Growing up in Cortland, I never thought of it as being a Finger Lakes community, even though my family made many trips each summer to Skaneateles Lake which is less than a half hours drive from my parent’s home on Miller Street. When I thought of the Finger Lakes, communities like Ithaca, Geneva, and Watkins Glen always came to mind, and rightfully so, since they are certainly in the middle of the Finger Lakes region. When I saw an advertisement for the Cortland Arts and Wine Festival which proclaimed Cortland as the Eastern Gateway to the Finger Lakes, it made me stop and think for a minute. I realized that Cortland is within a half hour drive of four Finger Lakes, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco Lakes. Ithaca has only two lakes within that distance. One could argue that Syracuse deserves this title, since it’s a much larger City, but certainly Cortland qualifies as well. Cool. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region and didn’t even know it.
As I mentioned, I saw an ad for the Cortland Arts and Wine Festival so my girlfriend Katy and I decided to go and see what it was all about. The festival was held on the Cortland Court House grounds last Saturday (August 7th). There were sixteen advertised wineries scheduled to be at the event, although there was at least one no-show, Heron Hill Winery. I noticed because I was looking forward to tasting some of their wine. Katy and I enjoy Heron Hill wine and it’s been a while since we’ve had some.
I tasted at least two wines from each winery and for the most part enjoyed them all. There were three wineries that stood out in the crowd as having noticeably exceptional wines; Cascata Winery at the Professors Inn, Long Point Winery, and Zugibe Vineyards. I found myself lingering at the tasting tables of these wineries, eager to try the next wine. I’ve visited each of these wineries in the past four months and remember having a great experience at each. It was no surprise that these were my favorites at the festival. I’ve written about Zugibe and Long Point in recent posts and plan to visit Cascata again before the summer is over to do a complete review of their wines. I have to visit with the professor’s husband, too. Let’s just say he’s quite a colorful character and adds a lot of fun and humor to the wine tasting experience. My favorite wine of the day was Long Point’s 2007 Zinfandel. This rich, complex wine had bold blackberry and spice flavors and a smooth finish. It stood head and shoulders above the other reds offered at the festival.
My least favorite wineries at the festival were Thousand Islands Winery from Alexandria Bay and Pazdar Winery from Scotchtown, NY which is located downstate. I found the wines from Thousand Islands to be very light bodied and flat in flavor and character. Pazdar’s wines were quite different from any of the other wines at the festival. They were very sweet which isn’t my style and the blends didn’t seem to work very well together. I asked the winery representative, who I believe is the winemaker, about the blends but he wasn’t willing to share information about the types of grapes used and how they were blended. I call them mystery wines but the mystery left me confused rather than intrigued.
We didn’t have much time after the wine tasting to enjoy the rest of the festival. There were several vendors and artist exhibits along with local musicians playing throughout the day. We did get a chance to have a hot dog before the tasting and bought some kettle corn afterwards. We even had a few minutes to stop at a few artist booths where I bought Katy a pair of earrings for our 5th anniversary. Overall it was a very enjoyable festival, one that I would certainly attend again in the future.