October is firmly here, and for many of us one of the best things about the season is the changing of the leaves! While it isn’t quite crisp yet, we are ready for all things Fall coming up. If you find yourself needing a quick weekend getaway, we can’t imagine a better place to watch the changing of the seasons than the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. What’s better, it is only a 6 hour drive from Columbus!
Many people may be surprised to learn that New York has been quietly turning out wines for years now. Like many great wine regions around the world, what makes the area so special is the proximity to large bodies of water, in this case the Finger Lakes themselves. The lakes were carved by receding glaciers and are very deep. Seneca Lake, in fact, is so deep that it almost never freezes, and is also the sight of a US Navy submarine test station. The lakes act as a thermal sink, which helps the vines survive the harsh winters of Upstate New York, and helps create a healthy breeze in the summer to keep any moisture from creating mildew.
The soils in the Finger Lakes are pretty special too, with more soil variation in one vineyard on Seneca Lake than the entire region of Lodi, California. The variety of soils allows the multitude of quality wineries in the region to grow a variety of different grapes. The calling card of the region is dry styles of Riesling from shallow soils over rock.
We recently took a tour of the new Hillick & Hobbs vineyard on the south end of Seneca Lake and the soil was so thin that they had to drill into the rock a hole for every vine that they planted! We just tasted their inaugural 2019 vintage dry Riesling and were amazed by the incredible mineral texture and power of the wine. Hillick & Hobbs is a new project for globetrotting winemaker Paul Hobbs in concert with Johannes Selbach of the German winery Selbach Oster. While exploring the incredible Rieslings of the Finger Lakes, you absolutely must visit Hermann J Weimer, Ravines, and Konstanin Frank, who are the trailblazers of the region.
In addition to world-class Riesling, the Finger Lakes are also making a name for their lush Cabernet Francs and spicy Lemberger red wines. While not available in Ohio, if you find yourself thirsty for a rich red after drinking a lot of amazing Rieslings, we recommend taking a trip to Shaw Winery. There are also some great sparkling wines and Italian grapes being made at Red Tail Ridge, whose owner and winemaker Nancy Irelan holds a PhD in grape genetics and was formerly the VP of Viticulture & Enology R&D for E&J Gallo.
While planning your trip to the Finger Lakes, we definitely recommend checking out some FLX Hospitality restaurants. Owned by Master Sommelier Christopher Bates, FLX Hospitality has been creating some really fun restaurants, from the tasting menu restaurant FLX Table, to the Champagne & fried chicken concept Fry Bird, to the gourmet hot dog spot The Wienery, there are some seriously good eats in the area. Additionally, FLX owns a retail shop in Geneva called Provisions and the staff are extremely knowledgeable about where the cool new spots in the region are. Another great restaurant in the region is the new Rose Tavern on Canadaigua Lake, which serves a rustic, seasonal menu around a wood fired hearth.
While we stayed at an AirBnB on Seneca Lake, there are also some very cool accommodations. Belhurst Castle is a beautiful old hotel that helps you feel as though you are stepping into another time, and is conveniently located in Geneva. A more modern, fresh looking hotel that we also loved is The Lake House on Canadaigua Lake.
Of course, if you can’t Leaf Home, we’ve got you covered with a selection of some of our favorite bottles available here in Ohio. Sadly we can’t get any Shaw or Red Tail Ridge yet, but we are definitely working on cudgeling our distributors to pick them up for you..