Monday, May 19, 2008

Friends, Forty, and the Finger Lakes

This past weekend, we journeyed with another couple to the Finger Lakes for a wine tour to celebrate my husband's 40th birthday. We still have a couple of days until he hits the big 4-0, but since his birthday falls near a holiday weekend, we are going to take the long road of celebration. Still on tap--live lobsters imported from Maine, live blues music, family gathering with a home-smoked turkey barbecue. Almost makes me want to turn 40.

This past weekend was a nice way to honor Mark's 40 years. We took a leisurely drive to the region, stopping at Ithaca's famed Moosewood restaurant for lunch. We had a great vegetarian meal. The salad was one of the freshest and tastiest I have had. It owed its goodness to the quality of the veggies and the dressing which was the house dressing of spinach/basil. Looking through the Moosewood cookbook after our return, I think it matches the Very Green Dressing recipe. I am looking forward to trying it. No fat! Lots of flavor. I had a tomato/potato soup which had some Andean name. It was spiced with a little cinnamon which was an unexpected delight. We also shared a Nut Brown Beer from Ithaca brewery. I enjoy the taste of the more full-bodied beers, but I just can't drink that much of them.

We sampled many wines at the wineries. Primarily we stayed on the west side of Cayuga Lake and the East side of Seneca Lake while maintaining a home base of Interlaken. The region is most known for its whites, especially Riesling, but we only came home with one bottle of Riesling. I was surprised at the stash of dry rose that came back with us. I like dry rose (not the sickening sweet white zin stuff) for a summer wine with meals of salad and grilled seafood on the deck. I can't wait. We also came back with a bunch of reds, mostly blends. The notable red varietals; Cabernet Franc, (pale) Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, and Lemberger were interesting. But we are used to California reds. We opted in many cases for the blends, which perhaps didn't reflect the region as well, but gave us a drinkable wine. The prices were great for both the tastings and the wine itself. When we were in California having our wine experience, we didn't buy any bottles that were less than $18. Here, we probably bought most of our bottles for $10 or less. In the end, our wine fridge is groaning with a nice variety including a bottle of hard cider, a sparkling wine, a dessert wine among others. Since we consume wine with meals, I can't wait to start planning some summer menues around our stash.

Wineries we liked best: Atwater, Shalestone (only does reds), Lucas, Domiani, Bloomer Creek, Red Newt Cellars. I'll have to check through my literature to see if I am forgetting any.

As for our meals, we ate well at restaurants which support local and organic food. Red Newt had some great pasta and fish tacos--not to mention, the best smoked turkey sandwich I ever tasted (lunch). We also ate at Stonecat Cafe and got to sample an array of smoked meats. Mark surprised me and ordered the cassoulet. I think he was intrigued by the strange ingredients: duck legs and bison sausage. Our friends also got to the Ithaca Farmer's Market. I regret missing that. We also had a good time hiking the falls around Cayuga Lake.

All-in-all, a good trip. Now I will be torn between going back some day and exploring more deeply and checking out New York's other wine regions on Long Island or around the Hudson River Valley. Lucky for us, we all have a lot of birthdays to celebrate.

No comments: