Wine Travel – Finger Lakes and the Canandaigua Wine Trail

Situated in west central New York, the Finger Lakes region is an ideal destination for anyone.  Families, couples, senior citizens, and college kids will all feel at home here.  It’s a four season area with numerous outdoor activities and a natural bounty derived from a delightful mix of elements.

The Finger Lakes themselves are a phenomenon.  They are actually glacial lakes, formed thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers which carved the earth.  Looking at a map, the lakes look like fingers – long and narrow, stretching from north to south.  There are 11 in the region by our count, with the two largest, Cayuga and Seneca, forming the centerpiece.

The region is filled with valleys, rolling hills, and spectacular scenery, especially in autumn.  Charming small towns abound, and there’s a sense of artistry here, perhaps inspired by the surroundings.  To pinch a phrase from the Finger Lakes Visitor’s Guide, it’s a scenic partnership of Napa Valley and Scotland here.  I’ll take their word for it, but if Scotland is half as pretty as the Finger Lakes, I’d like to go tomorrow!

It’s easy to get to the Finger Lakes region, which is situated just south of the New York State Thruway (I-90).  You’re about a 90 minute drive from either Rochester or Syracuse, two underrated cities that warrant a visit.

Canandaigua Wine Trail

Canandaigua is a real slice of Americana, with an historic downtown and all sorts of unique places to visit.  Our first eagerly anticipated stop was the New York Wine and Culinary Center, on Main Street in Canandaigua.

The NYWCC is a perfect place to get acquainted with New York wine and food.  The emphasis here is to educate visitors about New York’s rich wine, food, and culinary traditions.  You can take a class here, enjoy a wine dinner, learn what a sommelier does, and much more.  There’s an educational theater and a hands on kitchen where you can create your own masterpiece.  Also, don’t miss the New York Garden located outside the building.  Depending on the season, you might find grapes ready to pick, apples, tomatoes, or any number of other native crops.

Wilhelmus Estate Winery

Open since 2007, Wilhelmus Estate Winery is the pride of Buon and Karen Keunen, who named the winery after Buon’s father.  We loved their Cayuga White, a light, fruity white offering.  Even better in our estimation was the Free Run Traminette.  “Free run” is a term used to describe the situation when the grape picking process ruptures the skin of some of the grapes.  The juice from those grapes collects in the transport containers, resulting in a high concentration of sugars, fruit esters, and tannins.  We particularly enjoyed the spiciness of this wine, and thought it would be a superb companion for a pork dish or a stir fry.

Just a general comment about these Finger Lakes wineries … each of them offers unbelieveable scenery.  A better word is stunning. It’s like Mother Nature’s best here, with fresh clean air and valleys cascading down to the lakes.  The soil is rich, the climate invigorating.  You really need to experience this area to truly feel all it offers to your senses.

Finger Lakes Wineries In Naples

At the extreme southern end of Canandaigua Lake, you’ll find the charming village of Naples and the Arbor Hill Grapery and Winery. Arbor Hill is about an inviting a place as can be.  The main building looks kind of like a country cottage, white clapboard with a big sign above the awning. 

Once inside, it becomes even more inviting.  There’s a beautiful gift shop where you can peruse all sorts of Finger Lakes specialty products, from grape pies to apparel to housewares.  But the star here is the wine.

Our first taste was one of Arbor Hill’s newer wines, the Vergenne.  We hadn’t heard of this style before, and it’s reminiscent of a Riesling in some ways, especially the crisp finish.  We learned this wine is made with a grape that’s part Lambrusco, so essentially this is a white wine made with a red grape.  A new one on us, but decidedly tasty!  And at less than $11 a bottle, it’s a best buy.

Another variety we’d never tried before was Arbor Hill’s Sparkling Chardonnay.  Dry like a Chardonnay but effervescent like a good sparkling wine, it’s a perfect match of two styles.

We absolutely loved Onnalinda White, a mix of Cayuga White, Traminette, and Vidal.  We expected this to be sweet, but it’s only mildly so, an easy drinker that joined us for our trip home.

Imagine Moore and Widmer

With a unique name and a gorgeous setting, Imagine Moore Winery was next on our list.  They are housed in a restored barn that dates back to Civil War times, with a panoramic view of Naples Valley from the wrap around deck. We even encountered a few olive trees just off the patio. 

Here’s where you should come to buy a great dry Riesling.  The name, Joy, fits perfectly.  The mix of fruit flavors and aromas is everything a Riesling should be.  Of all the wines at Imagine Moore, don’t miss this one.

Since we’re always searching for wisdom, we felt compelled to try Imagine Moore’s Cabernet Franc.  Its name is really Wisdom.  And it was a smart choice indeed, a tasty, complex, fruit forward wine that we felt would pair well with pasta dishes.  P.S. – it does!

This was an ideal spot for a bit of afternoon relaxing.  Words don’t do the setting justice.  The air is fragrant and fresh, with a warm valley breeze.  We immediately knew why so many things grow here, as it seems this area is blessed with all the natural resources required.  Also of note, Imagine Moore partners with the Brown Hound Bistro for wine tasting dinners and events.  We didn’t make one, but we can’t fathom how you’d go wrong.  

Last but certainly not least on our day trip to Naples was a visit to Widmer Wine Cellars.  Widmer is one of the largest and most successful wineries in the United States.  You may be aware of the Manischewitz brand – it’s produced here. 

We highly recommend a tour of this bustling, modern facility.  It’s about 45 minutes in length, and you’ll see everything.  Of course, you’ll end up in the tasting room and gift shop!  When you’re here, try Widmer’s Lake Niagara Harvest Blush, an easy sipper you’ll want to take to your next picnic.  The gift shop is equally appealing, with shelves stacked with wine gifts, jellies, juices, and gourmet treats.

Final Thoughts

New York’s Finger Lakes area is an ideal destination for wine travel lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and artisans.  There’s a little something for everyone here, including spectacular scenery and a peaceful, relaxed pace.  Whether it’s a family vacation or just a weekend getaway, you’re sure to find the Finger Lakes a welcoming travel destination.

Travel Journals – Take Your Imagination on Vacation

Travel journals are supposed to be fun. We use them to capture our travel experiences on paper, so we never forget our journeys to places around the globe.

Are you and your travel journal getting along? Are you bored with it? Perhaps when you got home after a long trip, you fell out of love with your faithful companion. Now facing another trip, you are tempted to leave the trip diary at home.

This is a simple case of writer’s block. Writers experience boredom all the time. It is so common, that there are hundreds thousands of books and exercises that writers use to get themselves back on track.

If you are looking for ways to spice up your travel journal, here are some ideas.

Get a new trip journal. Select one that feels good. Does it bring you pleasure? Is the cover pleasing? Run your fingers along the pages. Do they have the right texture and weight? Does the journal fit you?

Pack your favorite pen. Write in your journal before you leave home to make sure the pen feels good on the pages. Bring a spare pen.

Show, don’t tell. It’s perfectly fine to say, “Today I saw the Eiffel Tower.” If you want to spice it up a bit, try something like this, “A sparkling blue sky shined through the lattice of the Eiffel Tower.”

Use your senses. We tend to write what we see, such as “saw the Washington Monument.” What we hear is the next most frequently used sense. If you were kept awake by a barking dog or a clanging elevator, write that down. Food is a big part of travel, so describe new taste sensations.

Touch and smell are often overlooked. When you held a local craft, what did it feel like? What did the air smell like? Smell is especially important because our memories are easily triggered by odor-even if we are just remembering the scent.

Describe your feelings. The world is filled with amazing sites. When you see something, how does it make you feel? Jot down your emotions. Record them even if you are disappointed. Perhaps you were looking forward to seeing the Liberty Bell, but someone stepped on your foot.

Play with words. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote a story using only six words: “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Although there is no proof that this notion came from Hemmingway, the six-word memoir is now popular. Try writing a six-word memoir every day you travel or one summarizing the entire trip.

Try stream of consciousness. This is when you write down anything that pops into your head. Do not censor anything as this clogs the process. Imagine looking at the Statue of Liberty. Write down anything that comes to mind, for instance, “green, big, windy, postcard, people from all over the world.” Without writing a complete sentence, you can capture the moment.

Make a gratitude list. If you are not sure about what to write, keep a gratitude list in your travel journal. By listing those things for which you are thankful, you focus on the highlights of the trip. Moreover, gratitude helps us maintain our perspective.

Travel journals are more than precious keepsakes. They add depth to our journeys and help us to see the world with new eyes. Have fun with your trip diary. Once the creative juices are flowing again, it is like falling in love.

Yarra Valley: Melbourne’s Sweet And Sparkling Sensation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when Melbourne is mentioned? FOOD! Yes, this Victorian City is screaming restaurants as its offers the best food choices with the ambiance of your choice from European to Asian. In accordance to enjoyment of the best food choices, indulge into the best wine in all variety there is.

In the outer suburbs of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley which is the wine region that can be visited and explored in a one day wine tour. Included in the list of its famous wines are Chardonnay’s, Shiraz and Cabernets, Bianchet, and Mas Serrat to name a few. In order to experience the Yarra Valley Wine at its finest and understand how it came to be, plan a wine tour. Throughout the day, you’ll be guided by a real wine expert, experience cellar door tasting at Yering Station, Yering Farm, and Rochford Wines.

As you immersed yourself to one of the world’s primary grape-growing region, you’ll feel like you’re in the setting of the movie “A Walk in the Clouds”. Yarra Valley has Victoria’s earliest vineyards. The earliest being planted at Yering Station in 1838 and has spread rapidly until the 1870’s. There was a period of which dairy products became the primary focus so the wine production ceased in 1921. However, it regained its importance and replanting began in the late 1960’s. At present, the Yarra Valley is recognized by the world as a primary producer of world class wines in all varieties. It offers sparkling wines at its finest.

Imagine yourself learning from the experts of wines and the art of wine tasting with one of the world’s prominent producers of best wines. You can pick your preferred glass of wine and bring it to lunch and dine in a restaurant surrounded by the glorious valley with rolling hills nurtured by the Yarra River. That is what I call a learning experience in classic relaxation.

Have you ever thought about what makes a wine sparkle? And to top it off, how come aged wine tastes better? In Australia, winemakers aim to pick their grapes at 17 to 20 degrees brix in order to avoid high sugar levels. High sugar levels in grapes more often than not produces still wines as opposed to decreased levels of sugars. As the fermentation process ensues, the bubbles are produced by the amount of the carbon gas that the process creates. This actually causes weak glass bottles to burst even prior to opening. Also this carbonic gas makes that cork-popping a fun moment when opening a bottle of wine for celebration.

In the subject of aging wines, aged-wine tastes better only if it has that balance of grape tannins, acidity, and fruit. In other words, not all aged-wines taste better, but if a wine has the perfect combination of components, the process of aging makes it bolder and richer in taste, flavor, and scent. This basically creates the notion that aged-wine has the upper hand of the younger one. So the next time you were offered a wine, you’ll know what to choose after the wonderful Yarra Valley tour!