Each time we drive through New York to visit my twin sister Cindy, Kimmer and I always talk about stopping to sample some wine in the famous Finger Lakes region of New York. We finally were able to check it off our list.
We drove from my sister’s house that is in West Chester, New York and watched the red, orange and green trees fly past our windows, which is a great way to pass a four-hour drive. We met up with our great friend Kelly to enjoy a small sip of the well-known wines in the area and a bit of art along the ever-growing Ithaca Art Trail. Kelly’s parents, Pat and Mike, have a cottage at Lake Owasco and generously encouraged us to stay for a couple of days to explore the upstate region.
Our first priority of course, was wine. I would never claim that we are wine experts, but we know what we like and we know that we love sampling – no matter the varietal. Kimmer prefers red wines in the Shiraz family while I tend to prefer white wines nearest to Pinots.
As I mentioned, we were lucky that the Ithaca Art Trail coincided with our trip. This trail is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Tourists are encouraged to drive a pre-set trail that has people visiting artists in their home art studio, or sometimes their basement (you read correctly). I picked four unique artists from the Trail’s website, then cleaned up the trip with selected wineries along the trail, and we were ready to go.
Our first stop was Doug Baird, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate who is still desperately trying to find his own innovative photographic style. His skill in taking interesting photographs is only the beginning. He then uses digital software, painting and hand drawings to enhance the photo and make it appear “more real” as he explains – encouraging the viewer to see things that are and aren’t there from their own perspective. We’d never seen anything like it.
Our second stop was Sean Kennedy a glass artist training at Corning. While he creates beautiful mainstream pieces like glass lemons, limes and garlic for kitchens, he also creates magnificent wood tables with a glass top with LED lights and huge Chihuly inspired sculptures. He was kind enough to show us his state-of-the-art kiln in his new studio (a converted garage) and a magnificent white glass art piece in his back yard. If we had jobs, this guy might have sold us our first glass sculpture.
Our final stop was the most unique. Gordon Bonnet creates works based on the kiri-e style of Japanese collage. He cuts and arranges hundreds of tiny (almost impossible) slivers of paper to create images that pull you in for a closer look. Carol, his wife and fellow artist, on the other hand has a gift for being able to incorporate minute words into her art pieces as lines, color and more. Sometimes the words outline an image and sometimes they are etched in glass. Some of her hand printing isn’t even visible to the naked eye – at least not through our glasses. We spent a little more time here than was planned just talking to Gordon and Carol about their efforts. It turned out to be the best stop on the art trail.
From here, we decided to start with the wineries. There are hundreds of wineries in the Finger Lakes area and we wanted to experience a few along the western coast of Cayuga Lake. The wine tasting process varies by region, but the best know that the more you taste, the more you buy and these places were generous.. Each winery charged $1-3 for the tasting and provided anywhere from 4-6 sample. They were very laid back and we never felt obligated to purchase a bottle. Win, Win and WIN (we only spent $10 in wine tastings instead of buying multiple bottles at $8.99 and up.)
Our first stop was Lucas Winery. This winery is near and dear to our heart. Years ago, Kelly gave us a bottle of their best seller “Tug Boat Red” as a dinner gift, and we have made her buy at least a couple bottles each time she would head back to the region. This wine, an interesting mix of tart and dry spearheaded our interest in red wine. This taste was good but not exactly what we remembered – I guess it’s the nature of seasonal wine. But, what we really enjoyed was their Dry Reisling, which was a new offering that many of the Cayuga Lake wineries would offer.
We then proceeded to Thirsty Owl Winery, Cayuga Ridge Winery and finally Buttonwood Grove Winery. Kelly would be dumping most of her samples along the way as she was our designated driver and she has access to the wineries all summer. But, thanks to Kelly and her parents, we had an amazing time experiencing the Finger Lakes, and thanks to the Indian Summer we had a few more days of great weather to look forward to.