Weekending in the Finger Lakes: The Storied Wineries Are Just the Beginning of This Culinary Wonderland

Planning a weekend away? Bring your appetite (and maybe a cooler or two).

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Seneca Lake pier in Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes. Photograph by Peter Unger/Getty Images

Roughly five hours northwest of Philly, this region is known for its 11 narrow lakes with dozens of encircling wineries. While the vineyards have the deepest roots, other trails — highlighting breweries, distilleries, even ice-cream shops and dairy farms — make this a foodie destination.

You can plot out your own custom wine/cheese/booze trail to sample the best of all these worlds. Start at Ravines Wine Cellars, near the northern tip of Seneca Lake, for a glass of sparkling blanc de blancs before heading south to Fox Run Vineyards (tours from $10) to sample award-­winning dry riesling. While you’re there, take a 45-minute walking tour of the vineyard and the winemaking facility.

Continue south to Steuben Brewing, on the shores of Keuka Lake, and order a flight of Local Liquid — made with all-New York State ingredients — paired with lunch from a rotating pack of food trucks. At Shtayburne Farm Creamery, visit the cows who provide milk for garlic cheddar and chipotle cheese curds. Colonial Inn & Creamery, a family-owned ice-cream parlor in Watkins Glen, churns out luscious homemade scoops; at Sunset View Creamery, stop in the farm store for samples of a dozen cheeses made on-site, plus provisions from other local makers.

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The Lake House on Canandaigua. Photograph by Chris Mottalini

For drinks with one of the best views in town, head to Two Goats Brewing, where you can sip a pint paired with a perfect beef-on-weck sandwich. (A regional delicacy, it’s hand-carved roast beef on a kummelweck roll topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds.) Continue on to Lively Run Goat Farm for award-winning goat cheese plus a meet-and-greet with the friendly herd. Finish the trail at Myer Farm Distillers, run by a family whose roots on the farm date back more than 150 years. You can toast with tasting flights of vodka, gin and bourbon made with estate-grown grains and distilled on-site.

Book a room at the polished Lake House on Canandaigua (from $241 per night). The waterfront property got a design-minded revamp in 2020, with hand-carved furniture and a general air of understated luxury. (Picture if the Roys from Succession went on a lakeside retreat.) Between activities like sailing, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding, stop into the Rose Tavern for dishes that highlight the regional bounty, like the kale salad with Lively Run goat cheese. You can also ask the staff to make up a picnic basket for an impromptu alfresco lunch lakeside. On Cayuga Lake, find the Inns of Aurora (from $352 per night), a luxury boutique resort. The retreat is a destination in and of itself for its farm-to-table restaurant and demo kitchen, which hosts events like chef-led cheese and chocolate tastings.

Published as “Chautauqua Lake” in the “Escape to New York” guide in the September 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.