You've heard of Ithaca, Syracuse, and Rochester. They're home to Cornell and Syracuse Universities, some of the nation's most prestigious schools. And they're known for getting tons of snow when there's a blizzard. But did you know that the region is collectively known as the Finger Lakes?
A four-hour drive from Baltimore and five-hour drive from D.C., the Finger Lakes region is comprised of 11 lakes (10 of which are shaped like fingers, duh!) and 14 counties in central New York. Moreover, did you know that Finger Lakes is the second largest wine region in the United States behind Napa Valley? Yes, you read that correctly. There's 'wine country' right on the East Coast that's so much more accessible for those of us not easily able to get to Napa.
The Finger Lakes has over 130 wineries and 85 breweries in the region with new ones opening each year. The area is known for great Rieslings but many types of wines are produced. In addition to several wineries and breweries, cideries and distilleries are also popping up in the area. Needless to say, if you're into trying various spirited libations and having a good time while doing so, you must visit the Finger Lakes.
I recently went for a weekend visit and did as much as time would allow. Below are my recommendations for places you should consider visiting while you're there:
BULLY HILL VINEYARDS
(8843 GREYTON H. TAYLOR MEMORIAL DRIVE, HAMMONDSPORT, NY 14840)
Bully Hill is a winery (more on it below), but there's a gratuity-free restaurant on the property that's popular with locals and tourists alike. They have a great outdoor patio area with an amazing view of Keuka Lake.
Village Tavern on the Village SquarE
(30 mechanic street, hammondsport, ny 14840)
Village Tavern on the Village Square has great tavern/bar food with sandwiches and burgers, but also a great selection of desserts and appetizers. They also have one of the largest wine and beer menus in the area.
Union Block Italian Bistro
(31 Shethar Street, hammondsport, ny 14840)
Union Block offers excellent Italian fare, but also has an in-house wine grotto. The combination of good food and atmosphere make for a unique visit.
(70 Shethar Street, Hammondsport, NY 14840)
Timberstone is one of the newest additions in Hammondsport, but their menu is a great mix of beef, seafood and pasta. They pride themselves on using locally sourced foods. I highly recommend the Cranberry Tenderloin.
Poppleton Bakery and Cafe
(21 W Market Street, Corning, NY 14830)
Poppleton offers breakfast or lunch options, as well as a great variety of desserts, including crepes and all types of delicious pastries. I suggest heading here for lunch if you're checking out downtown Corning.
(21 W Market Street, Corning, NY 14830)
The Cellar is an upscale restaurant in Corning with very diverse food and cocktail menus. I love that they offer everything from sushi to ramen to steak. There's something here for every hungry palette. I literally tried four dishes and enjoyed them all.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars
(9749 Middle Road, Hammondsport, NY 14840)
Affectionately known as 'Dr. Frank's,' it was one of the first wineries in the region. Dr. Frank immigrated from Ukraine and revolutionized wine-making in the area. Its wines are also highly celebrated, as Dr. Frank's is New York's most award-winning winery over the past 54 years. Here, I learned to roll my wine glass to release the wine's bouquet instead of swirling it. I'll forever use that tip! I loved their 'Dr. Frank Gewürztraminer' wine.
Pleasant Valley Wine Company
(8260 Pleasant Valley Road, Hammondsport, NY 14840)
Pleasant Valley Wine Company is the first bonded winery in the country (meaning it was the first to be taxed) and one of very few wineries in the United States that can make champagne and label it as such. Since its Great Western Champagne won an award in Paris in 1867, it was grandfathered in before the 2006 wine trade agreement signed by France and the U.S., which officially now only allows champagne made in the Champagne region of France to be labeled 'champagne.' In addition to their champagnes, Pleasant Valley is known for their sherry and port wines. I highly recommend taking a tour of this winery to learn more about history of wine-making in the area.
RAVINES WINE CELLARS
(400 BARRACKS ROAD, GENEVA, NY 14456)
Wine & Spirits Magazine named a Ravines Wine Cellars' wine one of the Top 100 for the third time in five years. I didn't have a chance to try any of their wines, but word on the street is that they have very good dry wines.
Bully Hill Vineyards
(8843 Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Drive, Hammondsport, NY 14840)
One of the more lively wineries in the area, Bully Hill is the largest privately owned winery in New York and one of the largest producing wineries in the state. I suggest eating lunch at their restaurant before heading to the fun tasting room. If sweet wines are your thing, you'll definitely find one you love here. 'Love My Goat' and 'Sweet Walter Red' were my favorites. Fun fact: Most of the artwork on their bottles was drawn by their late owner and founder, Walter Taylor.
Keuka Lake Vineyards
(8882 Co Road 76, Hammondsport, NY 14840)
Keuka Lake Vineyards offers a cool juxtaposition to some of the bigger wineries and they're making some excellent wines with hybrid grapes. I wasn't able to get to this vineyard during my trip, but they specialize in drier wines.
*If you're interested in going on the wine trail to check out more wineries in Finger Lakes, click here.
Steuben Brewing Company
(10286 Judson Road, Hammondsport, NY 14840)
Steuben Brewing Company is a family-owned brewery that offers both light and dark beers for everyone on the beer-loving spectrum. The farm brewery recently won the 2016 John Calen Memorial Award for Best Brown Ale in New York State at TAP NY, and also won a Silver Medal for Best Light Lager in New York State. While they don't have an official restaurant, they do offer a few bar foods and food trucks are on-site on weekends. My favorite beer was the 'Golden One' (I'm a light beer drinker!).
Iron Flamingo Brewery
(196 Baker Street, Corning, NY 14830)
Another family-owned brewery, the Iron Flamingo Brewery is the first craft brewery to bottle and distribute beer in Corning. Many of their beers are on tap at several restaurants in the area. They offer various kinds of beer, including the Porter Mocha Coffee, which happened to be my favorite.
*If you're interested in going on the beer trail to check out more breweries in Finger Lakes, click here.
CIDERIES AND DISTILLERIES
Four Fights Distilling
(363 E. Market Street Extension, Corning, NY 14830)
The first distillery in Corning, Four Fights Distilling has been open for about a year. They currently offer tastings at their bar of moonshine, whiskey and vodka. However, I got a sneak peek at new products they're working on so I'm excited for their growth!
Cider Creek Hard Cider
(6459 Cunningham Creek Road, Canisteo, NY 14823)
Cider Creek is known for having excellent natural and gluten-free ciders. While I wasn't able to visit, I love a good cider so I'll definitely check it out during my next trip to the Finger Lakes.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a ton of bed & breakfasts in the area; however, I stayed at the 18 Vine Inn & Carriage House. The owner, Catherine Powell, was very welcoming and probably knows more history about the region than you'll find in any history book. She makes delicious strawberry pancakes too! If B&B's aren't your thing, there's a Best Western being built nearby in Hammondsport. Currently, there's a Staybridge Suites and Radisson Hotel in Corning (which has a great breakfast menu!).
Whether you're in Hammondsport, Corning or another neighboring Finger Lakes town, I guarantee you'll fall in love. I look forward to returning and exploring more of the region one day soon!
Photo Credit: Ashlee Tuck
*While this post was sponsored by Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes, all opinions are absolutely my own.