Joey, Tom and I did a little prep for our up and coming California wine tour while we were in New York State. Did you know that Keuka Lake as well as Seneca Lake are home to two beautiful wine trails in this great state? This stop was officially surprise number one for this traveler! I can already hear the sharp taken-aback gasps from some of you- I am young with little money to spend and less knowledge about wine so let me apologize for my ignorance and we’ll progress on with the story.
I woke up at Bill’s house to Joey coming in the bedroom door saying something about pancakes. The wafting smell of crispy bacon pushed past him and I was up and on my way downstairs before I knew it. Thanks Mrs. Bustin! All the food you made us was amazing!
The weather was on the chilly side and it was supposed to rain any minute so we decided to nix Joey’s idea of getting onto Lake Ontario by way of any boat that would take us. Instead we opted to make our way toward Rochester by driving to some of the wineries on the Keuka Wine Trail. The scenery on the way up to each of the wineries was breath taking. The wineries are not too far from each other and most were high up on a hill looking down on perfectly lined rows of wooden stakes and an amazing expanse of trees beyond that. Inside each winery there were large windows so that the scenery could be drunk up as eagerly as the wine and each had a friendly bartender who told us interesting facts about the different selections they were pouring us (for instance what we would smell, what subtle flavors we would taste and what stronger tastes would linger in certain parts of the tongue).
Stop one for our official day of tasting was at Pleasant Valley Wine Company. We pulled in because of the name and got out of the car to the sight of a beautifully manicured front walk. We headed in the large wooden doors and were met by an employee who told us to guide ourselves around the museum and then head to the free tasting bar. The museum occupied half of a dimly lit room and the tasting bar was on the other side with two or three bartenders at the ready. We made our way around the museum and looked into the glass cases which held various metals and bottles, then headed to the bar side of the room. We were given a choice of five from a long list which broke the types down by red or white and sweet or dry (as each of the wineries did). I tried their Sparkling Burgundy, The MILLENNIUM Brut Champagne, Chardonnay, Seneca Harbor Foundry White, and finished with the Rose Petal Riesling. The bartender provided me with a useful bit of information regarding the wine list. Since I know little about wine as it is, it was cool to begin my education during an impromptu winery tour. What I learned is that the R.S. percentage on the side of the bottle is there to indicate how much residual sugar is in the wine. The more sugar, the sweeter the wine. I really enjoy dry wines and now I know how to tell by looking at the bottle if I’ll enjoy it. I especially enjoyed the Chardonnay here and made a mental note as we headed off toward our second stop, the Bully Hill Vineyards.
Right away when we walked into the Bully Hill Vineyards we knew this place had a different style than the last. The room was bright and there was a happily chatty bartender at the long bar in the middle of the room. He handed me a brochure which he had unfolded all the way to show a colorful display of the wines you could taste. This winery poured you what they chose so we stood by and listened to his fast paced schpiel about what wine was first and what we should look for while tasting it.
We tried the Chardonel which is made from a grape that was developed by Cornell University- our second taste of a grape strain developed by Cornell and our second type of grape! I wrote down that it was very good- it left a refreshing clean dry feeling in your mouth after a sip. Second up was a Cabernet Franc which I had tried the day before as well. I know I like Cabernet Sauvignon but up until yesterday I had never heard of any other kind of Cabernet- now with this new introduction I’ll feel like a pro the next time I go to pick out a bottle of wine.
Third up on the list was the Farmer’s Market Rose which the bartender told us was a good base for barbeque sauce. How weird I thought to myself, but tried it and it was pretty good; it was a dry red. After this tasting we tried Traminette which was a sweet white I had never heard of before. Tom enjoyed this one and the bartender cracked a joke about this being their “yes!” wine meaning after your date drinks a glass of this white you’ll be saying “yes!” because it makes the magic happen. After this pour the bartender’s father joined him behind the bar and the two began a hilarious routine. Sometimes they spoke congruently and sometimes listening to them was like watching a ping pong match; they bounced back and forth one speaking then the next huge smiles on their faces the whole time. After the general sillyness got a little less silly we were given two more pours, the Banty Red and the Sweet Walter Rose- Tom enjoyed these sweet finales most and after saying our goodbyes to the bartender and the other wine tasters we headed on down the road.
Stop number three on our tasting tour was at Heron Hill. Now, some of you (mom) may be wondering “who was driving during all of this drinking?” Good question. We here at America in 100 Days take our safety seriously as well as the law. On top of each bar counter there were black buckets with interesting lids. The lid covered the top of the bucket, but there was a down slope to the middle and a drain in the center. Joey, our day’s designated driver, chose to spit the wine rather than swallow it (there’s a joke in here somewhere, but I’m a lady) and so we were safe responsible drivers thanks entirely to Mr. Salvucci Jr.
So at stop number three Joey followed his two happy tripmates up another beautifully manicured walk to the Heron Hill Winery. The view from the tasting room was incredible even though they were having work done on the ground right near the building. This winery seemed like it was at the very top of the hill looking down the gentle slopes at everyone else. It was quiet, we were the only visitors while we were here, but the bartender struck up a conversation with us about our trip and mentioned that he and his dad did similar vacations on motorcycles. We asked if he and the other bartenders went out together and he said they did meet up here and there but what’s most fun is when someone turns 21. They rent a limo and drive around to the different wineries with their friends. There’s a ringing endorsement for this area- that sounds pretty nice!
Here, at Heron Hill, we were given a list of what we would try but there were others on the list we could request as well if we wanted to try them instead. Since I was pretty sure I hate sweet wines and love dry wines my glass was five times full with dry wines. I tried the Eclipse White which the bartender told me would pair well with spicy foods. Next I tried the Classic Chardonnay Unoaked followed by the Game Bird Blush which was made up of a Cab Franc and a Riesling. Forth I tried the Eclipse Red then the Game Bird Red (notice a pattern?) and finished it all off with the Classic Cabernet Franc. After we were done here we skipped off down the hill and made our way to stop four- Dr. Konstantin Frank Wines. This place was kind of weird when compared to the others. As we walked up the road to the door I was busy taking pictures of flowers, expecting I could walk around the corner where the boys had just disappeared and walk into the winery. When I rounded the corner both boys were standing outside, Tom’s hands were on his hips. We were supposed to stand outside until we were called and Tom was pretty sure we had been waiting long enough to consider leaving for the next place. A quiet blonde man opened the door and led us to a bar where he poured us our five sips without much conversation or description and after that we headed on our merry way.Stop five for us was down a dirt path which led us to a dirt parking lot facing an old barn. This was the Stever Hill Winery. We got out sort of looking around for any indication of anyone who worked there and then tried the door. It was locked so we decided this winery wasn’t open today but as we turned to get back in the car a small boy came running out of the house across from the barn.
“My dad’s coming right out if y’all want to wait.” He peered at us from behind his large glasses and from under his camouflage hat which sat high on his forehead. We nodded and thanked him and he scampered off to tell his dad we were staying for taste of the family wine. A man came out of the house after the boy and opened the barn door for us after a quick nod of salutation.
He got behind the bar, gave us each a piece of paper and had us mark down which five wines we wanted to try. I picked the Chardonnay- No Oak, the Colonial White, the Cooper’s Pink, the Cabernet Franc and the Merlot. Tom enjoyed the Colonial White which was a sweeter white, and we decided to buy a bottle for our campsite later that night.
We resolved to swing by one more winery so we piled back in the car and Joey took us further down the road to stop six- Hunt Country Vineyards. The bar room here was the brightest of any we had been in yet, but that just may have been a result of the sun setting and beaming its final rays right inside the window frame. The bartender here was professional and friendly; we each marked a paper with our five choices and she didn’t let our glass stay empty long. I had a red called Meritage here which we had tried at Glenora Wine Cellars the day before and had liked so much there that we bought Joey’s dad a bottle for Father’s Day, so needless to say I enjoyed it again. I also enjoyed their Pinot Gris which I believe is my first glass of Pinot Gris and I loved their Chardonnay. All in all it was a delicious day for the three of us and we all remarked as we were leaving how much more educated we were on which wines we can appreciate. We’re ready for you now, Napa and Sonoma!
Until next time America.