Drive four hours north and west of Manhattan and you’ll find yourself in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Named so because from the air or on a map, the lakes appear as an ancient handprint set in rocky earth by a giant, ancient deity.
Wineries, eateries, distilleries and natural beauty abound on the shores of the lakes and on the wide, open spaces of the plateaus in between. Here’s a weekend itinerary for sampling what the region has to offer.
Photo courtesy Lida Rose via Flickr/CCFriday Evening - Arrive In Ithaca
From the George Washington Bridge, Take I-80 West to I-380 West, then I-81 North to Exit 8, then Rt. 79 West into Ithaca, turn right onto Route 13 North. Four hours without traffic.
Check in at your chosen lodging for the evening. If you’ve got a tent and a sleeping bag, I highly recommend pitching it for a night at Buttermilk Falls Campground.
If sleeping out in the woods isn’t your cup of tea, check out Esty House Guest Apartment, walking distance to The Commons, Ithaca’s downtown pedestrian mall.
There’s also numerous chain hotels catering to the local universities’ parent weekends and sporting events. Check VisitIthaca.com for a full list.
Buttermilk Falls State Park 105 Enfield Falls Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850
Esty House Guest Apartment 220 Esty Street Ithaca, New York 14850
Dinner at Just a Taste
Just off the commons is a small American tapas restaurant that serves not only small portions of food, but also of the region’s wine. Selections can be made by suggested flights, or bought a la carte by the taste or glass. Sit in the back garden if there’s space.
Just a Taste Wine and Tapas Bar 116 North Aurora Street Ithaca, NY 14850-4302
Saturday - Cayuga & Seneca Lake
Breakfast at The State Diner & The Commons
At The State Diner, the fresh blueberry pancakes are divine, the waitresses are perfectly surly and the coffee flow prepares you for a day of hiking and wine drinking. Take a stroll around The Commons. There are fun vintage shops, book stores and gift shops. The historic State Theater draws an intriguing lineup of acts.
The State Diner 428 W State St Ithaca, NY 14850
The State Theater 107 W State St Ithaca, NY 14850
Lunch at Glenwood Pines
Hop in the car and head north out of town up Route 89 four miles. On your right, you’ll come upon Glenwood Pines Restaurant. Don’t let the sign fool you. (On my first visit I thought it was a strip club.) Inside, warm staff serve up hearty rib-sticking food to prepare your belly for some wine tasting. Take the Pinesburger Challenge and get your picture on their wall. All you have to do is eat four burgers in under an hour.
Glenwood Pines Restaurant 1213 Taughannock Blvd Ithaca, NY 14850-9555
Hike Taughannock Falls
Continue north on 89 and turn left into Taughannock (TAW-gah-nok) Falls State Park. The parking lot is at an overlook where you can see the falls plunge 215 feet into the gorge below. You can take a short hike up and around the falls here.
Taughannock Falls State Park 2221 Taughannock Road Trumansburg, NY 14886
Stop for Ice Cream
Another eight miles north is the Cayuga Lake Creamery. Named by USA Today as one of the country’s 50 best parlors, they use local fruit, chocolate, beer and wine in their flavors.
Cayuga Lake Creamery 8421 New York 89 Interlaken, NY 14847-9626
Taste Some Wine
Continue north on 89 along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, enjoying the view. Along the way, Sheldrake Point Winery’s Pinot Gris has the quintessential taste of powdery flowers, like the bottom of an old lady’s handbag. In a good way. Hosmer Winery makes a tasty, grapey, mouthwatering sparkling wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Cayuga Ridge Winery is housed in a beautiful old barn with vaulted ceilings and employs young wine connoisseurs to pour a flight of delightful, young, drinkable wines.
Sheldrake Point Winery 7448 County Road 153 Ovid, NY 14521
Hosmer Winery 6999 State Route 89 Ovid, New York, 14521
Cayuga Ridge Winery 6800 Rt. 89, Ovid NY 14521
Dinner at Dano's Heuriger on Seneca
Leave Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery and head south half a mile and turn right onto County Road 38. This turns into 96N. Follow 96 into Ovid and turn left onto 414 (South Main St.) Nine more miles and on the right will be Dano’s Heuriger on Senaca. Enjoy a Viennese-style meal, slowly unfolding with artisanal breads & spreads, salads, roasted and smoked meats, vegetable
dishes, homemade sausages, fresh seafood, homemade pickles and preserves as well as Viennese pastries.
Dano's Heuriger on Seneca 9564 Route 414 just south of Lodi, NY
Stay At Wine Country Cabins B&B
Reserve a room early as this popular, romantic bed & breakfast books its cabins up quick. They also have a robust website with lots of resources for things to do in the area, including alternate places to stay if they are full.
Wine Country Cabins Bed & Breakfast 8744 Lower Lake Spur Lodi, NY 14860-9654
Sunday - Seneca Lake & Keuka Lake
Take a Walk in the Woods
Finger Lakes National Forest offers 30 miles of interconnected trails through meadows, woodlands and along gorges. Try the Gorge Trail, 1.25 miles, rated easy, will take you about an hour with beautiful views. Head south on 414, turn left on County Road 2, continue 3.5 miles to Burnt Hill Road, turn right 2.5 miles, you’ll see the Gorge Pond parking area on the left.
Finger Lakes National Forest 5218 State Route 414. Hector, NY 14841
Taste Some Locally Made Spirits
After your hike, take County Road 2 back to 414 and head south 2.5 Miles to Finger Lakes Distilling to sample small batch whiskey, grappa, vodka, gin, brandy, and fruit liqueurs. The raw materials are sourced from local farmers.
Finger Lakes Distilling 4676 NYS Route 414 Burdett, NY 14818
Pick up Picnic at Olney’s
From the distillery, swing south through Watkins Glen avoiding racetrack traffic, around the tip of Seneca Lake and take 14, then 14A, then Welker Road to the shore of Keuka (Kee-OO-kah) Lake, about 20 miles total. Turn left on 54 and on the right, half a mile south, you’ll see The Olney Place on Keuka. This deli’s most popular sandwich is the Rachel, Reuben’s more
beautiful sister. For $7, a turkey, melted swiss, cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing parfait grilled on marble rye.
The Olney Place On Keuka 823 East Lake Road Penn Yan, NY 14527
Picnic & Wine Tasting
After picking up your picnic lunch, start on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. Turn left heading back north on 54 and make the first right on Gray Road to Barrington Cellars. Sample their selection and pick out a bottle to match your sandwich. Eat out on the deck and take in the view.
Head south on 54 five more miles and stop in to help celebrate McGregor Vineyard’s 40th anniversary. Scottish tartans and local food tasting aplenty. Good wine and lots of events on their calendar.
Continue south on Dutch Street and turn right on Hyatt Hill Road. Stop in to Fall Bright Winemakers Shop for a starter kit, about $90.00.
Continue on to Ravines Wine Cellars and sample the winner of Best Dry Riesling in the World Riesling Cup. Then, buy a case to bring home to taste your friends on and say, “See, not all Riesling is sweet!”
Barrington Cellars 2794 Gray Road Penn Yan, NY, 14527
McGregor Vineyard 5503 Dutch Street Dundee, NY, 14837
Fall Bright The Winemakers Shop 10110 Hyatt Hill, Dundee, NY 14837
Ravines Wine Cellars 14630 State Route 54 Hammondsport, NY 14840
Early Dinner with Beer
Leave Ravines and continue south along 54 enjoying the view of the Y-shaped lake. In Hammondsport, The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn offers more than 100 beers that can be ordered a la carte or in flights of 4oz. samples. An old friend told me once that the best part of a wine tasting is the ice cold beer at the end. Pair your beer with a classic tavern menu selection, savor the end of a well done road trip, pop in a podcast, thank your designated driver and set the GPS for “Home.”
The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn 30 Mechanic Street Hammondsport, NY 14840