Wine Tasting – Finger Lakes Area NY

RATING: ♦♦♦♦

The Finger Lakes is a group of 11 long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in Central Upstate New York. This region is a popular tourist destination, as well as a major wine growing area, rivaling the Napa Valley in California.

According to Wikipedia, “Because of the lakes’ great depth, they provide a lake effect to the lush vineyards that flank their shores. Retaining residual summer warmth in the winter, and winter’s cold in the spring, the grapes are protected from disastrous spring frost during shoot growth, and early frost before the harvest. The main grape varieties grown are Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc, Vidal blanc, Seyval blanc, and many Vitis labrusca (American native) varieties or cultivars.”

Over 100 wineries and vineyards are located around Seneca, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Keuka, Conesus, and Hemlock Lakes. Numerous wineries are open to visitors. Wineries are a growth industry of the region, contributing through their production and by attracting visitors. We only visited two of them: Bully Hill and Pleasant Valley.

Bully Hill was especially nice and included a free tour. We had yummy lunch on their spectacular deck. Pleasant Valley gets honorable mention because the wine tasting was free. Bully Hill charged $1.00 a sip.

Interestingly, we found out from our guide that these two wineries had a complicated history. The site of Bully Hill was originally owned by the Taylor Wine Company, and was started back in 1860 by the Taylor family. They moved their operation to the site of Pleasant Valley in 1920. In the 1950s, the company become publicly traded on the NYSE. In 1970, some members of the Taylor family left their positions at the Taylor Wine Company and started their own winery at the original site on Bully Hill.

In 1977, Taylor Wine Company was taken over by Coca Cola, and sued the Taylor family at Bully Hill for trademark infringement for mentioning the Taylor family name on the label. The Taylor family lost their legal struggle against Coke, but won the battle for public opinion. Coke eventually sold the company to Seagram, which sold it to others. Today, the Taylor Wine Company is no longer in business, though the Pleasant Valley Winery continues under different ownership.

We also visited the town of Watkins Glen, which is on Seneca Lake. We had planned to visit the state park. However, it was not accessible when we arrived because the town of Watkins Glen was having a Vintage Grand Prix auto race. Traffic was nuts. We planned to return later in the week to hike into the park, but the weather didn’t cooperate. A major disappointment.

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