Finger Lakes Visit – A Journey of Art, Glass, Wine and Food – James Melendez

I feel privileged to have visited every wine country I have ever visited.  I have never been disappointed or though any particular wine country to be anything but delightful, magical and each markedly different with history, trajectory, personalities and the people that make that wine country special.  This can be said for Finger Lakes.  A wine country in the making for sometime.


I visited Finger Lakes 13-16-August-2015 for the first time at WineBlogCon (Wine Bloggers Conference).  I have been to North Fork several times and that is because of it’s proximity to New York city.  Finger Lakes a bit more difficult to get to in terms of major airport at it’s base.  I suppose it could be argued that Napa and Sonoma aren’t terribly close to any major airport either.  But since I live in Northern California–they always close for me to visit.

Base camp on this visit was Corning, New York home to Corning Glass Museum, Corning Glass, and the Rockwell Museum.  Corning is a small town on the southern portion nearest Seneca, Keuka, and Cayuga lakes.   I usually attend the pre-excursions because as it is another way to see more of the wine country at hand–unfortunately this year it was sold out.  I did have one excursion during the session that I was able to visit — I wish I had more of a view of one of the lakes.  Unlike Okanagan Valley I was always within easy picture frame of Okanagan Lake.  Every venue is different and there is not a hotel where we could have had that at this WineBlogCon.

Alan Lasko (professor Emeritus of Cornell University) was important to frame the Fingers Lakes and why we have wines coming from this region.  I liked how he talked about the vast soil variation, difficult weather patterns and yet Vitis vinifera has a planted foundation.  Dr. Lasko compared to a more cohesive soil region like Lodi and that FLX does not have that to compare.

Fingers Lakes is old with respect to Hybrid grape cultivation and Vitis vinifera promotion by Dr. Konstantin Frank set the stage for Vv finding a logical home.  Finger Lakes is a place where Vv cultivation would take place–just west of here in Canada is Ontario wine country.  Each regions have some commonalities and differences.  Both wine regions experience cold winters, moderated summers and both have large bodies of water they are next to to both moderate temperature in both summer and winter seasons.  Both wine regions have a long history of cultivation of hybrid grapes but difference is soil type with Finger Lakes having a greater variation.  Variation may not always be a good thing–a certain challenge for any vineyard manager and vineyard owner.  Not all varieties are optimised to all soil conditions let alone in micro climate conditions that are often present in many wine regions.

Corning’s Two Wonderful Museums

Corning is synonymous with glass; both great commercial and artistic glass.  The Corning Museum of Glass is a place I had wanted to visit for quite sometime.  I didn’t realise  how close it was to many Finger Lakes Wineries.  It is hard to get a grasp on relationship of space and place.  Sometimes things are closer than you might expect.  Also, corning has the Rockwell Museum which specialises in American Art–I was awe struck by the beauty and depth of collection–in particular the native American arts and crafts.

Corning Museums certainly help to build the reason to come and the wine and food to stay longer.

Corning Museum of Glass ( 1 Museum Way, Corning, NY 14830, USA) is an easy walk from the small downtown district.  This museum is known for showcasing all aspects of glass from the earliest historical perspective to the most modern and contemporary and cutting edge pieces today.  The 100,000 square foot space is place of inspiration and wonderment.  I am a huge lover of art glass and the historical evolution.  The museum won’t disappoint and the glass blowing demonstration hall–easily the largest and most modern of it’s kind in the U.S. if not abroad–a world class museum.

Rockwell Museum (111 Cedar St, Corning, NY 14830) is housed in Corning’s old city hall constructed in 1893.  This museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.  I have a great fondness of Native American arts and in particular Native American arts of New Mexico and Arizona which is featured here prominently.  I loved the rich collection; I was in deep appreciation of the Santa Clara, San Illdefonso, Acoma, Jemez and Hopi pottery.  Each piece was not just a representative piece but pieces of excellence. 




Finger Lakes Wine

The cultivated region of Finger Lakes is relatively small 11,000 acres / 4,450 Hectares (there are variations on number of acres/hectares of vine’s planted–I selected the mid-number).  Riesling is the most widely planted Vitis vinifera grape, following by Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Merlot and Pinot Gris.  Grüner Veltliner has found a nice home in the Finger Lakes–many examples I tasted of this variety were outstanding.  There are small plantings of Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Rkatsiteli.

I had one excursion at Hazlitt in Hector, New York to taste food prepared by Chef Dano Hutnick of Dano’s on Seneca.  You can see the menu below with glorious shots of fantastically well prepared food and paired excellently with wine producers that were are present at this event at Hazlitt.

I certainly compare food from my current home base with San Francisco and I am always a bit skeptical of the offering of other places.  Chef Dano’s beautiful dishes were not only highlighting Finger Lakes wines but also highlight the beauty of local foods.  This excursion was intimate and wonderfully done–I like this tasting versus the speed tasting which is always hard to taste the wines in a careful and well timed manner.  Speed tasting, speed dating is about numbers versus a bonafide experience.

Some of my most favourite Finger Lakes wines were the Cabernet Franc, Sparkling wines, Grüner Veltliner and Rieslings.  It was a bit more difficult than I expected to taste beyond these four wines–If I only had more time on ground I would have visited more producers to get a greater experience.

The Grüner Veltliner were all outstanding–not necessarily to be compared with their Austrian cousins but to be equally appreciated.  The Grüner were mineral focused, not citrus intense, balance, and appreciable wines.  I also appreciated each bottle of sparkling wine I tasted both the familiar and less familiar.

I am going to post information on producers, associations, and other helpful information of website you might find helpful if you plan a visit to the Finger Lakes.

Below are videos on Finger Lakes region and wines:


A wonderful place to visit–a high recommendation.



Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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© 2016 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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3 Responses to Finger Lakes Visit – A Journey of Art, Glass, Wine and Food – James Melendez

  1. Leeann Froese says:

    aww thanks for including our photo – one of the best parts of visiting the Finger Lakes and tasting their wines was to experience it with great wine loving people and great friends like you. This was a very informative article and it was nice to remember the kind people and delicious wines by reading this post.

  2. Next time your in the FLX be sure to try a real hidden gem or as I call it the “Cult” wine of the region: Saperavi. It’s selling for $30-$50 a bottle if you can even find it.

  3. Bernard Cannac says:

    James, it was great meeting at the conference! it was a pleasure to introduce our then new Dry Riesling and Dry Rose of Pinot Noir from Serenity Vineyards. Darn I can’t put the accent on the “e”!

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