|MEDIEVAL TIMING: Belhurst Castle, one of your potential homes away from home while exploring the Finger Lakes region (Neil Sjoblom/courtesy, Belhurst)|
Established in the early 1980s, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is the first and longest-running wine trail in America. Its 15 boutique wineries have won more than 5,000 national and international medals and five prestigious Governor's Cup awards. It also has four distilleries, a cidery, and meadery (honey wine), and it runs festive events throughout the year, like the annual Mardi Gras festival (held this year from February 21 to 22), which awards participants with strings of beads and wine glasses as part of an all-day wine-and-food pairing event.
Most of Cayuga Lake's wineries are on the western side. Swedish Hills Winery has gained international recognition after its Vidal Blanc won Wine of the Year at the 2008 New York Wine and Food Classic: The Governor's Cup. Its Riesling and dry Riesling are multiple gold winners and they also make nose-tickling Champagne, port, and brandy, and a line of winesDoobie Blues and Jack Ass redsnamed after the owner's pet miniature donkey, Doobie.
To savor pinot grigio, traminette, Viognier, merlot, and white port, visit Goose Watch Wineryand be sure to crack open its seasonal farm-raised chestnuts, hopefully after roasting them over an open fire. Ruth Lucas's Lucas Vineyards is also a must. Established in 1980, it's Cayuga Lake's oldest winery and is well-known for its extra dry Champagne, baco noir, cabernet franc, and tug-boat-inspired sweet "Nautie" wines. Lastly, stop into Bellweather to sample the only hard cider on the trail.
To hit the ski trails, head to the western side of Cayuga Lake toward Trumansburg and visit the Podunk Cross Country Ski Center (607.387.6716), with access to seven miles of groomed trails along with rentals and instruction. The traditional Finnish ski center's lodge has a toasty wood-burning stove to warm you up after working the trails.
For a snack, stop by Bet the Farm in Aurora, a lively gourmet shop with local baked goods, meats, cheeses, mustard, and beyond. There is also ZuZu Café in Seneca Falls. Named after ZuZu, the daughter of the George Bailey character in the 1946 cinema classic It's a Wonderful Life, it serves steamy espresso drinks, crunchy Panini, wraps, soups, and saladsand there's free Internet access to boot. When craving cozy comfort food, head to Connie's Diner (315.539.9556) in Seneca Falls. The chrome-trimmed diner is run by the Caratozzolo family, who serve homemade eggplant Parmesan, lasagna from an old family recipe, and house favorites like raspberry and coconut cream pies. For a new world country meal, consider Pumpkin Hill & Bistro, a charming 19th-century farmhouse serving lunch, dinner, and traditional English Farm House Tea (reservations required).
If you're yearning for a break from the snow and the wine, visit the Corning Museum of Glass, with its prestigious glass collection, hands-on exhibits, live glass-making demonstrations, and "Make Your Own Glass" exhibit. The Museum of the Earth PRI has assorted natural history, art, and interactive exhibits featuring PRI's world-class paleontological collection, including whale and mastodon skeletons. Learn local legal history at Friends of the Three Bears. Housed in an historic 1845 court house and jail, the museum offers a chance to learn about the justice system in the mid-1800s and the evolution of a dual county seat system. Or give in to your shopping instinct at Waterloo Premium Outlets, with 100 designer and brand-name stores.
After an action-packed day, bed down at A Wicher Garden Bed & Breakfast in Auburn. A restored country inn in the hub of wine country near Skaneateles and Seneca Falls, it offers cozy private rooms and a hot tub for post-ski muscle recovery (just watch the wine consumption while half-submerged, please!). Or consider The Barrister's Bed & Breakfast, an 1860 historical home in Seneca Falls with a fireplace and five bedrooms with private baths, or pet-friendly John Morris Manor Bed & Breakfast in Seneca Falls, a 1836 Greek-revival manor sitting on six secluded acres with five bedrooms and fireplaces. Juniper Hill Bed & Breakfast & Art Gallery in Trumansburg melds an American Impressionist fine art gallery with an upscale stay in a Colonial revival mansion.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication