One of the notable stops in the Finger Lakes is Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. Dr. Frank arrived to the States from Ukraine in 1951 with a doctorate in viticulture – the science, production, and study of grapes – I found this bit particularly interesting. Over the years Frank invested his life into understanding grape growing in cold climates revolutionizing the winemaking industry in the United States particularly when it comes to Vinifera grapes. What this tiny bit of history means for you is that this winery offers a unique grape selection that come together into interesting wines such as Georgrian Rkatsitelli and Saperavi.
The winery is situated in a fantastic location overlooking the lake directly from the tasting deck, a wonderful place to spend a couple hours eating cheese and drinking wine.
Keuka Lake Vineyards on the contrary, is an artisanal boutique winery producing dry European-style wines specializing in premium Rieslings and Vignoles – naturally inspired by the findings of Konstantin Frank. Keuka Lake is a farm winery that focuses on making small batch vintages consistently rated at 90 in notable wine publications. Having arrived near closing the tasting room was nearly empty, we had just missed the rush, which gave us time and space to taste the full line up of offerings. Add another bottle to the journey back.
To mix things up our next stop was the Steuben Brewing Company. Being a farm brewery Steuben are required to use 30% local hops, a number which grows each year which can only strengthen their position within the community. The tasting room was filled with relaxed visitors sipping on their Brown Ales and exchanging friendly banter. On weekends the room fills with live music while people line up to get a snack from a food truck outside. This tasting room is by definition a local bar, which the owners are working on expending to accommodate more people for these casual yet upbeat evenings.
Somewhere at this point I begun to realize that operating a beer store in Upstate New York might be a challenge – unlike in Toronto (or some places in BC) where craft beer choices are a sign of a hipster lifestyle here everyone’s choice of shopping seems to be crispy fresh beer purchased directly from the brewery – drink a pint, re-fill your growler on the way out, repeat the steps on Monday. This casualty and simplicity makes me reconsider my downtown lifestyle. And the heels I packed for this trip.
In the center of Hammondsport is a Village square where people come to eat, read, drink and shop. A popular dinner spot is Union Block Italian Bistro – not only because I was told so but because we ran into half of the people we met throughout the day and ended up having drinks with the winemakers at the lower bar where live music sets the mood. The food is farm to table, like most places in the region. Cicchetti, small sharable appetizers, came strongly recommended – choose your own or order the favorites.
The town is not your typical tourist destination so hotels are sparse which makes a newly built Best Western Plus The Hammondsport Hotel a popular place. Situated at the southern tip of Keuka Lake the hotel is spacious, with surprisingly tall sealing and in addition to the standard amenities also has an indoor pool and outdoor fire pits. Slept like a child, woke up to the rising sun over a colorful fall park, a wonderful way to spend the night.
This story is a part of a weekend-long 4-part story: A weekend in the Finger Lakes.
To see the adventure through Instagram look up #XOFingerLakes. Black and white photo: Dr. Konstantin Frank, courtesy of The Vinifera Wine Cellars.