It’s been unusually warm in the Finger Lakes this Memorial Day weekend. It seems more like mid July than the end of May. I wonder what impact this hot, dry weather will have on the grapes and the quality of the wine that will result from this fall’s harvest.
My memorial weekend started at the home of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York. The Memorial Day tradition in Waterloo dates back to 1865 and in 1966 it was officially designated as the official birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
I arrived in town on Saturday, a half hour before the parade started. I love small town parades. They remind me of my childhood back in Cortland where going to a parade was part of growing up. Main Street in Waterloo was lined with people of all ages and I enjoyed people watching as much as I enjoyed watching the parade. The line-up included all the elements you would expect, marching bands, politicians, youth groups, veterans groups, old cars, army jeeps, and more. It certainly met my expectations.
After the parade, I went to Lafayette Park with my brother, sisters, and two nephews. There was a craft show, food, and plenty of family entertainment including a magician, puppeteer, and live music. Finger Lakes Railway had train excursions from Waterloo to Cayuga Lake. Also, there were horse drawn wagon rides, a Civil War encampment, museum tours, boat tours on the Cayuga Seneca Canal, fireworks, and many more activities scheduled for the three day weekend.
I had planned on staying in Waterloo until three o’clock. I wanted to leave some time to visit a few wineries while I was in the area. I wanted to visit Muranda Cheese Company as well. Muranda is located approximately two miles south of Waterloo on Route 96. Artisan cheese is a growing industry in the Finger Lakes and this was a good opportunity to taste some local product. My family joined me at Muranda where we were given a tour of the barn to see where it all starts. Our guide, Shelly, explained how the cows are fed and milked and gave us an overview of the cheese making process. From there we went out back to see the calves, some of which were only two days old. My nephews enjoyed seeing the calves and having them suckle on their fingers. After the tour it was time to sample some cheese. First on the list was the Raw Milk British Cheddar. This firm, sharp, gritty cheese had a bold, distinctive cheddar flavor. The slight gritty texture adds to its appeal. Next in line was Red Buddy which was milder than the British Cheddar with a slight creamy texture, similar to Swiss cheese. This cheese was developed specifically for pairing with dry red wines. Muranda also offers a Colby or “Baby Cheddar” cheese as well as several flavored cheeses including Garlic Cheddar, Horseradish, and Dill. The British Cheddar was my favorite by far, which is no surprise to me since I prefer sharp, bold flavors.
My family went on their way after Muranda and I headed for Eleven Lakes Winery. I had never been to Eleven Lakes but I was familiar with the winery. I sampled some of their wine and met one of their owners, Matt Jones, at an wine tasting event in Rochester last fall. I recognized Matt right away when I walked into the tasting room. Matt makes you feel at home right away. It’s probably his big, happy grin that does it. I introduced myself and told him about my wine blog and how we had met in Rochester. We talked for a bit while he poured me a sample of Chosen Spot Dry Riesling. Matt explained that the Seneca Indians called Canandaigua Lake the chosen spot and that this wine is named in that honor. Each wine at Eleven Lakes is dedicated to one of the eleven Finger Lakes in this fashion. Each wine label highlights the featured lake and presents some interesting facts about the lake. This adds a fun learning opportunity along with the tasting experience. I enjoyed the Chosen Spot but as with many dry Rieslings that I’ve tasted recently, I get them confused with other light bodied, dry white wines, like a Chardonnay. Not to say that this wine wasn’t enjoyable, it’s just that dry Rieslings don’t uniquely stand out to me. The Stoney Place Semi-Dry Riesling had a more distinctive, fruity flavor that I associate with Rieslings. I also sampled the Boat Landing Cayuga White, the Canoe Landing – Crooked Lake Red, and the very sweet Moonglorious. Of all the wines I sampled, the Long Lake Reserve Cabernet Franc was my favorite. It had a bold, oaky flavor with a smooth, smoky component that married perfectly with the rich berry flavors. I brought a bottle of the Cab Franc home and will be enjoying it again very soon.
I had just enough time to visit Cobblestone Farm Winery and Vineyard before closing time. They’re located just down Route 89 from Eleven Lakes, along one of the most beautiful stretches of road on the lake. You get a perfect view of the lake and Wyers Point to the south. There are a couple of B&B’s on the point with Sheldrake Point Vineyards just south of that. Cobblestone Farm stands out in my mind for their Cherry Festival, which is coming up on the 26th and 27th of this month. I went to it with my girlfriend Katy, some family and a couple of friends last year. We had a good time sampling wine, listening to music, enjoying the view and picking cherries with my nephews. The tasting room was busy but I was able to taste right away. I sampled several wines but have to admit by this time I was a bit tired which detracted from the experience. I said at the beginning of this post that it was a hot, dry day and it was starting to catch up to me. I can say, however, that the Riesling 2008 (Blue) stood out as the best Riesling of the day and could easily be on my favorite Riesling list. It had nice grapefruit and citrus aromas and flavors that stood out nicely. It was well balanced and medium bodied. All the qualities I enjoy in a Riesling. I know I’ll be visiting Cobblestone again when I’m fresh on the trail and can truly enjoy the experience.
After a full day of activity in the Waterloo area, it was time to head back to Rochester. I decided to go back through the village to have a piece of strawberry rhubarb pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream at Connie’s Diner. I didn’t have the appetite for dessert the last time I was there so I had to make up for it this trip. It was definitely worth waiting for.
It was certainly a memorable Memorial Day. With all the festivities it made for a full day of fun but I haven’t forgotten why we have a Memorial Day in the first place. I want to thank all the men and women who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for our country, many who have paid the ultimate price to ensure our freedom and way of life. Thank you all.