When you visit the Finger Lakes area of New York, no matter your mood, the time of year and what you have in mind to do, the area offers such a plethora of things you’ll invariable decide you have to make a return visit.
I know I plan to get back there sometime in the fall – it’s the best time to taste the wine, which is an industry that’s been sneaking up on the northern California wineries. For history buffs, expect historical sites that rival any city in the United States. The area, also considered the festival capital of the world, offers some sort of festival theme nearly any time of the year.
Landing in Syracuse, my first stop was the town of Skaneateles, a village on the lake dating back to 1796. My home away from home was a luxurious property called Mirbeau where fires burn in the fireplaces throughout the property, and comfy rooms give you the perfect elements of home.
After being firmly ensconced in my room, I immediately went to the spa to not only enjoy a treatment (I highly recommended Monet’s Favorite Fragrance Massage), but also the atmosphere. With 14,000 square feet, the spa also has a fireplace in every room and whether you go for a massage, facial, or body wrap, you definitely feel thoroughly pampered. Guests also enjoy the Aqua Terrace with a 15-person Jacuzzi, heated foot pool in the resting area, and all the expected amenities with a few more added to stand out from the competition.
As I was on a tight schedule to see, eat, and drink what I could in four days, I left the next day for Cayuga County, and found a surprisingly quaint and perfect destination for a weekend, especially in the little town of Auburn.
With one important stop at Anyela’s Vineyard, where you’ll find Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc, I indulged in my first taste of the local wine. The history of Anyela’s Vineyards goes back three generations to Eastern Europe. Today the owners grow their grapes on the hillside near Skaneateles Lake, and they’ve been planting since 2001.
In Auburn, I opted for a day of history with a tour of Seward House, one of the stops on the Underground Railroad. William H. Seward was the man best known for his work to purchase Alaska, called “Seward’s Folly.” There are 17 rooms in the house with original furnishings.
The Willard Memorial Chapel is the only complete and unaltered Tiffany designed religious interior existing in the world. Once belonging to the Auburn Theological Seminary, it is listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places; in 2005, it was officially named a National Historic Landmark. Completed in 1894, the Chapel complex’s overall architecture is Romanesque Revival.
The Cayuga Museum and Case Research Lab is a great place to spend a couple of hours, especially for movie buffs. In fact, the Case Research Lab is the birthplace of sound film, and the museum has an amazing prison exhibit.
After all, Auburn is home to the longest continuously operating maximum-security prison in the country.
My next day trip was a stop in Canandaigua, where I took part in an olive oil tasting at F. Olivers as well as more wine tastings. Stopping off for lunch at Bristol Harbour Resort, the Life Path Spa stood right next door so I couldn’t resist.
One of the area’s newest spas, it offers a homey feeling with a great energy. My massage therapist gave me some insight on my aching muscles, and one of the best massages I have ever received. The spa also offers yoga classes and works with Bristol Harbour to accommodate spa days and spa menus for healthy types. Depending on the season, there is also hiking, snowshoeing, or even cross-country skiing to burn calories.
One of the most interesting stops in Canandaigua is the Wine and Culinary Center. I enjoyed a variety of wines in the tasting room while my host tried the local beers. We both came away feeling refreshed. The Wine and Culinary Center is a new concept in the area; it is an experiential facility aimed at educating folks on food, wine, beer, and agriculture. While I was there, I peeked in on a wine tasting class and a cooking class. Next time I plan to join.
I spent my last night in Rochester, which has great malls, history, and restaurants. It was hard to decide what to do in my final 24 hours. My host had me stop in at the Susan B. Anthony House, and the George Eastman House, a world-renowned international museum of photography and film. You can get up close and personal on a tour in several of the galleries checking out the old camera equipment along the way.
Whether you decide to tour the entire area or just stay in one place for your trip, be sure to get out on the lakes by boat. It’s a good way to get a better idea of the overall area and what it has to offer, and don’t forget to take a bottle of wine (or two) from one of the local vineyards.
Mirbeau’s French Steakhouse
Even if you don’t stay at Mirbeau, take the time for at least dinner in the French Steakhouse. There is also a wine bar where you can try a variety of tastes from the region and around the world. Stephen Landon heads the kitchen at the steakhouse and you can expect some exquisite culinary offerings.
Mesa Grande Taqueria
Try any one of the Taqueria staples and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The owner was holding his breath, since I am Texan and know Mexican food, but I had no complaints. Nachos and huge burritos were my first choice and all made fresh, the restaurant also roasts their own peppers and chilies.
Moro’s Table uses the freshest ingredients and local products, so everything you eat is the best of its kind. The restaurant was also named one of America’s “best wine country restaurants.”