Love, Marriage, and Wine

Food & Wine, Tours & Attractions, United States — By on November 18, 2008 at 11:25 pm

green grapes wineMy sister, Sara, got married last month. Rather than celebrate her dwindling days as a single woman by hiring a cheesy stripper to perform (why pay for something when a woman can get it for free? Ha!), or going on a beer-fueled pub crawl, we opted to do a wine tour through upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region.Dozens of wineries dot the shores along Seneca, Cayuga, and Keuka Lakes. Plus, the climate is perfect for growing grapes that churn out crisp Reisling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

We loaded ten women into a limo that picked us up at my sister’s house in Syracuse for the tour through Seneca Lake. A cooler packed with beers, cheese, crackers, and other snacks provided sustenance for the 50-minute ride to the trail. Sara may have been spared the lap dances, but her caring friends still forced her to wear a tiara that said “Bachelorette” and to sip wine out of a phallic sippy cup.

Fingerlakes vineyardsWith over 36 wineries to choose from, we decided to not be overly-ambitious (for Sara’s livers’ sake) and chose to visit just four. We kicked off the tour at Hazlitt’s, started in 1852 and best-known for their Red Cat brand, and plopped down at a picnic table to split a bottle of Bramble Berry wine (I’d recommend only if you like sweet dessert wines).

BacheloretteNext we headed to spot perfect for Jerry Garcia fans: Rasta Ranch Vineyards. Here we sampled the Greatful Red (dry, berry finish); Piece of my Heart (described as “a jug Janice would be proud to drink”); and Purple Haze (a light, fruity red). You can pretty much guess the ambience: Joplin music in the background, tie-dye tees for sale, and burning incense.

Next was Wagner’s, which all you beer lovers will be happy to know is both a winery and brewery. Being Columbus Day weekend, the lines were out the door-I’d definitely recommend making reservations for this popular vineyard. There’s a restaurant onsite, and you can take your wine selection to the patio for panoramic views of the vineyards and lake.

Bachelorette PartyOur final destination was Three Brothers Wineries & Estates, which only recently opened. With three wineries to choose from, we of course picked the one touted as being “for those who have a lot more fun in a dive bar.” So we followed a dirt trail to the edge of a pond for the “backwoods bayou tasting room” known as Rogue’s Hollow Winery. Upon arrival, Sara was thrilled to discover that her tiara-wearing self wasn’t the only form of live entertainment: Our group ended up getting the dance party started outdoors while listening to the two-man band (well, a man and his talented 10-year old son who was playing the harmonica, trumpet, and a handful of other instruments).

While autumn is the perfect time to visit because of the leaves turning blazing shades of red, yellow, and orange, winter is a fine time to come as well. You’ll miss the crowds and have a better opportunity to learn about the winemaking process, since the owners won’t be as crazed. Plus, you can sample vino on the cheap with the , which allows you to pay $10 for unlimited visits to dozens of wineries from December 8th to April 13th (tasting fees at each are usually $1 to $4). To really enjoy yourself and not have to worry about driving or planning, try signing up for a Finger Lakes Wine Tour.

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