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New York's Finger Lakes: The Canandaigua Wine Trail

Eagle Crest Wine and newly constructed outdoor pizza oven!

I had the extreme pleasure of being invited by new friends at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection in Ontario County, NY for a girlfriends weekend getaway and join them as guests of the Finger Lakes Foodie Awards.  

We were treated to a wonderful foodie tour and met with some of the most amazing folks spearheading the farm to table (a.k.a. field to fork) food revolution.  

Our 4-day visit was packed with SO MANY wonderful experiences, so I am very excited (and most eager) to share with you the fun things to see and do in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, including the mirepoix of good times:  wine, food and friends.

I've decided to create a series of blog posts to help us along in our journey -- I don't want you guys to miss a thing -- so, I thought today maybe we could focus on wine...yes?!?

The winter mist over Canandaigua Lake almost looks ethereal, right?!? [photo credit:]

Canandaigua is the Seneca word meaning "The Chosen Spot".  The 41 mile long wine trail runs along Canandaigua Lake, located along the western edge of the Finger Lakes Wine Region in New York State, and it is surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen.

Wine is a pretty big deal, here.  Many of the vintners I spoke with agree:  it is not easy to be a grape grower, most especially in the Finger Lakes region, here on the East Coast.  

We experience all 4 seasons (sometimes, in the same week) and it snows, a lot.  

Winter grape vines [photo credit:]

In fact, the first stop of our wine tour included an "ice wine tasting" at Casa Larga Vineyards:  in this traditional method, the grapes are hand-picked and pressed while still frozen, producing a sweet, rich syrup. 

Ice wine tasting @CasaLargaWinery
The Fiori Vidal Blanc is the most awarded ice wine in the U.S. and is produced in the German Eiswein production method.

Of all the wines introduced to us here in the Finger Lakes (and, yes, there were many, many more wonderful tastings to follow) the ice wines are, by far, the sweetest.

The conditions have to be just right to harvest ice wine:  picking is based on the temperature outside, usually when it is coldest in the middle of the night or early in the morning, all depending on the weather pattern for that particular year.

See?  It's not easy, the yield can be very unpredictable, but the one thing that ALL the wine makers have in common is their passion for making gosh-darned good wine.

Tasting and discussion of heritage wines at Arbor Hill Grapery
Tasting and discussion of heritage wines at Arbor Hill Grapery.

Like that of Mr. John Brahm, the owner of Arbor Hill Grapery:  in South Bristol, NY is known for its 18-award winning wines and is also the only winery in the world to produce the Diana, Iona and Vergennes varietals.

Aaaaaand, there is probably a really great story behind each one, which brings to mind my favorite part of my visit:  not only are these master vintners extremely knowledgeable in growing the best wines, these artisans are an invaluable resource in sharing the history of the Finger Lakes, as well. 

For example:  a true master in re-introducing the public to heritage wines, Mr. Brahm was very pleased to present a seedling of the Vergennes variety to the folks where it was originally Vergennes, a gift for their town's anniversary celebration.

The seedling was planted in the town square.

Eagle Crest Vineyards

Speaking of heritage:  founded as O-Neh-Da Vineyard in 1872 by Bishop Bernard McQuaid to produce 100% pure grape wine for sacramental use, Eagle Crest Vineyards has been handcrafting pure grape wine for 141 years. 

Wine maker's lab 2!
A winemaker's laboratory.

It remains one of the oldest operating wineries in the new world; the second oldest continually operating winery in New York State. 

Wine tasting at Eagle Crest
Eagle Crest wines (most especially, their Rieslings) are my favorite picks of the Finger Lakes!

The only winery in the Hemlock Lake region of the Finger Lakes, via Hemlock/Canadice State Forest, Eagle Crest is a hidden gem and owner Will Ouweleen is very passionate about honoring the Native American tradition of respecting and sustaining the earth. 

I just love that, my Hungarian ancestors lived in a very similar way -- except for those fancy-schmancy city folks, of course -- and, well, what is old is new again, right?!?

Pizza and wine perfect together at Eagle Crest
Stone oven pizza and wine, perfect together, at Eagle Crest :)

Will is quite the storyteller:  leaving his Wall Street job on September 10th in 2001, but said the rest of the story was best left for another day...dangit!  So, I totally look forward to visiting with Eagle Crest again.

Eagle Crest stone pizza oven in the snow
When it isn't so cold know...not snowing.

We made our own pizza at Eagle Crest Vinyard
Then again, a little wine, some homemade pizza and, well, I am a happy girl -- especially, when in good company.

This is just a taste of what the Finger Lakes have to offer, and I am totally looking forward to sharing more of what there was to see and do on our girlfriends weekend getaway:  

  • Fabulous locavore restaurants
  • A delicious and educational Iroquois white corn lunch
  • Glass blowing
  • Lots of fun stuff to do with older kids (like mine) too
  • Oh, and as an invited guest at the Finger Lakes Foodie Awards...SO MUCH FUN!!!

In the meantime, Happy Friday and have a great weekend everyone :)

© 2003 - 2013 This Full House 

Disclosure:   No payment was received for this blog post.  My accommodations, admission fees and travel to and from venues, was courtesy of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection.  I chose to write about my experience, hopefully, to help bring awareness to some really awesome stuff going on in New York (outside of NYC, I mean!). All my opinions are my own.


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