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Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region beckons to wine, food, and nature lovers

Finger Lakes Vineyards
Finger Lakes Vineyards
Carrie Smalser

Do your passions run to travel? Are you a connoisseur of the grape and/or fine dining? If your answer to either question is yes and your plans for a summer vacation have not yet crystalized, the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York might be just the ticket. Other considerations apart, the area boasts some of the most picture-perfect scenery you are likely to encounter on God’s green earth. The fact that unforgettable victuals go with it is pure gravy.

From late summer until the snow starts to fall, visitors throughout New York will have opportunities to explore wondrous food and wine “trails,” thereby discovering what the current crop of up-and-coming American chefs has discovered: that nothing beats homegrown, hand-crafted, and local food and drink. Enthusiastic foodies can even stop for a day or two and learn from the chefs themselves or take a “farm fresh” cruise.

For oenophiles, the Finger Lakes have become particularly synonymous with the wine trails that weave their way throughout the eleven lakes. The region also has a cheese trail featuring 15 small, family-owned farms specializing in everything from Gouda, Colby and cheddar to mozzarella, Swiss, Brie, Jack, and local artisanal goat cheeses. Find out more about it at

But back to those wine trails. I was fortune to spend a leisurely day and an overnight at several wineries along Lake Seneca with a little help from my friends at I Love New York. My visit happened to coincide with the awarding of the Governor’s Cup — an annual event that names the “Best in Show” from among more than 800 entries. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on hand himself during stops at Anthony Road Winery, where we did our initial tasting and enjoyed a light lunch. We then headed on to Glenora Wine Cellars and Lakewood Vineyards for some more imbibing. The evening ended with the awards dinner at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.

The winners were:

  • Sparkling Pointe 2008 Blanc de Noirs (in the Best Sparkling Wine category)
  • Keuka Spring Vineyards 2012 Riesling (in the Best White Wine category
  • McGregor Vineyard Winery 2012 Rosé D’Cabernet Franc, Estate Grown (in the Best Rose Wine category)
  • Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc (in the Best Red Wine category)
  • 21 Brix 2011 Vidal Ice Wine (in the Best Dessert Wine category)
  • Earle Estates Meadery Raspberry Reflections (in the Best Specialty Wine category)
  • Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye (in the Best Spirit category)

In truth, there were no losers, judging from the wines we sampled throughout the day. Particularly noteworthy were the refreshing, summery Pinot Gris at Anthony Road, the plummy Cabernet Franc at Glenora, and the fruity blends at Lakewood.

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