The blood red autumnal leaves of upstate New York hide a secret not well known even by the locals. Tucked away in pristine countryside just a six hour drive from the hustle and bustle of New York City is the world class wine region of the Finger Lakes. The area is a haven of quiet villages, golden hills and boutique wineries.
Fall into Wine Country
One of the lakes comprising the Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake is known as the “Heart of Wine Country” because of the renowned small estate Rieslings produced by the microclimates created by the hills surrounding the lake. The Keuka Lake Wine Trail is made up of the following eight wineries: Barrington Cellars/Buzzard Crest Vineyards, Bully Hill Vineyards, Heron Hill Winery, Hunt Country Vineyards, Keuka Spring Vineyards, Dr. Konstantin Frank´s Vinifera Wine Cellars, McGregor Vineyard Winery, Rooster Hill Vineyards, Ravines Wine Cellars and Stever Hill Vineyards.
Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifer Wine Cellars is credited with starting the “Vinifera Revolution” and for creating the New York State Riesling. The winery produces award winning white Riesling and red Gewurztraminer vintages as well as sparkling wine. The tasting room is open from Mondays to Saturdays, 9am to 5pm and from noon to 5pm on Sundays.
Commanding a picturesque view of the water and the russet gold trees lining the lakeside, Heron Hill Winery is nestled on the west side of Keuka Lake and is a popular choice during the fall for its spectacularly scenic setting. The winery offers cold-climate Rieslings and Chardonnays. The tasting rooms are open from 10am to 5pm, Mondays to Saturdays and 12pm to 5pm on Sundays.
Feasts and Festivals
The perfect way to enjoy the natural beauty of the changing leaves and quicksilver reflections from the lake is an early autumn drive around the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. In mid-September, these wineries take part in the Harvest Tour of Food & Wine festival, offering fine local wines paired with dishes made from fresh seasonal produce. The event is a good way of experiencing the flavors of the fall harvest while sampling the wines from the local vineyards. Advance tickets are available online for $25 or at the door for $30.
As the days shorten and the air turns chilly, the Finger Lakes area celebrates the turning of the seasons with live jazz and wine. The Jazz & Harvest Festival, in Corning, offers live music performances as well as Finger Lakes wines and beer tastings held in participating Gaffer District businesses. Tickets cost $15 per person and participants receive a collectible wine and beer glass.
Wine and dine
Both a winery and a restaurant, Bully Hill offers the ultimate option in fine wining and dining. Patrons can choose to sit out on the deck, surrounded by blazing autumn foliage and with a view of the lake. The menu at Bully Hill highlights the local produce and changes with the seasons. Autumnal favorites include cream of sweet potato and squash soup, and warm spinach served with artichoke dip.
Located in a cozy heritage building on Main Street, Hammondsport is the Union Block Italian Bistro, which serves authentic Italian pizzas on rustic wooden platters, as well as pasta dishes. The locals come here for the creative antipasti, platters of seasonal starters with a twist. Offerings change daily but may include sweet honey baked apples drenched with balsamic vinegar, mozzarella stuffed field mushrooms and mashed butternut squash drizzled with sour cream.
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