I’ll give any region which is known for wine a fair chance and, if the wine in good enough, I’ll likely look past all its flaws and sip my way into happiness. Thankfully, when it comes to the Finger Lakes Wine Region, that’s neither a reality, nor a necessity. In the Finger Lakes, I wasn’t sipping on wine in order to contend with its many issues, I was sipping to celebrate its quaint beauty.
The Finger Lakes Wine Region at large has to be one of America’s best kept secrets, and do you know what the best way to ruin a secret is? Invite the world’s top travel bloggers! In all seriousness, the Finger Lakes is the real deal, and Corning is about to host a special TBEX.
I was in the Finger Lakes just weeks ago to scout out what’s on offer, and I want to tell you why, even though I was just there, I absolutely cannot wait to get back. September cannot come soon enough, dear friends.
My Goodness, the Wine
You knew I was going to start with this, right? I want clarify that I’m not suggesting this wine is “pretty good, considering,” I’m adamantly stating that the wine from this region holds its own by any standard. Believe me, I put in my due diligence while in the Finger Lakes, as I’ve visited nearly a dozen wineries and vineyards in the region.
When I’m back in the Finger Lakes, I’ll be looking to retrace my steps just a touch, or, at the very least, find several wines to accompany me to my Corning accommodations. The Keuka Springs Vineyards are outstanding, and their 2016 Lemberger still makes my heart beat a touch faster when it comes to mind. The McGregor Vineyard is the picture of class, and, if you go, you need to try the 2014 Black Russian Red. There are so many wineries that deserve a visit, but, if you’ve got the time, I’d also stop-by the Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, as you’ve got good wine, incredible views, and a history worth learning about. You’ll also do right by Hunt County Vineyards!
It feels criminal to leave out so many other deserving options, but take this as your starting point. If you do get your hands on that Black Russian Red, all I ask is that you try to find me at the conference before you indulge, regardless of the time.
The Heavenly Small Towns
Like your newborn cousin, these towns are absolutely adorable. The main street of Corning, part of the Gaffer District, is a playground of restaurants, shops, and so much more, which makes spending time there a breeze and genuine pleasure. It’s picturesque, idyllic, and all kinds of Instagram friendly.
Thankfully, it’s not the only town in the region that will peak your camera’s (or phone’s) interest. Watkins Glen, and more specifically Watkins Glen State Park, offer a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Serene lakes, cascading waterfalls and, of course, wine, are just the tip of the iceberg. If, for some strange region, these two towns don’t do it for you, head on over to Seneca Falls, Ithaca, or Skaneateles, and if those places don’t cut it for you either, then there’s just no helping you.
The Delicious Cuisine
It’s not altogether unsurprising that regions that understand how to grow wine also tend to know how to grow and cultivate quality food. While in the Finger Lakes, I happily indulged in what was on offer, and wasn’t upset at all to, eventually, have to go one notch further back on my trusty belt. If you, like me, are willing to place your lofty fitness goals on hold for a moment and dive in, I know just where to send you.
For starters, you’re not going to do better than Hand + Foot. This restaurant has a neighbourhood feel, but a menu that holds its own worldwide, and I’m not being facetious. Poppleton Bakery & Cafe, also in Corning, offers a mean breakfast to help you start your day off right. Outside of Corning, Veraisons Restaurant is a touch fancier, but the sunset alone is worth the price tag, and the food will certainly not disappoint.
The People and Sense of Community
It’s easy during TBEX to get caught up in the learning, networking, and, perhaps a beverage or two, and forget about the fact that we’re guests in a community. While in the Finger Lakes, I met some of the kindest, most gracious people around. The wineries are thriving now, but they all had their share of tough times and strife, and the stories that I heard are those of perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and drive.
At the restaurants, bakeries, shops and museums, the people I met showed an investment in their local history that proved to me without a doubt that these stories are worth hearing, and, more importantly, worth celebrating. When you come to TBEX North America 2018, remember that we’re being welcomed by a community and, if you’ve got the right attitude, you can be sure that you’ll feel their welcome – like the warm blanket you never knew you needed.
It’s Something Different
Like so many people who will be coming to this conference, I’ve been blessed to travel a fair portion of this globe. Yet, I can promise you’ve never been anywhere like the Finger Lakes. There’s a distinct culture and way of life here that is worth appreciating, and I can’t wait to get back and do just that.
I remember one moment, I took a schooner out on Seneca Lake as the sun was setting. We had ample wine on board, and enough grapes and cheese to please a monarch. Time seemed to flow with the waves, and, for the life of me, I couldn’t shake the smile from my stubborn lips.
The Finger Lakes is a location, but it’s also an experience that’s worth immersing yourself in. Arrive there with an open mind, and you might just leave with a suitcase full of memories.
Christopher Mitchell is a travel writer, blogger, photographer, podcaster and a handful of other things, hailing from Toronto, Canada. He’s had the pleasure of living on 4 different continents, and visiting nearly 80 countries along the way, with no intention of stopping anytime soon. Writing and travel continue to be his great passions in life, for which he is none too upset.”