Saturday, September 23, 2023

A short vacation in the Finger Lakes region of New York state

We usually take a long weekend vacation in mid September; this year we decided to return to the Finger Lakes region on NY state for the first time since my younger daughter graduated form Veterinary School at Cornell University in Ithaca 5 years ago. During the many years that she was there, we became very familiar with the area around Cayuga, and to a lesser degree, Seneca Lakes. The above is the view from the deck of the lake house we rented - almost like looking off the stern of a ship. 

The Finger lakes were formed by glacial action during the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. Seneca lake is especially deep, it holds more water than the rest of the Finger Lakes combined. It is 38 miles long, and 3 miles across at its widest. We stayed on the Western shore of Seneca Lake, technically in the town of Penn Yan, but really closer to Geneva on the map above. The lake is named for the Senca tribe, one of the "Six Nations" of the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee in their own language), the others being the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onandaga, the Cayuga, and later the Tuscarora. 

View off to the South of the Lake house...

and to the North. 

One of threasons we chose this particular place, was that they would allow our three dogs to stay with us. The dogs love the water, and couldn't wait to jump into the lake as soon as they saw it!

Swim Time!

Happy canines!

View of the deck. The house was recently purchased and renovated by a local couple, both teachers. Next to do is siding on the front of the house!

As we were well aware from our previous visits to the area, the Finger lakes are a major wine producing area. NY state ranks 3rd in terms of wine production ihn the US, although California dominates the scene (Washington state is 2nd). We drove up last Thursday; on our way, we stopped at the Miles WEine Cellars on Senca, Lake, which was the fartest up we had gotten previously. It's a sentimental favorite, because my wife's maiden name was Miles. We saw these glasses and couldn't resist them (as well as a case of  various varieties of their wines!).

Sunrise over Seneca Lake Friday morning. Left to right: Annie, Maddie, and Brooke!

The girls went for an early morning swim, and then we headed out to some wineries!

We first went to Seneca Shores Vineyards, just a few miles from our Lake house. It's fairly new. Their wines were OK, but nothing special. It had a medieval theme; bought one bottle of wine, plus a sweatshirt! Less than a mile away, we then visited the Anthony Road Vineyards. Not a very exciting name, but we loved their wines! We were in a bit of a rush, as we had tickets for a Vineyard tour, and wine and food pairing event at the nearby Fox Run winery. 

The "welcome" glass of wine at Fox Run, an unoaked Chardonnay, which they dom especially well in the Finger Lakes. 

Riesling grapes; with a climate and latitude similar to that of Germany, Riesling grapes do especially well in the finger lakes. I am particularly fond of dry or semi dry Rieslings, which  can express an incredible range of flavors. 

Pinot Noir grapes. These are hard to grow well in a Northern climate. In the finger lakes, Cabernet Franc and Lemberger grapes do better, but a great many other varieties of black grapes are grown, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (both of which are descended from Cabernet Franc, Those three are often combined in various ratios to form a Meritage, both in France and in New York. 

View from the upper part of the vineyards down towards the tasting room and Seneca Lake itself. They had just started the first harvesting of grapes the day before. 

Moving through a vineyard in parallel with the vines would be one thing, but across the rows - almost impossible!

The tour was very interesting and educational. We saw the grape harvesting machine in action (only a very small percentage of the grapes are hand picked), the machines for pressing the grapes, the vats for punching down the reds during the time the juice is in contact with the skins, and of course a great many of the stainless steel tanks where most of the wine is fermented, monitored, decanted, etc.

 This is the "barrel Room" portion of the production facility, where wines that are aged in American or French Oak barrels are kept climate controlled while they age. 

The dogs stayed home, but the three of had a fantastic time at this event.  We have bough their wines from their website the past 2 years, but this was our first visit in person. 

Their wines were very good, which we already knew, but the food for the 6 wine pairings was out of this world; some of the best things we've ever eaten, with lots of elaboration by the chef about what made the ingredients special!

 Everything was prepared within the 90 minutes beforehand!

At that point we were pretty wined out, so after a return to the Lake house, the dogs took another swim, and then we all went to the nearby Spotted Duck Creamery (they have ducks on the property, and use the duck eggs in making the ice cream). We had two ice cream "flights" of 4 flavors each, our favorites were a blackberry/raspberry mix, and a Blueberry Lavender; the dogs had the Vanilla!

Tired dogs at end of the day Friday. 

The following day (Saturday, we took the dogs for w alk in the early morning, and then headed off to Keuka Lake, which we had never visited before Keuka Lake is unusual in that it is shaped like a "Y"; it is much shallower than Cayuga and Seneca lakes. 

Our first stop was at the Seneca Springs winery at the Northern end of the lake. A beautiful spot as you can see. We liked their wines a lot (and bought a case of many different varieties!)

We had tickets to "An Austrian Heuringer" at the Dr. Constantin Frank Vineyeards, one of the oldest in New York. We have bought their wines by mail for the past several years, and they have all been excellent, but this was our first visit there in person. We were expecting an event more like the one at Fox Run; this partuicualr one was more like an open Wine and Food party, without much guidance at all. In keeping with the Theme, there were four stations, each based upon a region of Austria, each with unique foods and 2 paired wines. You carried a passport that was stamped at each station for the food, but you could go back for as much wine whenever you wanted. Here's the Styria rgion.

Salzburg Region

Tyrol region.

The final region was Vienna, inside the Chateau, for the deserts!

There was a spring quartet playing outside much of the time. Not bad, but my Jan (a former performance violin major at one point) sniffed, "I could play better". In keeping with the theme, Mozart was the order of the day!

View from the Frank Vineyards down to the Southern end of Keuka Lake (the bottom of the "Y"). 

A trio of somewhat sloshed Andersons!

Driving back home took about 45 minutes, and the dogs knew exactly what they wanted to do!

"Do I have to spell it out for you,. or what?!"

What's for dinner, peeps?!"

The following day (Sunday) we drove down to the Southern end of Seneca lake, Watkins Glenn. On the way we stopped at two more wineries that were within a few miles of where were staying, Torrey Ridge winery (nothing special, although past experience is that may change radically from year to year, and then the Prejean winery where we really liked almost all of their many wines. 

Watkins Glenn - The Spiral Sluiceway

Tourists!  :-)
Note the wine colored sweatshirt with Medieval theme from the Seneca Shores winery!

Cascade cavern

More tourists!

Rainbow Falls

More damned tourist!

Entry cascade; the hole in the rock is where the water of Glenn Creek was once diverted to power a mill. The Glenn has been a tourist attraction since the 1860's.

The Glenn Canyon is 200 feet tall!

Many dramatic sights along the way. 

Most of the rock in the Finger lakes is shale, a fairly soft, sedimentary rock that fractures easily, creating the stepped falls that are liteally everywhere in the region. 

Something different around every bend!

We hiked up to the 1 mile point; the trail goes up another half a mile, but almost all of the 19 falls are along the first mile in. 

This picture gives a better idea of the scale of the Gorge. 

"We would have gone with you, ya know!" Dogs are allowed on the rim trail, but not the gorge trail (which has 800 + stone stairs).
Teddy the Dog and "Lake it Easy" (with apologies to The Eagles). 

Dr. Kristie and Annie.

Dr. Kristie and Brooke. 

So long, Lake. We'll be back!


  1. The Finger Lakes look like a great spot for a long weekend. Wineries are always a lovely way to spend an afternoon, if you have a designated driver. I was hoping for a few Golden Retriever photos and wasn't disappointed.

    1. Thanks, Lawrence. Obviously, one of the attractions of the vacation, aside from the scenery, food, and wines, was that the dogs could come with us and enjoy the lake. Most of the wineries on Cayuga Lake are dog friendly, but less so on Seneca Lake.

  2. Lots of steps there! Looks like you replenished your stash gave the dogs a break from home. Great photos of the gorge.

    1. Yes, LOT of steps, LOL. We could have gone another 0.5 miles to the top of the gorge, but most of the most striking areas are in the first mile. In season, you can take a shuttle bus from the top or bottom of the gorge, or vice versa. Another strategy is to take the rim trial along the top of the gorge, which is inclined but has few stairs, and then take the gorge trail, with its many stairs, DOWN!

  3. Looks like you had a great time with your daughter Peter - vineyards are a common destination in this part of the world, too! The lakes and particularly the walk through the gorge are stunning!

    1. Thanks .Keith. We really had a most wonderful time! Worth the 5 1/2 hour drive to get there!

  4. Looks like you had a fantastic time, and the dogs obviously loved it

    1. It was a great visit, and the weather was fabulous!

  5. Beautiful scenery Peter! I think I'd be in the water like your lovely dogs. But I'd also be up for the wine too!

    1. We've swum in Cayuga lake before; the water temperature in mid September was in the lower 70's, so definitely doable!

  6. Wonderful getaway, Peter! The rock formations are amazing. This is a part of the country I would enjoy visiting.

    1. It's a great rea to visit from May through mid October. I think the hiking around Cayuga Lake is even more impressive (see the Finger Lakes tag for the Buttermilk Falls, Upper and Lower Enfield, and Taughanock Falls state parks there. Great food and wines almost everywhere (farming is the main industry) , and the towns at the ends of the lakes are larger and more interesting to visit. The Ithaca area was key to the development of the US steel industry - coal came from Pennsylvania, Iron Ore from the Great Lakes area and down the Erie Canal. The Bessemer Converter was a key development in steel making, named after Bessemer, NY, very near Ithaca. Going a bit East beyond the Finger lakes will bring you to Lakes George and Champlain, Fort Ticonderoga, etc.

    2. The Museum of Glass in nearby Corning, NY, is fascinating as well!

    3. Do you moonlight on the Tourism Board? All sounds wonderful. I’m convinced!

    4. LOL, no, just spent a lot of time there when Kristie was at Cornell!

  7. Great photos and descriptions! I get so exasperated when people post a series of photos, but give no explanation of what or where they are. So happy you had a wonderful time away and thank you for sharing.

    1. My pleasure; a picture may be "worth 1,000 words", but UI agree, needs some narrative for context, too!

  8. Fantastic photos Peter, the scenery is amazing and your dogs are wonderful. I enjoy wineries and we are spoilt for them in Oz so I 'get' the enjoyment from visiting and enjoying the local cuisine and wine. My favourite winery is this:

  9. Thanks, Chris. We'll have to keep that in mind if we ever visit Australia! :-)