- Frances Schwabenland
Water Into Wine and Our Farewell
Updated: Jan 23
Day Three of the Finger Lakes Visit
The world's first degree in Journalism was awarded at Cornell University. That won my admiration but as one of the top Ivy League schools in the US it also has a widespread reputation for producing graduates with high academic performances, social prestige, and promising career futures. I can't really speak further to that but I can say that the bucolic campus was another beautiful site to take in. Cornell is situated at the very top of Ithaca and looks out onto the valley below. The air is definitely rarified here.
Since we were in the land of lakes and waterfalls, of course we had to visit the waterfall that has the longest drop east of the Rockies...three stories taller than Niagara Falls! The rushing water plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. The name would be the Taughannock Falls (pronounced Tuh-Ga-nick) in Ithaca. The park surrounding the falls has 750 acres of hiking scenic nature trails, tent and trailer sites, picnic areas, beach swimming, fishing, playground and a marina launch with kayak rentals. We just spent our entire time gazing in sheer awe at the main act! We knew we were in the presence of an extraordinary natural wonder and and we wanted to savor every moment letting all those negative ions rain over us! There are different viewing points, but we went to the very top in order to get the full view. At this level, there is a small Visitor Center with bathrooms and snacks in case you like us, want to be there for a while.
From the still image, you may be able to get more of a sense of scale seeing the people at the bottom viewing area. If I may quote Gustav Flaubert, "Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny space you occupy in the world."
The region is also famous for its vineyards. This uniquely formed landscape of rolling hills and lush vineyards framing glittering blue waters in combination with an ideal cool climate makes this an exceptional area to grow delicate vinifera grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir, alongside hybrid and native varietals.
While we were on the sunset cruise the night before, we met a woman who takes people on 6 hour wine tasting tours in the area. As much as we would have loved that, we had to settle for just one that she recommended. It sits right off of the Cayuga Lake and all the water has certainly blessed these grounds. Sheldrake Point Winery has 60 acres of vineyard planted to 10 vitis vinifera varieties, which are used to make approximately 8,500 cases of estate grown, produced, and bottled table and ice wines.
Sheldrake Point is located at 7848 County Line Road 153, Ovid, NY. They host seated wine tastings by reservation (607-532-8967) from Thursday-Monday from 12-4. They were twice named New York State Winery of the Year and has been listed as one of the Top 100 Wineries by Wine & Spirits magazine in three different years.
We chose the white wine category for the tasting experience which was $12. per person. To accompany this, we added the Finger Lakes Gold Hard Aged Goat's Milk Cheese produced by the Lively Run Dairy. The only thing that was missing was the fresh hot bread! First off, can I just say that reading the description of each wine was like reading poetry extolling the gifts of nature! From there we went to looking, swirling to notice if the wine formed "legs" or "tears" (Wine Enthusiast Newsletter). From there we "hovered over the top like a helicopter pilot surveying rush hour traffic", took a series of quick sniffs and then let the information "filter to the brain."...harmonious, complex, complete! Finally, after all the built up anticipation, it was time to become one with the nectar of the gods! There were two that went to the top of our dance list: Sheldrake Point Acid Head Riesling 2018 and Sheldrake Point Rose of Merlot 2020. They had me from the first hovering!
It was obvious during our conversations that those at Sheldrake Point Winery remain dedicated to their estate designation and as their website stated, "We maintain the vineyard through sustainable practices, honoring the symbiotic relationship we have with the land on which our grapes are grown. It is only by tending to it with the greatest of respect that it will continue to provide us with high quality grapes reflective of the terroir. Here are people who love their land and love their wine!"
Unfortunately, when we arrived it was pouring rain but on a sunny day, they have a very inviting area to sit, sip and enjoy with a lovely view of Cayuga Lake.
Let the good times roll!
We were also given the recommendation to visit the Cider House located at 4017 Hickok Road, Interlaken, NY. They create artisan ciders from their farm-based orchards and their daily food menu offers pairing with local meats, cheeses, breads and more. (Now for my hot, fresh bread!) The owners source everything from their farm, aptly named, "The Good Life Farm" and the neighboring farmers in the Finger Lakes region. This spot was the hub of the hard cider renaissance in NY apple country. There is actually a Cider Week NY that we just missed but there are plenty of videos on FB and YouTube that will give you the vibe, information and celebration of the apple! Since it was 5'o'clock somewhere other than here in NY and because we had just gotten up from our wine tasting, we settled for a delicious lunch without the cider. (I know, I can just hear what you are saying!) Please, if you do the tasting, let me know what you think. It was very interesting to see the growing popularity of hard cider. This farm was specifically mentioned in Vogue, Forbes, Inside Elsewhere, The Travel Channel, StyleCaster and Martha Stewart. Now I am going off to read the article, "Why Hard Cider Is the Ultimate American Drink" which was featured in Conde'Nast Traveler as my regret grows! I would give their website but again, it came up as not secure. They do have an awesome Instagram site though.
Traveling to new spots invites one to be totally in the moment, to be open to all the knowledge, beauty and learning that is coming into your path and to cultivate that feeling of surprise and wonder for the fullness of the experience. This can easily be done if you travel to 101 N Genesse Street, Montour Falls, NY right outside of Ithaca. The site is and was so impressive that in 1820, Louis Philippe, who later became a King of France, did a sketch of the falls which now is in the Louvre. National Geographic did a two page spread of it in November of 1956. Here is wonder literally in the backyard! A 156 foot cascading waterfall, named "Tumbling Waters" by the local Seneca tribe is right in the backyard of this historic home built in 1845 by the entrepreneur William Jackson. Presently, is has served as a B&B until covid and sad to say is now closed until further notice. I can't even begin to imagine the type of sleep I would have being in one of the rooms with an amazing view of these falls from my bed! My hope is that John and Lorna King will be able to reopen "At The Falls" B&B, giving us another reason to return.
Our time was ticking away and the rain was coming sporadically. As luck would have it, we met two women on a trek through the Finger Lakes. They told us that in order to take in Watkins Glen without having to pay $9. to park and hike muddy paths, we could park at the Watkins Glen Visitor's Center for free. There were cement paths into the park and falls making for more sure footed walking. Travel opens hearts and "strangers" easily become people to share the experience with.
So off to Watkins Glen, one of the most famous parks of the Finger Lakes. Within 2 miles, there are 19 waterfalls and 200 foot cliffs. This path will lead right up to Rainbow Falls.
The rain brought out a mysterious mood with rich colors and serenaded with the sounds of rain and birds. I wanted to wrap this experience into a sleep app because it was so peaceful. Nature certainly heals the shut away spirit.
We had three very full days in the Finger Lakes. We were surprised by nature at every turn, tasted delicious food and wine, and learned about the environment and history. Most of all, on the scale of awe, it was off the charts. Flowing waters forging a path through hard rock over thousands of years was as captivating to me as holy shrines and cathedrals around the world. It all honors the sacred. It all calls us to seek out experiences that will take us to new vistas and as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, " A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."
The Last Vista
On the drive home, we decided to take in the Cornell Botanic Gardens breathing in an extra rush of nature. We were a bit early for the Wildflower path which hugs the meanderings of the water but found the water lilies and skies reflected beauty. Heaven meets earth...and on that note, we got to speaking with a couple who brought their grandchildren here. They encouraged us to go to the very top of the hill - The Newman Overlook which has the view of both the arboretum and far distant points of landscape which was carved by Fall Creek's waters beginning over 10,000 years ago. Visitors are invited to ring the large iron bell here and it is one of the "161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do Before Graduation." The sound drifts out into the valley across the land and the grandmother shared that her ritual was to ring this when her parents died as a form of releasing and giving thanks. It was the perfect way for us to end our trip. Our moment of gratitude and releasing was carried out to the ethers... from the precipice of endings and beginnings. If you follow in any of these paths, may it hold as much excitement for you as it did for us! The ethereal truly did meet the beautiful.
Stretched open by wanderlust
Changed grown grateful soul