April 3, 2013

Wining and Dining: Where to Sip in Ithaca

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This spring, as the warming sun returns to Ithaca (hopefully soon) and the daffodils pop up around Cornell’s campus, I hope that you will take some time to discover some of the world-class vineyards and wineries we are so blessed to have right in our own backyard. I have compiled a list of my five favorite wineries, all unique in their own rights that will give you an experience that is quintessential of the Finger Lakes,’ particularly Seneca Lake’s, “terroir.”

Bloomer Creek Vineyard: Hector, N.Y.

Deb Bermingham and Kim Engle create wine “made with a sense of adventure” in their stunningly beautiful yet unassuming lofted barn winery they built with their own hands. Located just off Highway 414 alongside Lake Seneca, Bloomer Creek offers several varieties of wine all with a distinct idiosyncratic style that is delightfully unlike any other Finger Lakes wine I’ve tasted. They produce world-class Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which are definite must-tastes. If you can’t make the adventure, be sure to at least visit Deb at the Ithaca Farmers Market on Saturdays, which is opening back up this weekend (Hallelujah).

Lakewood Vineyards: Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Three things here: breathtaking views, friendly staff and award-winning wines.  Located at the base of Seneca Lake, the family-owned and operated Lakewood Vineyards has been producing several varieties and styles of wine since 1989. While it does produce European varietals like Riesling and Chardonnay, it has opened up its tanks to more native grapes like Concord and Niagara, producing delicious wines of all styles: sweet to dry, dessert to sparkling. I personally recommend the 2010 Candeo, a racy yet elegant sparkling white wine perfect for those days when Champagne is too much and beer is not enough.

Atwater Estate Vineyards: Burdett, N.Y.

A true gem of the Finger Lakes, Atwater Estate Vineyards in located on the South Eastern side of Seneca and produces consistent, clean wines vintage after vintage. It is currently growing its grapes using sustainable practices and participates in The New York Sustainable Viticulture Program, striving to produce wines that are of higher quality but that also better the land. Become part of the community and be sure to try the sparkling 2008 Cuvee Brut, which won double gold in the New York Wine and Food Classic, or any of their other award winning sparkling blends.

Red Newt Cellars: Hector, N.Y.

One word comes to mind when I think Red Newt: local. I can’t help but love the “grown here, made here” approach that Red Newt has in both its wine-making as well as in the food it offers in their bistro. Sit down in the dining room and feast from a seasonal menu offering exceptional cuisine made from ingredients sourced from over 30 local farms and purveyors. Lunch or dinner, be sure to visit Red Newt to experience the true “terroir” on the Finger Lakes via both the glass and the plate.

Hector Wine Company: Hector, N.Y.

The newest on my list, Hector Wine Company is quickly becoming a must-taste on the east side of Seneca Lake. Its motto “wine for the soul” is reflected in both the wine it produces but also the ambiance it creates in the tasting room. Local art as well as designs from viticulturist Jason Hazlitt deck the walls of Hector Wine Company’s tasting room where delightful and engaging staff pours wines made by winemaker Justin Boyette. I recommend experiencing either of the “Soul” labels, blended red and white wines crafted from both European varietal and native grapes. Wine is art that will touch your soul at Hector Wine Company.

Original Author: Austin Buben