— Finger Lakes, New York — Many folks don’t realize that the Finger Lakes wine region was named the #1 Wine Region in the U.S. by USA Today 2018 10 Best Reader’s Choice national poll. Even I didn’t realize that the area is the largest producer of wine in New York state.
Yates County sits smack-dab in the heart of Finger Lakes Countrysides. Even though the Finger Lakes of New York comprises 11 stunning lakes with views to write home about. The region I visited borders three; Keuka, Seneca, and Canandaigua. The community is close-knit – where everyone looks out for everyone else, often collaborating to make sure businesses thrive in both good and bad times.
With 100 wineries, breweries, and distilleries in and around that area alone, you’ll find endless possibilities to choose from – no matter what your preference might be.
Rolling hills, crystal-clear lakes, vineyards as far as the eye can see, and shopping to your heart’s content while soaking up the countryside’s history can make a long weekend away something special.
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Here are some of the best things I found in Finger Lakes Countrysides, New York
1. Anthony Road Wine Company
The Anthony Road Wine Company’s tastings are by appointment. I was greeted with a warm welcome and seated at a table by myself. I chose six wines to try from their curated flight options and was genuinely impressed by all.
I took a stroll around the property and then sat on the veranda with a couple visiting from their home in New Jersey. It was nice chatting with strangers while we gazed out over the vineyard around us, towards Seneca Lake in the distance.
One of the things that impressed me most was learning the winery was a family-owned business, started by John and Ann Martini in 1973. Neither of them had an agricultural background when they set out on their wine-making journey.
2. Staving Artist Woodwork
Located in the heart of Penn Yan, right on the main drag, I was delighted to find this wonderful Staving Artist Woodwork shop with numerous items made from local winery barrels.
The storefront’s large windows drew me in; I could see many beautiful things arranged on weathered brick walls, countertops, and the floor. Tables, fixtures, home accessories, and more – mixed in with work from local artisans, made the shop an exciting place for myself and other shoppers to be that sunny afternoon.
Each piece is original, handcrafted by Dan Mitchell, a Finger Lakes native. He combines his love of the wine industry and woodworking to make genuinely incredible pieces. Some stained a warm red from the wine itself. He’s also interested in working with customers on one-of-a-kind pieces, a collaboration of sorts. Suffice it to say none of us left empty-handed.
3. Orr-Chard’s Apples, Cider, and Honey
I love driving out in the country any time of year – but I must say autumn is my favorite season, by far.
There’s just something about the months of harvesting, with farms reaping a plentiful bounty.
The leaves are turning vibrant colors, drifting lazily towards the ground below. Bales of hay dot the wide-open landscape. Everything seems so relaxed – even though it’s such a busy time for those that work the land year-round.
Oh my gosh. When I drove up to this little farm stand in the middle of Yate’s County, I couldn’t help but smile.
Orr-Chard’s is an adorable shop at the side of the road, complete with two rocking chairs and comfy pillows on the front porch. There’s even a rambunctious puppy who wants to follow you around. People had already parked on the grass, the families wandering through rows of apple trees, and signs on the ground indicating You-Pick varieties for the day.
Macintosh apples are my favorite, and there were plenty of them still hanging from the tree branches. I filled a bag, then watched as the owner weighed it on an old-fashioned scale inside the country store. Talk about taking a step back in time! I hadn’t seen one of those in years. And unlike other orchards, my money-out-of-pocket was less than five bucks.
The shop also carries hand-pressed apple cider and pure honey from their beehives. Funny metal signs hanging on the walls made me laugh. It was a great way to spend an hour or two out in the fresh air and sunshine.
4. Keuka Hiking Trail – Finger Lakes
In the Finger Lakes Countryside, The seven-mile river known as the Keuka Lake Outlet connects the Seneca and Keuka Lakes. Can I tell you how beautiful this area of New York is? And, it’s easy to hike, bike, horse-back ride, or snow-shoe and cross-country ski in the winter. People can also kayak along the ‘crooked river’ – another way people fondly refer to the outlet, due to its’ Y shape.
I was hoping to rent a bike to ride the Keuka Hiking Trail, but I arrived too early in the morning. I shrugged off that miss-step and decided to walk instead. The path was gravel, well-kept, and trees were towering over me most of the way. There were several spots where I could see the water, and listening to its’ flow was relaxing. Benches dot the walkway, and I could imagine myself, on another day, reading a book and enjoying a picnic lunch there.
There are two beautiful waterfalls along the relatively flat walk. The ruins of old, crumbling mills add to the ambiance of the area. I did run into a few groups along the trail and spotted a fisherman from the shore. It was nice to see people of all ages enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
5. Tabora Farm & Winery
The Seneca Wine Trail hosts many notable wineries. Still, Tabora Farm & Winery was impressive as it has a deli/bakery on the property. The name Tabora comes from Jane Eatheron’s childhood home in Cape Town, South Africa. Jane and her husband Roger started Tabora in 1989, after purchasing a 10-acre orchard in Buck’s County, PA. That business took off like a rocket, and when they sold in 2009, the couple decided to start a new venture in the Finger Lakes region.
They brought their love of home-baked goods and deli-offerings with them. The converted, early 1900’s building on the property, with its Cape Dutch architecture, became the perfect home to fresh daily sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes, and yummy desserts.
Across the parking lot is the winery itself. The tasting room is ample open space, with warm wood throughout. I chose several wines to try and must say I was pleased with every one of them. I brought home a 2019 Dry Riesling, a 2018 Cabernet Franc, and a 2017 Baco Noir. I even purchased a tee-shirt with their logo on it – the bird design is beautiful!
6. Laurentide Inn – Finger Lakes
I love staying overnight at old, historic inns. Laurentide was a wonderful surprise, as it came with the history of a 200-year old private residence as well as a converted carriage house barn that boasts a craft-beer company. I was delighted to see the barn doors open, people sitting together, drinking a cold one while sharing stories from their workweek.
This beautiful Inn’s interior was welcoming, tempting me to sit in cozy spaces by a roaring fire. I spotted a billiards room where two men were studying their next move at the pool table. There were several dining tables tucked into corners of the four-season porch.
The owners even stopped to talk with me while serving breakfast. They asked where I was from and offered suggestions on what to see and do while in the area. Fletcher, their adorable pup, sat at my feet any chance he could – a human-lover for sure.
Sometimes, I’ll stay at an inn or bed & breakfast because a friend recommended it to me, but instantly realize I won’t return. I didn’t feel that way at Laurentide – I honestly cannot wait to go back again in the warmer weather. I’m looking forward to sitting in the garden with a drink after sunset, listening to acoustic music making its’ way over from the barn.
7. Belhurst Castle and Winery
Voted one of the most romantic places in New York State, Belhurst Castle offers luxurious overnight stays in not one, not two, but three unique hotels located in the heart of Finger Lakes Countryside.
The history of this property is worth another article on its’ own; suffice it to say, enjoying dinner with friends here and then wandering the property was a bit overwhelming – in a good way.
We ate inside at Stonecutter’s Tavern, enjoying a craft cocktail at their sunken bar before being seated at a table where we could still see idyllic views of Seneca Lake at sunset.
Try their French Onion Soup – it’s one of the best I’ve had in any New York restaurant. I followed that with the Statesmen Steakhouse Salad and went with their wine selection – a fabulous Belhurst Cabernet Sauvignon. I wish I could have tried a bite or two of dessert but was too full to contemplate it. Maybe next time?
The foyer had sleek wine tasting set-ups, Finger Lake keepsakes, original artwork, gorgeous handmade jewelry, tempting sweets, and, of course, a stellar wine selection. With wines as unique as the castle’s history, it wasn’t surprising to learn they’ve won hundreds of medals in wine competitions across the U.S. and around the world. Maybe that’s why I went home with four bottles!
Insider’s Tip – Look for the large fireplace and all of its intricate detail in the ‘heart’ of the castle.
8. F.L.X. Wienery
I’m from New England – and we love hot dogs. They remind us of easy days, relaxing by the open-pit fire, laughing with friends and family long after the sun’s gone down for the day. And hot dogs are a staple at any sports arena in New England states; I can recall scarfing 2-3 down while rooting for the home team. So, I guess hot dogs come with a side of good memories.
But, hot dogs, in wine country? Seriously? When I heard about F.L.X. Wienery, a specialty restaurant in the Finger Lakes Countryside, I knew I’d stop there in between wine tastings. The subtle play on words made me smile, and I could not remember the last time I had a great dog.
In this mom-and-pop hot dog and hamburger shop, my friend and I chose from an extensive menu. I was in seventh heaven. They offer house-made brats, Italian sausages, fresh-ground burgers with inventive toppings, and several types of hearty hot dogs.
I chose the State Fair dog, which came smothered in peppers, onions, American cheese, smoked ketchup, and mushrooms. The French fries were piping hot and super crispy – perfection. Can you guess what else I tried? No wine this round, although they do sell it at the counter. I settled on a spiked vanilla milkshake, which was just what the doctor ordered.
9. Miles Wine Cellars
Everyone who knows me is aware of my love of ghosts and hauntings. If I’m lucky enough to come across a ghost story while traveling, it’s a real treat. Walking into Miles Wine Cellars and learning about their history while sipping on the cellar’s signature wines in the tasting room was the highlight of my day, for sure.
I found myself intrigued with the wine named ‘Ghost.’ A blend of Chardonnay and Cayuga wines – it has a unique tie to the impressive Greek Revival mansion were we relaxed that sunny afternoon.
The image on this one-of-a-kind-silk-screened bottle tells the whole story. There’s a ghost-like image of a woman on one side of the bottle, and through her voluminous skirts, you can see a line drawing of the house on the other. If you look closely, the figures of a man and woman embrace each other on the mansion’s front porch – I was anxious to learn about these two spirits.
The story begins with the young newlywed couple who lived in the home during the mid-1800s. The lovebirds were busy renovating the mansion, changing it to the Greek Revival style that exists today. One day, the young husband was up in the attic, filling the whale oil lantern. No one is sure what happened, but he fell through the attic rafters, down three stories, breaking his neck. Sadly, he passed away from the tragic accident. Not long afterward, his young bride died somewhere in the home’s hallways, before the mansion, filled with so much promise, was complete.
The grounds are serene to wander through, and there are a dock and boathouse right off the shoreline. We were told many boats come during the warmer months to enjoy a glass of wine and relax a bit before continuing on their excursion. Maybe someday I’ll travel back for an overnight stay at the Inn – you know I’ll be hoping for a visit from the newlyweds.
10. Veraisons at the Inn
I am always impressed with a restaurant that’s concerned with where the food they serve comes from – sourcing locally from farmers in the area rather than across the country. I found this and more at Veraisons, part of the Glenora Wine Cellars. I was pleased to see their menus change with the season, and they are a from-scratch kitchen.
The chefs buy meats, cheeses, and produce from nearby farms, and they source fish sustainably. A friendly waitress asked if I’d ever been there before. When I shook my head ‘no,’ she was eager to share how the restaurant pickles, preserves, and stores local fruits and vegetables for future use and how they even make their condiments, sauces, and dressings. Veraisons purchases fresh bread from local bakers, but design and make desserts and pastries in-house.
They seated me by an entire wall of streak-free windows overlooking a peaceful landscape of vineyards and Seneca Lake at sunset. I relaxed over their creamy Tuscan soup (to die for), followed by a perfectly grilled rib-eye steak. I wish I could remember the glass of wine my waitress suggested; rest assured, it complemented my dinner and dessert of chocolate and orange tiramisu.
I’ve already planned a trip back to the Finger Lake Countrysides area when the warmer weather arrives. I want to visit places like the Arts Center of Yates County, and the Garret Memorial Chapel features items from over 240 vendors, making it a stop I won’t miss. I’d also love to take a workshop at Sunny Point – right on Keuka Lake. And I suspect more wineries will make my must-do-while-here list, as well. For more information on all of these and so much more, please visit Finger Lakes Countrysides.
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