Last Saturday was a cool, fall day. I spent the morning doing chores around the apartment and was looking forward to going to the Canandaigua Wine Walk with Katy in the afternoon then heading over to Seneca Falls to meet my family at the Saint Anthony’s festival afterwords.
The Wine Walk is a reoccurring event sponsored by the Canandaigua Merchant Association and is designed to get people familiar with the shops and restaurants on Main Street. The carrot in this case is Finger Lakes wine. It’s apparently effective since there was a respectable turn out for the event judging from the lines I saw at each stop along the walk. If you’re not familiar with Canandaigua, Main Street is also Route 332 which is a four lane highway that leads from the New York State Thruway to Routes 5 and 20, the other major highway running east and west through the region. There’s a tree lined median that divides Main Street with street-side parking and wide sidewalks that make it inviting to stop and shop or grab a bite to eat. I have to say that for all the times I’ve been to Canandaigua, I’ve never stopped at any of the places on Main Street. I’ve always headed straight to the lake, bypassing the Main Street merchants along the way. Perhaps this is common and is a motivating factor behind the Wine Walk.
Our first stop was Artiques Heirlooms and Art. We parked on the street a few car lengths away and immediately saw the purple balloons identifying the shop as a Wine Walk participant. The entry fee is $5 per person which covers the cost of a wine glass and the tastings. There were eight participating merchants, so this was a bargain considering tastings typically cost a dollar or two at the wineries. I was put back at first by the length of the line for the tasting which ran forty or more feet though the store and out into the street. I almost asked for a refund because I wasn’t much in the mood for long lines. I had imagined the wineries setting up outside on the sidewalk where there would be more room. It seemed a bit crowded inside to accommodate so many people.
We decided to skip this stop for the time being and headed across the street to try our luck at Pulp Nouveau Comix who teamed up with Kings Garden Vineyards from Seneca Lake for the wine walk. I’ve never heard of this winery so it was a treat to try something new. I was happy to see that the line was quite a bit shorter and moved along rather quickly. This was partly due to the wineries limiting their tastings to four wines. Katy and I perused through some of the comics while waiting in line. I never knew there were so many different comics. I knew there were more titles than Super Man, Wonder Woman or The Hulk, but didn’t imagine Jack of Fables, a western themed comic. Apparently the West wouldn’t have been wild without Jack of Fables.
Our next stop was Pickering Pub and Fulkerson Winery, also located on Seneca Lake. Pickering Pub is your typical neighborhood pub complete with sports on TV, a full pub menu, and a friendly local crowd. It was rather busy for a Saturday afternoon. They put out a platter of tasty Chicken Quesadillas for the wine tasting crowd. The quesadilla tasted just like what I make at home, which means I liked it a lot. I took a look at the menu and it had typical pub fare including an array of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, and salads along with an assortment of dinner items including beef, fish, and pasta. I would definitely consider coming back the next time I’m in town looking for something to eat.
Bubuli and 1852 Hazlitt Vineyards was next on the list. Bubuli is a chic women’s clothing store that would definitely be of interest to my daughter. While I didn’t pay much attention to the clothes, I did pick up a tip for dinner. More on that later. I’ll also let you check out their website to get a feel for what they offer rather than trash their business in a futile attempt to describe it. Pesky Y chromosome. Hazlitt was set up outside in back of the store which gave the wine crowd a bit more elbow room, although the line here was short for some reason. I think it just worked out that way with traffic flow.
G. Jones Furniture featured Pittsford’s Dolce CupCakery who offered an array of bite sized cupcakes to sample. Katy and I both had a Key Lime cupcake. The cake didn’t taste much like key lime, but the frosting did. It was good; I just wish I was able to sample more. Maybe I should have asked.
Leonard Oakes Estate Winery paired up with Finger Lakes Gallery & Frame. Leonard Oakes was the only non Finger Lakes winery on the walk. They are located in Medina, NY which is a canal town between Brockport and Lockport. The line grew long again in the gallery. This was fine because I knew the lines were moving fast. This also gave Katy and I a chance to chat it up with other wine walkers, including Don Stevens, the event organizer. It also gave me a chance to look around at some of the wonderful photographs displayed in the gallery. I immediately recognized the work of John Francis McCarthy who happens to be one of my favorite photographers. He had a couple of prints of the Canandaigua water front that were stunning. John Francis knows how to capture the mood and many dimensions of his subject by shooting in the most interesting light conditions. I wish I could take one photograph as good as his. The gallery was quite large and had a wide range of pieces on display as well as a full frame shop. I could have spent another hour in there easily.
We had time for two more stops on the walk, Simply Crepes with Wagner Vineyards and Anthony Road Wine Company at Artiques Heirlooms and Art, our first stop where we bought our wine glasses. There was one more destination, the Lumberyard Grill featuring the beers of Custom BrewCrafters from Honeoye Falls, but we didn’t have time for that.
I’ve been to the Pittsford and Rochester Simply Crepes locations so I was familiar with their menu. They make delicious sweet and savory crepes with an interesting assortment of fillings. They had crisp cinnamon crepe pieces with a sweet cheese spread followed by crisp savory crepe pieces with a roasted red pepper spread. It may have been a roasted red pepper hummus. Time was just about up after we left Simply Crepes. We had just enough time to pop into Artiques to taste a couple of Anthony Road’s wine but didn’t have a chance to look around in the shop. Next time. Yes, there will be another Canandaigua Wine Walk in our future. I’m sure Katy would agree
It was 7:00 and we were hungry. We headed out towards Seneca Falls when my sister called and said they were on their way home because it was cold, damp, and the kids were getting tired. I thought about going anyways because I was looking forward to a bowl of giblets, you have to try the giblets, but decided it was better to turn around and eat dinner in Canandaigua. I overheard the ladies in Bubuli mention Rio Tomatlan as being a fantastic Mexican restaurant, and suggested it to Katy for us to try. She eagerly agreed. The restaurant is located just off Main Street so it was convenient to get to. There was a parking lot just across the street which was also convenient. The restaurant was busy, which was a good sign. We ordered a couple margaritas and took a seat at a small table near the bar while we waited for our dinner table. The margaritas were good but not exceptional and they were a bit pricey. The complimentary chips and salsa were very good. Both were obviously freshly made. The chips were thick and crunchy. The salsa was full of fresh diced tomatoes, not saucy like jarred salsa. There was plenty of garlic, onion, and cilantro. For dinner, Katy ordered a combination plate with chicken, beef, and pork which was served with Rio Tomatlans Rice and refried beans. Katy liked the flavor of the meat dishes but said the chicken and beef were dry and over cooked. I had the Mole Poblano, a traditional Mexican dish with chicken, rich chocolate pepper nut sauce served with a poblano pepper rice and corn tortillas. The mole was some of the best I’ve ever had. It had rich, complex flavors and a deep brown color I expect. My chicken was dry and over cooked as well. It detracted from the dish somewhat, but the mole was so good you could have served it with beef jerky and I wouldn’t have complained too much. I also prefer the dish served with a whole chicken breast rather than pieces of chicken. I also like it topped with sesame seeds. Okay, now I’m being picky. Did I mention the mole was fantastic? I will definitely go back for more. Oh, I almost forgot the desert. I was about to suggest Flan but Katy overheard the people at the next table order Tres Leches and said I had to try it. Tres Leches is cake saturated with a delicious blend of three different types of milk with a Mezcal whipped cream, coconut, fruit and a hibiscus flower sauce. It was fantastic. It dissolved in your mouth as soon as it hit your tongue which was a very interesting feeling on top of the delicious flavors.
You might have noticed I didn’t write about the wine at all. I figured I would focus on the merchants and the experience rather than the wine this time around. Sometimes it’s not about the wine. The wine complimented the experience rather than being the experience itself. I did take notes on the wine and would summarize the tasting experience by saying each winery put their best grape forward for the event. There was a good variety of wines presented which were very representative of the styles of wine found throughout the Finger Lakes. Hazlitt and Leonard Oakes were my favorites of the day with consistently excellent wines. I’m sure I’ll visit these wineries in the coming months to give a full review of their wines. I hope the next wine walk features different merchants so I get to discover something new about the beautiful city of Canandaigua.