Sometimes the best of plans never seem to work out the way you envision them. If you’re lucky, they turn out better than you could have imagined. When planning a trip to New York for my daughter’s college graduation, I laid out a course from Rochester to Cortland where my girlfriend Katy and I would spend the night before heading to the city. The course would take us along the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, through Moravia, and Skaneateles, and finally to my parents house on Miller Street in Cortland. The plan was to stop at each of the wineries along the way, take a break at Fillmore Glen State Park to see the falls and perhaps have a fish sandwich at Doug’s in Skaneateles.
As it turned out, we had a dinner party the night before and we stayed out rather late. We enjoyed several bottles of Dr. Frank’s wine including the 2008 Dry Riesling, the Salmon Run 2008 Finger Lakes Riesling, the Salmon Run 2007 Finger Lakes Chardonnay, and the Salmon Run Coho Red. I enjoyed the Salmon Run Riesling and Chardonnay the most. It was clear by the end of the night that there was no way we were getting up early enough to do everything we had planned for the following day. The plan needed adjustment. The easiest thing to do was to cut out the Skaneateles leg of the trip. This would allow us to visit each of the eastern Cayuga wineries along with Chateau Dusseau in Moravia and still be in Cortland in time for dinner at my parent’s house. Because we left later than originally planned we stopped at Connie’s Diner in Waterloo for breakfast rather than eat at home. After a delicious breakfast we were off to Cayuga Lake.
The new plan was shaping up nicely until I decided to pull into the Montezuma National Wild Life Refuge at the top of Cayuga Lake to take a quick look-see at how the marsh was recovering from a wild fire earlier in the spring. Our quick stop turned into an hour-and-a-half visit. I started taking pictures outside while Katy investigated the visitor’s center. We started talking to the staff about the fire and learned that it was actually very beneficial to the habitat. The staff will often perform controlled burns to promote new growth. As it turns out, the section of the marsh that burned in the spring is close to the New York State Thruway so it is excluded from the controlled burns and therefore had become overgrown. The wild fire rejuvenated this area by removing the old growth, making way for new. The biologist told us there were approximately thirty bald eagles foraging out near the refuge road near the thruway, so of course, we had to take a drive out to look for the eagles. They were feasting on carp which had become trapped in the marsh. We didn’t see a single eagle, but we enjoyed the drive none the less. We could see the fresh growth where the fire had been and there were several varieties of wild flowers in bloom.
It was now going on three o’clock in the afternoon. Clearly there wasn’t enough time to stop at each of the wineries. Katy and I decided that we would go to Heart and Hands Wine Company, Long Point Winery, and Chateau Dusseau. Katy and I stopped by Heart and Hands over the winter to find them closed so we were eager to go there. Long Point is one of our favorite wineries so we had to stop there and neither of us had been to Chateau Dusseau which made it a good choice for our last stop. We should have been able to do a tasting at each of these wineries before closing time at five or five-thirty.
To speed things up we did the reserve tasting rather than a full tasting at Heart and Hands. This decision was made easier by the fact they were out of the 2008 Late Harvest Riesling which I wanted to try. The reserve tasting allowed us a sample of the 2007 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir. Our hosts, owner Susan Higgins and her father-in-law wanted us to fully appreciate this wine so they poured the 2008 Pinot Noir as a comparison. We enjoyed both these wines but agreed that they were still young and needed to mature. I don’t want to short change Heart and Hands because I think it is an excellent winery but we didn’t spend enough time there or taste enough wine to go into more at this time. I definitely will be returning more than once to learn more about the winery and their wines. After our tasting, we talked to the staff a little longer while my dog Sierra and Fion, the winery mascot, became acquainted. After a few minutes of dog socialization, we were off to Long Point.
By time we reached Long Point, Sierra was going stir crazy. She had been tied up or in the car since Montezuma and got all riled up by Fion at Heart and Hands. Thank goodness there is plenty of space outside Long Point Winery to toss a tennis ball. The view of the vineyard and Cayuga Lake is spectacular from there as well so I wasn’t in a rush to go inside. The owner, Gary Barletta, came out and offered Sierra some water. That was my chance to go in with Katy and try some wine. We were lead through our tasting by Russ, or Bruce, as he mentioned his name was if we didn’t like the service. We tasted the 2009 Pinot Grigio, the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2008 Estate Chardonnay, the 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling, the 2006 Syrah, the 2008 Sangiovese, the 2009 Ciera Rosé, the 2007 Zinfandel Reserve and finally the 2007 Amazin Port. That was six wines, right? There was no point rushing this. We had plenty of fine wine to enjoy, pleasant company with Gary and Russ, beautiful weather, and no where to be until six o’clock. Chateau Dusseau would have to wait for another trip. Katy and I enjoyed each of the wines but we did have our favorites. My favorite of the day was the 2008 Sangiovese and Katy’s was the 2009 Ciera. We brought home a bottle of each.
It was after five so we figured we had better be on our way. We scouted Chateau Dusseau for a future trip. It was closed by time we drove by but at least we know where it is. We took Route 90 to Cortland, which was a pretty drive. I hadn’t been that way in quite some time and I was reminiscing with Katy about my childhood adventures exploring the hills and pastures that we passed along the way. We arrived at my folk’s house just as my nephew was warming up the grill.
There was a quite a bit of improvising during our trip, but it was a very relaxing and enjoyable day, even though it was different than I originally had planned. We didn’t even spend the night in Cortland. We ended up staying at a guest house outside of Ithaca that my brother-in-law owns. Katy and I always enjoy meandering, especially when there is wine involved. After all, to us, it’s more about the journey than the destination. That’s a theme that you’ll see over and over in this blog and one that I hope you will come to value, if you don’t happen to already.