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Mountain Home Magazine

Murder in the Finger Lakes

Apr 17, 2014 12:28PM

Or: How to have a great time drinking wines and solving crimes

It was Mr. Cabernet who did it, in the barrel room, with a corkscrew. Wine and murder. It’s the perfect marriage. And in a region that is saturated with award-winning wines, all you need is the right creative talent to bring the two together. It has happened, and here is whodunit.

The Murder Mystery Wine Tour is one of the latest attractions for wine travelers to enjoy in the Finger Lakes. The tour company responsible is called “Experience! The Finger Lakes,” founded in 2007 by Laura and Alan Falk. These two run on an enthusiasm for everything local, and they lead high-end guided tours throughout the region to wineries, cheese dairies, restaurants, distilleries, cooking schools, and breweries. To take a tour with them is a total immersion into the local culture, and the reward is a true connection to the Finger Lakes “sense of place.”

With a well-established client base and a wine touring business going strong, the Falks would never have expected that they were about to meet their ideal partner in crime. Enter Danny Trippett, an actor extraordinaire who received his degree in performance and theater from the Boston Conservatory of Music. After spending twelve years working in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, he made a visit back east to visit relatives in Trumansburg, just outside Ithaca. There he saw a great opportunity to bring his business—Mystery Crime Solvers—to wine country.

Learning of the local wine touring business, Danny approached the Falks to see if there was any possibility of doing murder mystery dinners together. Laura Falk immediately saw the potential for more than just that. Why not do a whole day of wine touring, and let the customers play sleuth while sightseeing along the wine trail? It was a no-brainer, and a magical mystery tour was born.

“I was thrilled to connect with Danny,” Laura said. “I had always wanted to do something like this with the tours. We organized our first event in January, and it was a huge success!” All of the winter tours were sellouts, and the tours (this month it’s on the fifteenth) will be offered monthly year-round.

The Murder Mystery is written for twelve participants. Danny creates the scripts, complete with notes for six suspects and six detectives. The roles—including whodunit—are assigned when the tour begins at the La Tourelle Resort and Spa in Ithaca. Each member of the tour receives a letter in a secret envelope explaining the character that they will play, a bit of background on the story, and their own personal connection with a man named Jebidiah Hooch (who has yet to be introduced).

Danny, who also excels at impersonations, suddenly appears to announce that Jebidiah has been found murdered at a local winery, and the games begin. The tour immediately sets off for Six-Mile Creek Winery to investigate the first clues near the crime scene. While gathering evidence and interrogating the suspects, the group also takes some time to learn about the local wine history while sipping on some stellar wines and nibbling on local farmstead cheeses. (All good detectives need to stay well nourished). Then off to the next winery, Ports of New York, and the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together.

The winter tours end with a three- course dinner at a local restaurant and a chance for everyone to guess the identity of the culprit. Prizes are awarded to anyone who cracks the case.

Spring and summer tours will end similarly, but instead of a dinner, it is the ultimate wine and fondue party back at La Tourelle. Once all secrets are revealed, tour participants can relax and enjoy the rest of the evening, with packages offered to include lodging right at the resort.

“I love to create one-of-a-kind solvable mysteries, customized for private parties,” Danny explains. “And a murder mystery works so well when it is tailored behind a wine tour.”

The story can even be tweaked to accommodate special circumstances. For instance, on the last murder mystery tour, one of the participants had a birthday. A friend called ahead of time, and Danny worked it into a special piece of evidence—an unsent birthday card addressed to that individual, found in the back pocket of the victim!

The tours have even taken on some unique nicknames like, “In the Distill of the Night” and “The Wine Tour to Die For.” Or, Danny’s favorite—“Jeb Hooch Dies Monthly.”

For more information on these unique mystery tours, you can reach Laura Falk at 607-233-4818 or www.experiencefingerlakes.com. To contact Danny Trippett for more information on murder mystery private events, send him a note at [email protected], or call 607-269-7638.

Here’s to lots of fine wine with good body! See you on the trail…

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