This week, I’m writing about my second Finger Lakes trip this year, a wine tasting weekend with my friend Vicki from, the wine event company, Vinocity. Her posts on wine are incredible so be sure to visit her website. I’ve covered the travel and food side of our trip below and Vicki has handled the wine end of things on Vinocity. Click here to read her post. Here’s what we did….
"Deck the Halls" Wine Tasting Weekend
For a number of years, the Seneca Lake Winery Association has been putting on a wine tasting weekend event around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays called “Deck the Halls”. Participants follow the Seneca Lake Wine Trail sampling locally made wines at designated wineries. In addition to wine, each winery offers a food pairing and a decorative ornament.
The Seneca Lake Winery Association website sells tickets as a single or as a couple. At the time of purchase, participants select a starting winery. When you arrive at your starting winery, you receive a grapevine wreath, a recipe booklet of the food pairings served along the trail and the first of many ornaments. While you’re required to select a starting winery, you don’t have to do the trail in a particular order, but wineries are so close to each other that it’s easiest to visit them in order. Since our starting winery was Ravines on the northwest side of Seneca Lake, we went to wineries on the west side of the Lake. The next day, we followed the trail along the Lake’s east side.
What we would have done differently:
We came from the south, so we should have probably chosen a starting winery at the south end of the Lake instead of one at the north end. The upside was that we had an awesome lunch at the Ravinous Kitchen, the casual farm to table eatery inside the tasting room of Ravines. I had roasted Brussel sprouts and chestnuts, while Vicki had roasted squash with leeks. The food was lovely and the weather was spectacular!
This trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s a festive atmosphere, so it’s best to regard it as a fun weekend as opposed to a “serious” wine tasting one. Some of the Deck the Halls participants were even in costume, one wearing a neon green tutu and another sporting a red business suit with snowflakes, presents and Santas on it! There were roughly 36 participating wineries, of which we managed to go to 28. We also went “off script” for two particularly fantastic wineries: Boundary Breaks and Hermann J. Wiemer. (See Vicki’s post). 30 wineries in about 36 hours was a punishing schedule, but we endured for the sake of our wine tasting craft (sigh…). Safety Note: We realized that it would be impossible to consume that much wine and drive so resolved beforehand to spit almost everything.
Many of the food pairings were delicious, ranging from hearty soups and stews to bruschetta. There were also treats like a crazy good rice pudding and a tasty gingerbread cheesecake dip served with spice cookies. We actually skipped lunch one day since we had done so much noshing. Of course, there were some pairings that we were less enthusiastic about, but we chalked it up to “you can’t win ‘em all” and moved on.
The Finger Lakes has a great farm to table movement going on. And while the popularity of this movement may give rise to a bit of “locavore fatigue”, not us! The food was outstanding! In addition to the Ravinous Kitchen at Ravines, we had dinner in Geneva at Ports Café and Kindred Fare, both specializing in locally sourced ingredients.
At Ports, we had beet and arugula salads and sweet potato fries. Of course we saved room for dessert - pecan chocolate torte… Sorry, we forgot to take a photo before we tucked in to it!
At Kindred Fare, as a starter we ordered the bread plate with butternut squash hummus, poblano/cheddar spread and tapenade. Really interesting. We then had French onion soup and a sweet potato gratin as entrees. No dessert tonight. We were stuffed.
Like my last trip, we went for the practical, staying at a nearby Hampton Inn.
How would we rate the weekend?
Overall, totally worthwhile and enjoyable. We agreed that, in some cases, the quality of the wine may still be catching up to the quality of the food, but there are a number of wineries that we look forward to revisiting. So stay tuned……!
Click here to read about Trip 1 to the Finger Lakes, my paddle/pedal weekend.