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Mountain Home Magazine

Tiptoe Through the Finger Lakes

Apr 17, 2014 05:34PM

Autumn is a spectacular season, especially if you live in wine country. It is a time when all of the senses seem to be at their peak. The colors, the smells, the sounds, and, of course, the plethora of harvest festivals are enough to make you want to stop the clock. Well, at least we turn it back!

There are so many fun things to do during harvest in the Finger Lakes, it is hard to know where to begin. So to make it easy, here are ten of my favorite seasonal hangouts, in no particular order:

The Purple Foot Festival at Casa Larga

If this doesn’t say “harvest,” then nothing does. It brings back memories of the famous I Love Lucy episode, where wine was made the old fashioned way—with the soles of your feet! People from all ages can take off their shoes and jump into the barrels to enjoy the feeling of fresh grapes squishing between the toes. (Note—this juice not used in making the actual wine.) Add in wine tours, great music, hayrides, seminars, and tastings, and you have a winner. Look for it next September—it is worth remembering—at Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairport. (www.casalarga.com)

Naples Grape Festival 

Although the actual arts and crafts weekend takes place in September, you can find the famous Naples grape pies throughout the entire autumn season. There is a grape stand about every hundred feet as you drive through the town of Naples. Hard to decide which pie is the best. Delicious warmed up with a little vanilla ice cream. (www.naplesgrapefest.org)

Bristol Mountain Fall Sky Rides

When the foliage is at its peak, this is the perfect way to take it all in. Bristol ski resort in Naples opens up its Comet Express Chairlift during the months of September and October, and offers you a breathtaking view from the summit of the mountain. And you don’t even have to be a skier. (www.bristolmountain.com/fall-sky-rides)

Brew and Brats at Arbor Hill

After your sky ride, head down the road to Arbor Hill Winery. In addition to their tasty wine list, you’ll find a charming restaurant that serves up homemade German sausages and great brew as well. This area was once very well known for its hops production. Even wine lovers like a beer every now and then. A perfect Oktoberfest pairing. (www.brewandbrats.com)

Hunt Country Harvest Festival

The first weekend in October is the 24th annual at Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport on Keuka Lake. A full  weekend of activities including grape stompin’, horse-drawn wagon rides, tours and tastings, live music, cooking seminars, and even a local artist exhibit. Of course, the wonderful Hunt Country wines are the icing on the cake. Free admission. (www.huntwines.com/Harvest-Festival)

The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail

You know I could never leave out cheese, and it just so happens that the amazing Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is having one of their Open Houses on Columbus Day weekend (October 12-13). These only happen a few times a year, as the farms are small and not always open to the public. Thirteen farms participate, and are open for visitors all weekend. Sample the cheeses, meet the animals, and learn how cheese is made. Fascinating and family friendly. Don’t forget to bring a cooler to bring home some great cheese. (www.flcheesetrail.com)

Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival

Since it is their peak season, we need a party to celebrate apples as well!  Leave it to downtown Ithaca to come up with a great one. This year is the 31st annual, October 4-6, and will offer up lots of local delicacies made with you know what. Arts, crafts, games, live performances, and rides make this the ultimate street party. (www.downtownithaca.com)

Glass Harvest at Corning Museum

Even glass has a harvest season, and it coincides with that of the great pumpkin! Yes, you will be able to view the world’s largest glass pumpkin in Corning during this event that runs from September 2 through November 11, 2013. Or, create your own by taking a forty-minute glass class. Lots of fun activities for adults and kids, including a Harvest Hunt in the museum and a glass farmer’s market. (www.cmog.org)

Goose Watch Chestnut Festival

The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts is the epitome of Autumn. Goose Watch Winery on Cayuga Lake (sister winery to Swedish Hill and Penguin Bay) grows their own chestnuts, and hosts a party to celebrate the harvest October 19. Expect lots of new chestnut recipes, live music, tasty sampling, and one of the best views of Cayuga Lake. (www.goosewatch.com)

The Spontaneous Outing

Last, but not least, one of my absolute favorite Finger Lakes excursions is the completely unplanned one. A few good friends (including a designated driver), a picnic lunch, a beautiful day, and an adventure just waiting to be written. I’ll never forget a trip I took with my parents a few years back. We had just returned from Napa Valley, California, and an incredible wine experience. It was one we will never forget. Yet, as we drove down the west coast of Seneca Lake on a pristine autumn day, we couldn’t help but wonder why we had spent all that money to go out West. We were mesmerized by the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region, and realized the same thing Dorothy did when she returned from Oz. “It’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”