If you’re looking for an autumn weekend getaway, I recently discovered that the Finger Lakes is an ideal destination. My parents, cousins, and I had a great time celebrating my Aunt’s birthday there! The region is just gorgeous and the amount of wineries is astonishing, making it easy to pack a lot of tastings into a short visit.
On Saturday morning, we piled into our van for the drive up to New York. The first stop was Hazlitt 1852 winery where you could taste 6 wines for $5 (and apply the tasting fee to any purchase!). The tasting room/shop was rustic and cozy and we spent a few minutes exploring while waiting for a spot at one of the two bars. These wines were a great start to our trip. I wish I would have used all 6 tastings on wine instead of choosing two ciders, which didn’t have a lot of flavor. However, I did end up picking the Chardonnay to bring home with me 🙂
Next on our agenda was lunch at Ginny Lee Café, located at Wagner Winery. The café was a large open room with tables scattered throughout the space and a bar in one corner. It was clearly designed as an event space and would be beautiful for a rustic wedding reception, especially since ¾ of the walls were large windows that overlooked the lake. The menu wasn’t huge, but included hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and flat bread pizzas. My pork BBQ was delicious!
After lunch, we walked over to the Wagner tasting room and paid $4 for a wine flight. You could choose from either the dry or sweet list of six wines selected by the winery for tasting that day.
I selected the dry list, but was able to swap and try the ice wine as my sixth option instead of another Riesling (I should have known it would be way too sweet for me to enjoy). The wines were decent, but you had to spend $20 to get your $4 off and there weren’t two that appealed to me enough to purchase.
After Wagner we backtracked to a winery that wasn’t on our itinerary but was located in cute red barn. Well, this was a bit of a mess. It was more of a bar atmosphere inside with loud music, rude bartenders, and chaos. We paid $5 to taste 5 wines from a dry, semi-dry, or sweet list. Two of my dry wines were absolutely horrible and left an ash-y taste in my mouth. I don’t think I’ve ever considered not drinking the remainder of a tasting portion, but it was definitely justified here. Lesson learned, stick to the familiar wineries!
Luckily, my cousin had some homemade crackers in the car which we devoured (Thanks Brooke! They were delicious!!).
The next stop was Goose Watch Winery, located in a picturesque blue barn overlooking the lake. We were sent to the upstairs bar for our 6 tastings for $3 (great deal!).
In addition to my normal dry wines, I decided to try a sparkling wine and two dessert wines. The sparkling wine was divine, especially when they added a splash of their strawberry wine! The dessert wines (port and mead) were a bit too strong for me, though. With the mead especially, even a whiff of the glass was overwhelming. Good to know, no need to try those again!
Our final winery of the day was Three Brothers. They have a unique set up with three different wineries and a brewery. You can try all 4 for $15 or pay $5 each. Since it was the end of the day, we each just picked one. The group split up with my two cousins and I heading for a dry winery and my mom, dad, and aunt going for the sweeter options. We were only supposed to get 5 tastings, but our bartender must have liked us girls since we ended up with at least 8 : ) He turned the tasting into an experience and spent a decent amount of time explaining the wines and the differences between them.
After all that wine, we were ready for some dinner. But first, we had to drive to Rochester and check in to our hotel. Since there were six of us, we reserved a two-bedroom suite at the Residence Inn. Upon arrival, my dad attempted to check in but was told the room was unavailable (uh oh). Needless to say, he was not a happy camper. An incident with the car alarm did nothing to help the situation 🙂 Luckily the front desk quickly figured out what was wrong and we got the keys to our suite (and a free beer for my dad). Poor guy.
We found a gastropub near Rochester for dinner that lived up to the Yelp recommendations. The food arrived as huge portions and was absolutely delicious. I selected chicken and biscuits, but beef brisket, fish and chips, and other delights were to be found around the table. Yum!
The only item on our itinerary the following day was brunch at Belhurst Castle. My mom, dad, and I took advantage of the hotel gym (to prepare for the buffet brunch) and then had a quick breakfast.
Suffice to say, everyone was blown away by the castle and grounds. I couldn’t believe we would be eating lunch in this place!! We basically had our own private room with a huge table, fireplace, bookshelves, and intricate woodwork lining the ceiling and doorways. I was pretty much in heaven.
The food was just as incredible as the décor. The buffet featured your normal breakfast fare such as eggs, bacon, potatoes, French toast, and waffles. The lunch offerings included mini crab cakes, baked chicken, and shredded pork with onions and peppers. A made-to-order omelet station and beef carving station rounded out the main hall.
An additional small room offered even more exciting delicacies. In there, you could find salads, quiche, sticky buns, mixed berry cake, mini bagels, cheese, crackers, and fruit. Obviously the most important feature was the dessert bar!! Plates with red velvet cake, chocolate chip cookie bars, brownies, lemon cake, and crème puffs filled the bar. I managed to try three of the options : )
As an added bonus, our server brought out a slice of chocolate cake (infused with wine!) and chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate my Aunt’s birthday. The perfect finish to a blissful weekend.
Belhurst Castle is a must do if you’re visiting the Finger Lakes. At $25, it’s a bit of a splurge but worth every penny. Overall, this region is easy to explore since all of the wineries are located along a few main roads and you can pick and choose on a whim. The fall is a particularly lovely time to visit since the leaves offer a gorgeous background for the lake. It was a terrific trip!