I've been to napa valley before, several years ago. It's more famous, you'll see more brands you recognized, you can go on more education tours and get sucked into the mega wineries like Mondavi or Beringers. And I'm sure there's an "off the beaten path" way of touring napa. But north of Watkins Glen, everything feels off the beaten path. And the wines were excellent! And the tastings were cheap - like $2-4 and they were totally okay letting marc and I split a tasting, happens all the time, so I'd just have a few sips. Of course even sipping, by winery 4 or 5 I was kinda done.
Yes I know that you can spit the wine out at tastings but I feel abomination-y about that.
First, we stayed at the Savannah House Inn, a little inn about 15 minutes north of Watkins Glen that we got a good deal on. Definitely a place I'd go back to though even if it's not the best deal next time because it was adorable. The owners are really nice and will get you anything you need - corkscrews and wine glasses, in our case, they were like "well of COURSE we have those". And they have wood stacked up for a fire pit so every night all the guests build a campfire and hang out and you get to hear about everybody's adventures and travel tips. Or you can just shut into your room, but you can do that at any hotel, I loved the bonus conversation and quiet night air.
And unlike Kansas - no mosquitoes! maybe they come out later in the summer? but hell, where we live we can't even sit outside right now.
On recommendation from the locals, we woke up in the morning and took a long hike through Watkin's Glen State Park. There's an amazing gorge with trails on either side. They recommended hiking boots, but I don't like wearing shoes on vacation so I did it in flip flops and bare feet and it was just fine. And beautiful.
it was funny, since the trails kinda loop around, we ran into some groups of people twice and recognized each other. THEN we ran into them again at the wineries! And joked about burning all those calories in the morning so of course you gotta replenish in the afternoon...
Let me first say that I am a dry wine person, generally speaking. I don't see the point of sweet wines. Might as well be drinking koolaid there, all you taste is sugar and nothing else complex or interesting. So when I went wine tasting I'd always ask for the dry wines and some of them are a tiny bit sweet and that's okay. Here's what was good in the region:
Cabernet Franc - it's a lighter cabernet, mostly because the grapes in that region haven't all had 30+ years to mature so the reds aren't as rich and complicated. Which for me is a shame, I like in-your-face, peppery merlot, and there wasn't great merlot here. But cab franc was a kind I hadn't even tried before, it was light but not too sweet and wouldn't overpower food.
Dry Riesling - The finger lakes are at the same latitude as germany, so there's a lot of similarity in what they make. The Rieslings we had were excellent, especially at Hermann Wiemer - we ordered a case. Also when we got back to Wichita we found that our local stores carried dr konstantin frank so now we've got a locally available go-to for memories!
Gewurztraminer - forget spelling it. But it's a fantastic white that I'd never tried before, again not too sweet, smells very good and isn't it nice to have something different at a tasting?
Ice Wine - I've had this before, it's very special, expensive stuff. There's only a few places in the world that make it because the grapes are harvested after they freeze... germany, canada, and in the US it has to be made in the finger lakes region we were at. The wineries that had it charged extra on top of your tasting for it, like $1-3 for a teeny tiny glass, but it's so rare it's worth it.
And yes I said I didn't like sweet wines but a bit for desert doesn't count.
Anyway, this region is fantastic, we didn't get to NEARLY enough wineries, you could spend days there. But a few was enough to make us feel happy, educated, and for me, pretty drunk.
look here in the background, there's grapevines, just to prove it! and everything else that's beautiful: