Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bus to Boat on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail During #WBC15

How many wine trails are there where you can ride a boat straight to a winery's dock? According to boat captain, Captain Skip Stamberger of Water to Wine Tours, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is the only trail in the world that provides that option. It's hard to validate that claim, but for those of us who participated in the post-conference excursion, we experienced a leisurely boat ride from the Thirsty Owl Wine Company dock to Goose Watch Winery.

In 1983 the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail was the first wine trail established in NY State and currently consists of 16 wineries. When looking at the map, Cayuga Lake is represented as the index finger to the east of Seneca Lake. Ithaca is located on the southern shore and Seneca Falls on the northern end with the wineries dispersed on either shore. There's also a brewery, cider house and a few distilleries.

Our bus left Corning accompanied by Hosmer Winery winemaker Aaron Roisen and Lucas Vineyards winemaker Jeff Houck. Inexplicably, at least to us spoiled bloggers, they forgot to bring wine to share; but our friends from Cider Brothers came packed with William Tell Cider - a wine like cider produced using three strains of yeast and containing 15% Pinot Grigio. With our plastic glasses filled, we listened as Rosien and Houck gave an overview of the wine trail and their respective operations.

Cayuga Lake from Goose Watch Winery
When we arrived at Thirsty Owl, half the group departed the bus with the remainder continuing to Goose Watch.  There were eight wineries at each location and after tasting in one location we were transported past the vineyards to the lake where our boats awaited for our 15 trip to the second winery.  At least it was only that long for those of us on the faster boat.

  Goose Watch Winery 
There were several standouts in both groups starting with the cider from Bellwether Hard Cider. The Barton family started out as cider makers and eventually transitioned to wine, so its no surprise their ciders impressed several of us. Long live King Baldwin. The Hosmer selection was also solid as where the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Toro Run Winery. Their labels are also something special. A pleasant surprise was the Baco Noir from Americana Vineyards and Winery. The all stainless steel process creates a fruit friendly lighter wine.  Sadly I had to race through the Lucas selection which was unfortunate because their Cab Franc and Riesling were worth relishing longer. My favorite of the day probably goes to the Knapp Vineyards & Winery Rose, blend of predominantly Cab Franc with a lesser amount of Pinot Noir.

Knapp Winery
Our excursion was far from over as we were transported the short distance to Knapp where a gourmet dinner awaited us. Plus more wine, cider and spirits, the latter courtesy of Knapp featuring Limoncello and a Cucumber Vodka. All where quite smooth and tasty. Being rather fatigued a chose the Bellwether Lord Scudmore, a sparkling cider from Northern Spy apples. Dinner was informative as I shared a table with Knapp winemaker Steve DiFrancesco and Quebec blogger Gigi Bissonnette as they discussed vineyard practices in Quebec and Prince Edward County. Looking forward to a future visit to those regions very soon. But back to our subject matter.

The food on this excursion was fantastic, starting with the cheese plates donated from members of the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. Yes, there is such an organization.  And our dinner at Knapp featured three area chefs who provided a very delicious and diverse array of food. The brisket over miniature pancakes opened my eyes to unorthodox pairings. Here's the entire menu as provided by the wine trail:
Chef John McNabb of Knapp Vineyard Restaurant served Smoked beef brisket with johnny cakes and Hoisin Poblano, Limoncello Chimichurri an Cabernet & Caramelized Onion demi sauces accompanied by fingerling potato and quinoa salads. Also served were the Calabacitas with corn tortilla ships, Cayuga Caviar and sour cream. The chocolate chunk cookie to go was also provided courtesy of Chef John.

Chef Lindsay of Crystal Lake Café at Americana Vineyards offered a house-made sausage, pan-fried chicken and deviled eggs. Jennifer, the resident baker, provided the baguette during the tasting session and the lemon bars and pecan squares for dessert.

Chef Scott of The Bistro at Thirsty Owl Wine Co. served smoked pulled pork with coleslaw and barbeque beans. Scott also provided the Peanut Butter Corn Flake cookie.
Cheers to the wineries on Cayuga Lake and in the Finger Lakes in general. Check out theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App to make future trips to the area easier to plan.


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