To say my wife and I aren’t much in the way of wine aficionados wouldn’t be an exaggeration. We’ve been gifted bottles of wine as wedding guests that have survived long enough to toast the betrothed’s first offspring heading off to kindergarten. That’s not to say we don’t have a casual appreciation for wine. My wife will partake during special occasions or pair wine with a nice meal at a restaurant. I’ll drink a glass of wine when neither beer, mixed drinks, Jell-O shots, schnapps, or grain alcohol isn’t readily available. In short, we’re probably not the people you want to consult about constructing your flavor palate.
So naturally when my brother and his wife invited us to go on a personal winery tour of the Finger Lakes, we didn’t hesitate. Neither of us is particularly opposed to casually imbibing, we like to try new things, and it would be a nice break in our routine. Our annual fall schedule/torture gauntlet of travel soccer, marching band, and guitar lessons was in full effect and a weekend getaway would be a nice respite.
My brother owns a vacation cabin on Lake Ontario, and he and his wife often make the trip across the state to the Finger Lakes to visit the vineyards and replenish their wine stockpile. They’re definitely seasoned vets of the upstate New York winery scene, and had an expertly planned route for us to follow during our stay. In two days, we visited 17 wineries, breweries, and distilleries. My wife and I ended up buying 12 bottles of wine, one bottle of whiskey, a bottle of spice rub with a mildly vulgar name, and consumed more cheese than an average attendee of the Wisconsin state fair.
We did learn a few things about wine and wine tasting during our trip. First, we learned the Finger Lakes provide a unique micro-climate with their steep hills (that help with drainage) and deep lakes that keep the winters mild and prevent early frosts. Apparently, these conditions are ideal for producing wine grapes, particularly the ones used in Rieslings.
Secondly, we determined there seems to be a direct correlation between how long you’ve been drinking wine and how sweet you prefer your wines to be. Almost every wine pourer (not sure what the right job title for these friendly and patient folks is) at the tastings mentioned they used to drink sweet wines like the ones my wife and I were sampling. They almost invariably went on to state as drinkers they’re now firmly on the dryer side of things. Our preference on wine sweetness probably falls one notch below grape juice (what I like to call the “Manischewitz Zone of Tolerance”), so we were squarely in the “novice wine tasters” category.
Most of the wineries were set against the beautiful backdrop of the Finger Lakes, and nearby Watkins Glen provides easy access to some stunning waterfalls, so there were plenty of photo opportunities in between the sipping. For the photographers among you, I would recommend shooting with an image stabilized lens because towards the end of an aggressive day-long wine tasting tour, you personal stabilization may be sub-optimal.
We had a great time on our mini-weekend getaway and we’re grateful to my brother and his wife for their hospitality while touring the vineyards with a couple of wine novices. Even though we probably brought home a paltry number of bottles by most wine tour veteran standards, we did end up with a fair amount. By my count, at our current consumption rate, we’re properly stocked with enough wine to last us till at least our second grader’s high school graduation.