Nordic Libations

Seneca Lake
By Stefani Jackenthal
Page 2 of 5   |  
For Those About to Drink, We Salute You
If you want to visit several wineries, purchase a "Polar Passport" for $10, which entitles participants to free flights of wine from the 20 Seneca Lake Wine Trail vineyards.

The Finger Lake region's largest wine district, Seneca Lake Wine Trail covers 36 miles between the northern tip of Geneva and southern tip of Watkins Glen. With wine roots dating back to 1866, when the Seneca Lake Grape Wine Company opened the first winery on the western shores, Seneca Lake now boasts 36 wineries, two breweries, a distillery, and meadery (honey wine), most clustered on the lake's western shores.

For outstanding Riesling, stop by Fox Run Vineyards; its 2005 Reserve Riesling won Double Gold at the 2007 New York Wine and Food Classic. Once a dairy farm perched on the steep sloping shores of the lake, Fox Run is one of the area's top wine producers, crafting notable chardonnay and cabernet franc. Their bright, modern tasting room is adjacent to a cozy café that churns out gourmet sandwiches, salads, and assorted cheeses, making this vineyard a perfect lunch spot.

To turn back a page in time, visit Hermann J. Wiemer Winery, owned by German native Hermann Wiemer, who planted 140 acres on the west side of Seneca Lake in the early 1970s. Today, he is among the area's top Riesling producers, making layered, crisp, clean wines from 30-year-old vines. The hedonistic Gewurztraminer and late-harvest wines are golden love in a glass.

On the lighter side, Amberg Wine Cellars pours wines called Pegasus, Red Baron, and Red Panda, made from the uncommon corot noir grape. They also have a neat gallery of local art. For solid cabernet sauvignon and uncommon varietals like Cayuga, Vignoles, and Foch, check out Prejean Winery in Penn Yan. For a fun family winery that produces great wine, visit Arcadian Winery. Its award-winning "Shine on Me" Pear wine, cabernet franc, and merlot all won silver medals at the 2006 Florida State Fair. They also have a fully stocked gift shop brimming with gourmet sauces, salsas, chocolates, cheeses, and munchable snacks that make for great trail food.

Foodies—and those in need of some solid sustenance—will adore Geneva's Red Jacket Orchards. Its fragrant farm store overflows with local cheese, maple syrup, honey, baked goods, seasonal fruits, juices, and cider.

To sober up and ski off the consumption—or to build up a pre-touring appetite, head to Keuka Lake Outlet Trail. Stretching from Seneca Lake to Keuka Lake, it boasts nearly eight miles of undulating, skiable paths that zigzag through deserted mills once used to harness waterpower from the waterway connecting the lakes.

Before hitting the trails (vineyards or woodlands), fuel up at the Penn Yan Diner (315.536.6004) in the town of the same name. The restaurant is housed in a 1925 E.B. Richardson Galon dining car, serving hearty omelets and homemade pies. For a swank place to put your body to rest after all that effort, bed down at Belhurst Castle, a Romanesque castle in Seneca Lake that was built in the late 1800s. With restored original woodwork, furniture, and fixtures, guests can stay in the Carriage House, Butler's Suite, or Tower Suite. Two restaurants—Edgar's dining room, serving upscale fare like escargot, short ribs, fillet mignon, and a deep wine list, and Stonecutter, a buttoned-up leather-chair lounge with appetizers and salads—means you don't even have to leave the property. But if you do, consider Nonna's Trattoria, a local favorite for Italian, and Port's Café in Geneva, which has a lovely lakeside view and an eclectic menu ranging from black-bean-and-steak quesadillas to dry-rubbed Atlantic salmon and penne with house meatballs.

If you're looking for more intimate digs than a castle, consider Trimmer House B & B in Penn Yan, a charming Victorian home with period furnishings, a library, and a music room—and private baths in all rooms. Also in Penn Yan is the Lake B & B, which has five elegant guest rooms and a lush living room/parlor (they also offer cooking classes).

Published: 11 Jan 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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