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Russ Briley Wine-ing: 3-day wine festival in New York is an event with good tastes

Posted: June 1, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Russ Briely Russ Briely
Russ Briely

This column originally ran in the Ventura County Star on April 21, 2012

My wife, Nancy, and I just celebrated 30 years of marriage. We had talked about where we wanted to go and our list included France, Italy and New Zealand. However, we both had never been to New York and we eventually made this our destination. While we wanted to visit the city, we also wanted to explore New York wines. Depending on the year, New York is either the No. 2 or No. 3 producer of wine in the United States.

I found a wine festival in upstate New York in late March called "Crusin' the Tropics." It is a three-day festival at Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes where the festival dress of choice was Hawaiian shirts and leis. There are many wineries around Seneca Lake and about 30 wineries were participating.

The festival has you start at one of the wineries where you get a gift and a card, which gives you entrance to the individual wineries. Each participating winery pairs a food dish with its wines. The cost of the event was $30 per person. This is not per day, but for the entire three-day event. We decided to attend the event on Friday and Sunday, when there would be fewer people, and go to the nonparticipating wineries on Saturday.

Before we left I had just received my new Wine Spectator magazine, which had just reviewed many Rieslings from this very area. This area is known for outstanding Rieslings. They are made in dry, slightly sweet and very sweet styles. This area also produces some of the very best ice wines. We had also heard that some excellent pinot noirs and cabernet francs were also being produced here.

We stayed at Watkins Glen at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, which overlooks Seneca Lake. If you are planning a visit here I would highly recommend this hotel. There are many restaurants located in and around the area within walking distance. Do not miss Savard's, a local favorite. We had a full breakfast and coffee there every day for less than $10 for both of us.

Over three days we ended up going around the entire lake and tasted at about 20 wineries. There are a few I would highly recommend. Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, which received many Wine Spectators' high scores for Rieslings, was outstanding. However, everything we tasted there was great. We also enjoyed Fulkerson Winery, which had a solid lineup of white and reds. Fulkerson's dornfelder was one of the best I have had. Fulkerson's wine club manager, Brittany Morris, educated us on all the different varietals in this part of New York. She also told explained how many of the varietals produced here were created at Cornell University. It turns out that as far as wine is concerned, Cornell University is to New York what UC Davis is to California.

Other wineries I would definitely put on a list to visit is Atwater Estate Vineyards, Shalestone Vineyards (red is all they do), Lakewood Vineyards, Wagner Vineyards and Diamiani Wine Cellars. We ended up shipping home about three cases of wine. If you are really into wine I would advise you to include this area on your "bucket list" of wine areas to visit.

© Ventura County Star

As well as writing a wine column for the Ventura County Star, Russ Briley, long time Santa Clarita Valley resident, recently completed the Wine Studies program at COC. Russ and his wife Nancy also own Nuggucciet Cellars, where they produce small lots of Pinot Noir wine. Visit Email Briley at




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