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. 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!
Just a general comment about these Finger Lakes wineries ... each of them offers unbelievable 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.
Canandaigua Wine Trail
The town of Canandaigua is a real slice of Americana, with an historic downtown and all sorts of unique places to visit. Our first 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.
There are multiple wineries to visit. We managed to hit 2 very good ones.
Arbor Hill Grapery and Winery
At the extreme southern end of Canandaigua Lake, you'll find the 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. 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.
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.
Inspire Moore Winery
With a unique name and a gorgeous setting, Inspire 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!