I first found out about the Finger Lakes Region through our neighborhood Italian grocer A.L.C. Italian Grocery when we first moved to Brooklyn and lived in Bay Ridge. I would shop at A.L.C. for their high quality Italian products, local cheeses, locally made bread and for their milk from a producer called Ithaca Milk who minimally processes their dairy products. Ithaca Milk produces non-homogenized which leaves a natural layer of cream on top and it is produced from Jersey cows which produce a richer and creamier product compared to Holstein dairy cows. Jersey cows are known to have first come to the U.S. from the English Isle of Jersey.
My next run-in with the Finger Lakes Region would be as a result of my quest in searching for locally made wine and then came across a bottle produced near Seneca Lake called Fox Run Vineyards. We purchased what would be called a good table wine, simple with a nice fruit-like flavor. I have to be honest. My knowledge of wine from New York State is fairly limited. The Concord grape is indigenous and is known as an eating grape or one that is made into jam, preserves or as I recently discovered, made into pie filling from the famous Monica’s Pies in Naples, NY. The Concord grape is also made into wine, most notably a kosher sweet wine marketed under the Manischewitz name which is also produced upstate in Naples.
And so we decided to take a drive to the Finger Lakes for a recent get-a-way. Little did I know we would be so lucky. The season in this lovely area doesn’t begin until July 4th and we planned our trip just after the Memorial holiday weekend. I began searching for a house to rent and lo and behold I found the perfect place near Keuka Lake; one of two lakes in the entire world that is shaped like the letter “Y.” The other one is in Italy in the region of Lombardy, Lago Maggiore.
My findings brought me to Branchport where we found a stunning location on a vineyard along with the settings of a beautiful organic garden all with a lake view. The owner, John, treated us like family. Turns out his mother was born in Italy and upon driving up the gravel road to the house through the vineyards we noticed a sign which read, “Agriturismo Garibaldi.”
Upon speaking with John he informed me that this region produces better quality white wine due to the frigid temperatures. He makes his own wine and offered us to try his blend of Marechal Foch and Cabernet Franc from his 2013 harvest. It was good, tasty and well-balanced!
We were enchanted to say the least by the beauty of this place and the surrounding lakes. During our drive up we were supposed to have taken State Road 17 after Binghamton but then Julian got into a fit at the point where we were supposed to take an exit so we ended up taking the scenic route into Branchport. In the end it all worked out and drove right through Ithaca; a charming university town near Aurora Lake.
But that’s not all. We drove into the hills to see the towns of Italy and Naples. Also we drove to Canandaigua Lake where we found Wegmans! Then there was Seneca Lake where we stopped to play soccer in Geneva at Seneca Lake State Park. There were also many Amish farms in this area. Plus, we couldn’t pass up on visiting Watkins Glen but then Julian fell asleep so we kept driving around and finally Denis brought us to Montour Falls; a small town with a historic library that was built in 1864.
When Julian awakened we stopped for our afternoon ritual of milk shakes and ice cream but this time from the well-known The Great Escape Ice Cream Shop of Watkins Glen. Out of all of the ice cream shops we visited, this one was by far the best. All of their ice creams are made on the premises. Plus, they have plenty of vegan offerings and sorbet.
I can’t say enough about the Finger Lakes Region and our most gracious host, John. We truly hope to visit Branchport again and maybe one day we will open up our very own B & B in this region. Until the next time…