ordered a White Russian. I don’t know, you did that thing where you want more drinks when you shouldn’t have any. 

 

It’s a good thing the owner followed up with her own story of spending too much time at Parker’s getting “shitfaced” when she first opened the B&B. I felt much less like an ass after that. Still hungover, but not an ass. It’s a win. And, who do I think I am? The Dude? White Russian? Good lord…

We started our day last tuesday with a backroads drive to Heron Hill Winery to have lunch at their Blue Heron Cafe. The wine is good, the food is middling, the view is spectacular and it’s one of the few places in the Finger Lakes where you can sit outside AND have a waiter AND have a view. We ordered a cheese/meat board, a salad and a sandwich along with a bottle of semi-dry reisling. Nothing to complain about, but I’d argue that Fox Run’s cheese/meat board is a far better value (but no waiter, and the view is good, but not as good). We did the same last year for Jake’s birthday, so I suppose it’s becoming something of a tradition now. I remember the food being better last year, but we also went on a Friday; perhaps the busier days result in better food?

View from Blue Heron Cafe, Heron Hill Winery, Hammondsport, NY

We continued on from there into the village of Hammondsport, to have another glass of wine at The Village Tavern. We sat outside at a sidewalk table and enjoyed the view of the town square. We typically only have a drink here, or a bar snack (and by bar snack I mean oysters…so good!) and then head off elsewhere. Today was the same. Hammondsport is a quaint little village that we continually wish we could live in, but can’t figure out how we would support ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Note, my work from home thing is quite a bit more from home than it is work right now. We decided to head back north along the eastern side of Keuka Lake then cut over to the western side of Seneca Lake to stop at Fox Run for another cheese/meat platter and wine to go. Our B&B was advertised as having a great back porch and we wanted to take advantage of that. 

Back porch view at Bragdon House Bed and Breakfast, Geneva, NY

The Bragdon House did not disapppoint!! The back porch has both an screened and an open area with lots of very comfortable seating. Many B&Bs have porches but I don’t always feel at home on them. Either they aren’t comfy, or they are too tiny, too sparse, or too hard in terms of seating. For example, last year we stayed at the Magnolia House, on the other side of Senece Lake for Jake’s birthday and while they had a huge porch, it wasn’t very inviting. Perhaps it was the size of the B&B (more like an Inn) or the banquet like feel of the dining room, or the uncushioned adirondack chairs, but I just felt like I was imposing the whole time. But this place, the Bragdon House, was like being on your own porch. Much more casual, much more relaxed. We sat at the high table, put our feet up, opened our wine and enjoyed the view of the lake through the trees. 

The Bragdon House is small, four rooms, and right on Main St in Geneva. You can walk downtown to the restaurants or a little further to the lake front or Hobart College. They serve a great breakfast and have a mini-fridge on the porch for your wine and leftovers. Note that one review on tripadvisor was miffed at the lack of theme (?) and that he didn’t get a complimentary glass of wine. To even give away wine, a B&B has to have a liquor license and this place can’t get one because they are within 200 feet of a church. Seems silly, but its BYOW. Fine with me. My only complaint is that I needed a glass of water in the middle of the night and found we didn’t have any in our room. Hardly a deal breaker, and most people wouldn’t have noticed but, as you now know, I had a wee bit too much to drink and was parched.  Really, the owner couldn’t have been nicer and more our type! She recently had a baby and totally had her act together despite being up at 3AM to feed an 11 week old. We’ll be going back!

 

FLXWine and Glorious Garlic Festival

The Glorious Garlic festival at Fox Run Vineyards is an annual tradition for us. In 2009 we went for the first time, alone. 2010 we brought some MI friends (and then, five days later, learned we were having Raddy G…eek). 2011 was a much-needed postpartum celebration with our friend Dave. 2012 we went alone again. 2013 was immediately following the Cayuga Lake Triathlon (where I won my age group despite a desperate code brown situation on the run course) with our SF friends. This year it was just us again.

It is what it says it is; an event dedicated to the preparation and consumption of garlic, oh, and a bunch of wine. The vendors are primarily local, most selling garlic something, but this is where we also stock up on oil and vinegar. Our favorite purchase every year is Butternut Squash Seed Oil from Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods. I swear, it’s the best thing you’ll ever eat. From their website:

A flavorful, healthy and local alternative to European olive oil. Our company’s first bottled oil, butternut squash seed oil (BSSO) debuted in the fall of 2008. With the help of food scientists at Cornell University, we discovered a delicious, all-natural oil locked up in squash seed that would otherwise be destined for compost. This oil is released by precise roasting and expeller pressing without the use of chemicals, excessive heat or harsh filtration. This gently processed oil contains no hydrogenated fats, chemical additives, or preservatives.

The oil contains only one ingredient: oil from roasted pressed varietal squash seeds. We produce the oil in small batches, ensuring a level of quality from seed to bottle to shelf.

The oil’s nutty taste makes a great replacement for nuts in baked goods or stuffings for those with nut allergies.

Blah blah blah…whatever, it’s good shit. Buy it. Put in on, of all things, mango with some sea salt. Really. Just do it. I swear you’ll be a convert.

Enough about oil and garlic, what about me? Well, it couldn’t have been a better day. Raddy G went to visit his Baca and Mimi around 11, Jake and I took the convertible on back roads down to Geneva, stopping at Ravines Winery for a case+ of wine. We are members there and I love almost everything they do but we seem to blow through Keuka Village White at an alarming rate around here. That inexpensive, simple white is summertime porch wine and we serve it when people visit, when we just relax on our porch, when we drink in the neighbors garage (cause I’m high-end like that) and when we want white sangria. Really, you can’t wrong. So, a few of these, you know, just in case we get stranded on a porch in the summer.

Then we headed further south to Fox Run. The event  is always crowded and every year I say I’ll remember something to sit on and my own traveling wine glass and every year I forget. No changes there. I think next year I’ll try to get there early enough to get a table on the porch…right. Anyway, both the inside cafe and an outdoor tent serve food. We opted for the tent, but probably should have gone inside. The tent had fairly unimpressive pulled pork sandwiches, white pizza with three small strips of arugula, and fries with garlic mayo. However, the cafe indoors had its regular menu of cheese boards. The cheese board are huge, well-selected and delicious. Mistake on our part.

Along with that we got a bottle (or 2, don’t judge) of dry reisling. After eating we made our way to the member’s tent where you get a special tasting/pairing. This time there was a cocktail made with the Hedonia dessert wine as well as tastings of unfinished oaked vs steel barrel chardonnay. I’m not sure if one lady at our table had had a few too many or really wasn’t that sharp to start with but she twice asked what the difference was between oak barrel and steel barrel chardonnay was. Um, the barrel…it makes it taste different. The wine maker was clearly unsure how to change her answer to make that clear, but she did a nice job.

We sat on the lawn and enjoyed the music before leaving around 4 for a quick tasting at Billsboro Winery, where we bought more wine. We made it home by 6, played with Raddy G in the rain until almost 8 (bad parenting; bedtime is 7), and sat with our neighbors, sharing some smoked moz with tomato; mango with the new oil; and more wine. Long day, good day, next year-chairs!!!

Tesoro Inn: We Never Want To Leave!!

For my birthday the beautiful and talented Kimberly planned a trip to the Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan.  I think she is trying to get me to like Michigan by taking me to a very familiar looking place, only it’s in another state. By this I mean that the OMP reminds me so much of the Finger Lakes region of New York that if she dropped me in blindfolded, I may not know the difference (how devious of her). Much to her chagrin I figured it all out. It only took the observation of one in ten cars using their turn signals to make me aware I was in Michigan.

Actually she planned a great trip revolving completely around driving my Alfa Romeo Spider; unfortunately the Alfa had other ideas.  It seems as though it is angry at me, I know, I know,  it’s inanimate, but more importantly, it’s Italian.  This means it doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of living and non.  When it has been left in the barn for legions of barn swallows to conduct bombing raids on it, it refuses to start.  If it were a Ford it would gleefully fire on the first crank and go straight to the car wash, but alas its somewhat crankier than that (think Stephen King’s Christine). Ford Freestyle to the rescue, always there, always non-threatening; the mom-mobile.  It all worked out for the best as the Alfa is not as watertight as it should be and we had torrential downpours on friday night.  Wet jeans are the standard when driving in the Alfa in the rain, and the wipers are virtually useless.  It’s hard to look cool getting out of your sporty little italian convertible appearing to have peed your pants.

We arrived in dry pants at the Tesoro Inn.  After we parked in their circular drive, I spent a few minutes checking out the outside of the b&b.   

 It was beautiful, with cedar shakes, pergola, fancy pants front door, landscaping and a cupola. The foot square cedar beams that formed the uprights of the pergola have copper tops on them to keep the beams from rotting and a climbing vine running up to the latticework.

We went in and were instantly hit with the aromas of what we found out later to be Saturday’s breakfast. Along with the heavenly smells there was jazz playing on the stereo, and a friendly old dog, thus giving an ambiance that made me feel completely relaxed and “home”.

There aren’t many places I go that can shut my brain off like here.  Les, one half of the Tesoro inn team, (and one hell of a cook) greeted us and gave us a tour of the place.  He showed us the back yard and the rooms, also told us of the recent renovations (which sounded substantial, including cedar pillars, repairing damage left by an indoor hottub, and reconfiguringsuites/bathrooms).

After the tour he showed us our room, the Pear Tree Room.  It took us a while to figure out why it’s called the pear room, but then Kim saw it; a lone pear out on the tree just outside the window.

The room was large, clean, tastefully decorated and had a very comfortable king size sleigh bed.  In other words, way too nice for me.  Luckily Kim deserves the best so I can’t say that the quality of the room was wasted.  We also noticed after the 7pm turn down service that there were two chocolate coated strawberries with candied ginger on them, a combination I wouldn’t have thought of but will never forget.  Yum!

 

I’ll skip dinner as Kim has that covered and move on to breakfast. We went up to the cupola for breakfast, as it had rained out and eating outside would have been no fun. 

First out came the coffee and of course,  Diet Coke for Kim.  A pleasant young man (never caught his name so I will make one up for him: “Roland”) delivered these and took our order.  Kim ordered the sweet potato and maplewood smoked bacon hash and eggs, I ordered the duck breast, eggplant and goat cheese frittata.  Our starter was a parfait glass with fresh blueberries and a homemade lemon whipped cream on top, it was delicious.  In fact “Roland” probably didn’t make it downstairs before we were done eating it. There was also a mango upside down cake or maybe a crisp that was the perfect accompaniment to my coffee.  “Roland” came back a little while later and refilled my coffee (not gas station coffee either, but really good coffee) brought us fresh mango and pomegranate juice and took our dirty dishes.  He then came back with breakfast.  Let me start by saying that I grew up on a farm and probably take for granted what a farm fresh egg looks and tastes like. Now that I regularly buy store eggs, I’ve forgotten the difference but organic and fresh is the way to go; the yolks stand up like a hemisphere and the color is more orange than yellow.  When you pop the yolk it’s thicker; less like a thin sauce and more like gravy.  There truly is no comparison, but back to breakfast. Kim’s breakfast of sweet potato with maplewood smoked bacon hash and eggs looked great and smelled even better.  The hash had sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and bacon in it and was unlike any breakfast hash I’ve ever had (Kim’s aside: it was awesome and I only shared because I’m a super nice person, not because I really wanted to!).  I love corned beef hash and have to admit that I feel like I cheated on it with a younger, hotter hash.  The eggs were, as I said before,  awesome and procured from a local free range farmer (Shangri-la Too Farms). When you dipped your fresh homemade wheat toast in the yolk it coated and stuck to it like velcro.  I had the fritatta and it was comprised of eggs, pan seared duck breast, swiss chard, eggplant, onions, garlic and goat cheese.  This was another winner, Les was batting a thousand. 

We also met Les’s wife Jane, and talked with her about pottery and food and art for quite awhiel; she has a very engaging personality and we both couldn’t help but like her. I should also point out that both our breakfasts came with more fruit; mangoes, black berries, strawberries, and raspberries.  This was truly one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

The next morning the starter was a mango smoothie, and oatmeal scones with honey.  Both of these dishes were so good I could have had them only, for breakfast. “Roland” came back for our orders, I ordered grits and eggs with bacon,  Kim ordered eggs benedict.  Perfectly reasonable diner food right?  Wrong, fool!  Here are the twists to some classics.  I had hominy grits with leeks, onions, garlic and smoked gouda.  More like risotto than your mom’s grits.  This isn’t Shoney’s, sucker! I also had more delicious eggs and homemade toast with some savory bacon.  Awesome!  Kim’s eggs benedict was served over homemade white toast, canadian bacon, swiss chard sauteed with garlic and homemade hollandaise over the farm fresh egg.  The hollandaise sauce was so very good; I remembered what real hollandaise tastes like (the kind I make comes from a box…mostly because I lack the skill and patience to do it the right way).  Again there was more fruit, kiwis, strawberries, mango, and blackberries. 

I would say if you were going to the Old Mission Peninsula for the weekend and wanted to hit the wineries and breweries then this is the place you want to stay.  The outstanding breakfasts, the large room with turn down service, and the peaceful atmosphere (not to mention heavenly smells!) are worth every penny!!

Does My Breathe Stink? AKA The Glorious Garlic Festival

It should. White Garlic, Red Garlic, Elephant Garlic, Dried Garlic Chips, Pickled Garlic, 40 Clove Pulled Pork, Eggplant and Garlic, Tomatoes with Mozzarella and Garlic…it’s a good thing we were surrounded by 2000 other garlic eaters, but I suspect I still stink.

Glorious Garlic

 

We arrived at Fox Run Vineyards just after 1, with empty livers and hungry bellies (and fresh breath). That didn’t last long. Four 40 Clove Pulled Pork sandwiches, Hummus and Chips, and Tomatoes and Moz plus two bottles of Fox Run Dry Riesling and we were ready to start tasting garlic.

Who Doesn't Want More Garlic and Wine?

Cat, Max, and Jake Doing What They Do Best (and look at that sky!)

Wait Until You Can Drink Them!

 In truth, I’d never realized how many varieties of garlic there are and how distinctive their raw flavors can be, both by type of garlic and where it came from. I also didn’t realize how many garlic farmers we have in the Finger Lakes Region. As much as I loved the garlic, the find of the day was Butternut Squash Seed Oil from Whole Hearted Foods from right there in Geneva, NY. We bought a bottle without a second thought and started to figure out how to work it into our dinner plans.

Butternut Squash Seed Oil-MMMM!

After  a couple of garlic filled hours and a pretty large wine purchase from Fox Run, we continued down the road to some other wineries: Anthony Road, Prejean, and Heron Hill. All the wineries have pretty much the same thing going on; you pay $5 and you get to taste 5 wines. In the end you have slightly more than a glass for your efforts and usually you find something you like. It’s often not very personal, and there are tons of tour buses and bachelorette parties and the like that make it hard if you really want to know more about the wines themselves. There are also a bunch of wineries that make crap and exist simply because people will stop at each and every tasting room!

Heron Hill was a little different. The winery itself is on Kueka Lake, and they have a stunning tasting room over there, but they also have a location for tasting on Seneca Lake, where we were. They charge $2 for 5 tastings but also give you a very personal and in depth description of each wine you choose. After talking about what kinds of wine the four of us like, he selected some he thought we might appreciate. Clearly their personal attention pays off; we bought three bottles of 2006 Pinot Noir (really, I know the riesling is the way to go in NY, but this was great Pinot). 

After Heron Hill we stopped at Wegmans (good lord, I miss Wegmans when I’m in Michigan, please, Danny Wegman, come to Michigan so I can have all of my groceries inside one building…) for some red peppers, mangos, rosemary/seasalt bread, cheesecake, and raspberries. We already have summer squash and four enormous strip steaks waiting for us at home, plus our new oil and somewhere in the neighborhood of 27,000 bottles of wine.

We used the new oil on the veggies before grilling them, but the big winner with the oil was mango. I know. Its sounds awful, butternut squash seed oil and mango. But the advice from Whole Hearted Foods was to toss mango, the oil and sea salt. So I did. And Oh My God Its Un-freaking-believable.  Sweet mango and salty bite with what really tastes like a bit of butter. Again, I know, its sounds nuts. Buy some. Try this. I swear you will see God.

The rest of the night was spent cooking steaks, drinking wine, eating cheesecake and sitting by the fire out back.

What's Good For Me Is Good For The Wine Industry Too!

I wish all the days could be this good.

More Wine?! You Can’t Be Serious…

If I didn’t know better I’d say I have a wee problem with the vino. You’ve read about Italy (no sulfites equals no hangover!) but we haven’t written much about our favorite winery and their wine maker dinners and their festivals and their discounts for good customers on cases of wine.

This weekend is the Glorious Garlic Festival at Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan, NY and of course, we are planning to attend with our like-minded-adult-beverage-enthusiast-partners-in-crime from Michigan, Max and Cat. While we are excited to share a new adventure with them, we are also a bit concerned about the state of our NY house. See, it’s a garage that’s a house; a grouse, if you will. Until a few short weeks ago our living room wall consisted of two garage doors. The doors are still there, hanging from the ceiling, but now we have windows (it’s the little things, isnt’ it?). We also have a serious door deficiency, in that we don’t have any interior doors. Not even on the bathroom. Or the other bathroom. We also don’t have a kitchen right now. Not a real one anyway, just a refrigerator and picnic table and a charcoal grill. These are the perils of DIY home construction and probably the subject for another blog, but it has us worried that maybe Max and Cat will decided we are insane and bad hosts to boot.

I’ve prepped them for this. They say its okay. Even the part where you can’t take a shower because we only have a bathtub.

As for Fox Run, they are putting on a great event with music, a Garlic Food Tent (who doesn’t want a 40 clove BBQ pulled pork sandwich!), a Wine Barn (a warn, perhaps?), culinary demonstrations, and of course, wine by the case.  We first discovered Fox Run on our second date, and when I say discovered, I mean that we went there together and really had a great time, not that we didn’t know about it before. Maybe its nostalgia that attracts us, but I’m more inclined to believe its the craftsmanship of their wines and their dedication to a quality product. They’ve been well reviewed by several food and wine publications and are in good company in the Seneca Lake Wine Trail; an area that makes some of the world’s best rieslings.

So, as we introduce Max and Cat to our truly humble NY grouse, we also hope that they like Fox Run and the Finger Lakes as much as we do.

Look forward to some stinky garlic pictures!