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Merlot2muscadine Invades the Finger Lakes - Part 1 of 3


Just five years ago, while in Napa & Sonoma California, celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, my wife and I made the decision to spend our 35th wedding anniversary in one of two outstanding wine destinations: either Willamette Valley Oregon or Finger Lakes New York. After much debate and discussion the decision was made to travel to the Finger Lakes.


Boy, am I glad we did!


Our recent trip to the Finger Lakes region was memorable, eventful and destined for success from the very beginning. How so you ask? Let's start with the number of friends that we know that have traveled to this area extensively and know it very well. There are so many of them that I would not even dare to attempt to call them all by name but they know who they are. Their input and knowledge was critical to us being able to focus on locations that we knew had wines that we would enjoy. As always, we hope tasting rooms employ knowledgeable staff and if there happen to be picturesque settings that is a bonus.


In addition to knowing where to go we also had the privilege and pleasure of traveling with our dear friends Bryant and Michele who have traveled with us to wine destinations many times in the past; but nothing like this. They had a front row seat for what had to have been one of the most memorable wine excursions they had ever experienced. Traveling with them made this trip extra special and many many memories about this trip centered around them and their enjoyment of this wine destination.







Now let's talk about where we stayed. Our picturesque chalet was perched high on a hill overlooking Seneca lake. This rustic two-bedroom 2 bathroom dwelling with a fire pit overlooking the lake was the perfect respite location for our wine travels. Equipped with a fully appointed kitchen it afforded us the opportunity to eat at home if we choose. The ample open living space was more than enough for two couples without feeling crowded.





I would also be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the presence of my daughter Stefani for several days during the trip. We were very fortunate that she was able to get away from her home in Manhattan and join us between business trips. Her palate and taste are second to none and she was a spark that lit many activities (like rose, bud, thorn...iykyk). Any vineyard or winery that we visited will surely remember her as much if not more than myself. She was a joy to have along the trip.


So, as you can see, with all this prior knowledge, traveling with my daughter and our best friends, all the while staying in a beautiful chalet overlooking Seneca Lake; our wine vacation was destined for greatness.


So, lets talk about the trip and where we went. We were there for a total of six days. In Part One I will cover days One and Two of our Finger Lakes wine vacation where we visit Shaw Vineyard, Miles Wine Cellars, Anthony Road Wine Co., Prejean Winery, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard and Glenora Wine Cellars.



DAY ONE, Sunday October 8

First Stop: Shaw Vineyard, 3901 NY-14, Dundee, NY 14837



Upon arriving in the Finger Lakes we decided to stop at a winery before checking into our accommodations, which we discovered to our amazement and delight were less than a mile from the chalet. In addition, Shaw Vineyard had been highly recommended by our friends Joe Brock and Matt Kemberling aka The NC WineGuys as well as my good friend Dave Nershi aka Vino-Sphere. All described it as a "must stop" and a required destination based on my wife's preference for red wine.





Shaw Vineyards will forever be enshrined in my memory as the very first winery I ever set foot in the Finger Lakes. But we will remember them for so much more. Everyone in my party agreed these were the best red wines we sampled during the trip. However, this lofty distinction comes with an important caveat - Shaw Vineyard significantly ages their wines in the bottle before making them available to the public. I assure you this is a business model that would drive most into bankruptcy or worse. But for Shaw Vineyard it results in round full bodied reds that are not only immediately drinkable but would rival or exceed other renowned comparable red wines.



Meeting the son of the owner Steve was a rare treat and he was not only gracious and hospitable, but readily recommended several local restaurants for us to consider. We were able to visit a few and his suggestions were all amazing.


Oh, by the way, Shaw Vineyard was also the ONLY vineyard/winery that we actually visited more than once during the trip (along with one other I will mention later). Their close proximity to our accommodations and their exceptional red wines made it a no brainer to go back. I can not imagine a trip to the Finger Lakes without a visit to Shaw Vineyards.




DAY TWO, Monday October 9

First Stop: Miles Wine Cellars, 168 Randall Crossing Rd, Himrod, NY 14842


Situated in a stately Georgia style mansion overlooking Seneca Lake, it is no wonder why National Geographic traveler dubbed this winery "the most serenely gorgeous setting of any winery in the region". Located just minutes away from our accommodations in Himrod and not requiring reservations we were in luck to be the very first customers under the supervision of Evan who conducted our tasting.




Evan was a wealth of information especially on the reported "hauntings" in the mansion. We were also intrigued by the Ghost white wine and the unique bottle design; when properly illuminated the bottle shows a ghostly apparition.


This was the very first location I ever had the varietal Vignoles. Vignoles is a white hybrid grape that is very popular in the Finger Lakes wine growing region. Similar in style and character to Riesling and Chardonnay, I immediately became enamored to this varietal and if you read on you will see that I bought several during the trip. The late harvest versions of Vignoles were also superb desert wines with a Sauterne like flavor and aroma but not the Sauterne price.


As a big fan of port style wines, you can not imagine my excitement to discover that many Finger Lakes wineries do a port style and Miles Wine Cellars was no exception. They call it Treasure and I think the name is quite appropriate.



Miles Wine Cellars was a fantastic start to our very first day of exploring and Evan started a trend of knowledgeable personable staff guiding us through our tastings.



DAY TWO, Monday October 9

Second Stop: Anthony Road Wine Co.

1020 Anthony Rd, Penn Yan, NY 14527


A stop at Anthony Road Wine Company was mandatory based on a request for Tony's Red from our dear friends Penny and John. Although my wife worked with Penny many years ago locally Penny and John called the Finger Lakes home for many years. During that time span they would often come home and bring my wife and i wine from the area. There is no doubt that they introduced me to my very first wines from this region.




During our tasting we were in the very capable hands of Gate who skillfully guided us through a maze of Rieslings. The wines at Anthony's Road were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting. Gate was very attentive and equally knowledgeable and the entire experience set the stage for thye remainder of the day. By the way, Penny and John did get their bottles of Tony's Red and they were pleased.



DAY TWO, Monday October 9

Third Stop: Prejean Winery

2634 NY-14, Penn Yan, NY 14527



Located just mere minutes from our accommodations in Himrod, Prejean Winery was both convenient and very memorable. Owners Tom and Amy can boast some of the lowest priced wines in the Finger Lakes, making them a regular stop for many visiting the area. I will forever remember Prejean as the very first winery I ever had wine made from the varietal Maréchal Foch. This hybrid red grape was renamed after the Supreme Allied Commander of the first World War (Marshall Ferdinand Foch).This versatile grape can be used to make a variety of styles of wine, and I was a fan from the very first sip.


Our party was handled by Natalie who skillfully guided us through our tasting and allowed us to savor the wines we selected at our leisure. Their winery dog made me homesick for my own dogs Mikee and Monte.


The incredibly reasonable prices on their wine resulted in us purchasing several bottles and their equally alluring wine accessories (like hand painted wine glasses paired with a bottle of wine made buying several of them a no brainer. Virtually all of the wine we purchased made it’s way back to North Carolina; but the next evening it was the Maréchal Foch that I purchased that we enjoyed around the fire pit.



DAY TWO, Monday October 9

Fourth Stop: Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard

3962 NY-14, Dundee, NY 14837




Any regular travel to this renowned wine region will tell you that no wine trip to the Finger Lakes is complete without a visit to Hermann J. Wiemer. I like to refer to them as the “King of Riesling” because what they have done with this varietal is utterly amazing. Riesling grows very well in the Finger Lakes and is immensely popular. Yet what this winery does with Riesling is the stuff of legend. From dry to semi dry to late harvest they have it all.


Here we were in the capable hands of Anthony and his knowledge of wine was front and center. This was one of the wineries where reservations were recommended and during my visit it was obvious why. There was a steady flow of patrons in the winery the entire time we were there with very few empty tables during our visit.


The wines here were outstanding and oddly enough I was able to enjoy some delicious red wines here in the "land of Riesling". I feel very fortunate to have visited here and I will never forget someone on the staff here at Hermann J. Wiemer stopping by my table and proclaiming me “the best dressed man to have ever walked in the winery”. I love compliments and never grow weary of hearing them.


To have visited Hermann J. Wiemer was definitely a bucket list experience!


DAY TWO, Monday October 9

Final Stop: Glenora Wine Cellars

5435 NY-14, Dundee, NY 14837




Our final stop of our second day was one of the most memorable – and it started in the parking lot of Glenora Wine Cellars. As we were getting out of our car in the parking lot you can not imagine my utter surprise and shock when a lovely young lady approached me and asked “Excuse me, are you Arthur Barham with Merlot2muscadine?” It turns out I was being greeted by Jourdan Dyer, tasting room manager.



I was reminded of what my dear friend Thomas Armshaw used to tell me and the staff when I was one of the headwaiters at Tavern on the Glen, a restaurant I worked in formerly located in Greensboro, NC. He used to tell us "the sweetest sound to a customer is the sound of their own name". I can assure you we effectively used this philosophy to make customers feel welcome.


Before I even entered the tasting room of Glenora Wine Cellars I was impressed and it was based on my interaction with only one individual. Every person who works in a service industry should take note that their interaction with a customer can make or break the experience.


When Jourdan, who was going home at the end of her shift decided to return to the tasting room and personally conduct my tasting I was overwhelmed and grateful. I felt compelled to return and present her with a very small token of my appreciation that I hope she will use and cherish. Other than Shaw Vineyard, this was the only location we visited twice.


Now, how about the wines at Glenora? I enjoyed them especially the variety and prices. They sold one of the most reasonably priced 750ml bottles of port style I encountered the entire week and it of course followed me home including...


At the conclusion of the second day, our conversation was dominated by "how can the experience get any better". Not only that, but we started to conjecture "things have to go downhill at some point". All day we experienced incredible wines and knowledgeable staff; two of the prerequisites for a memorable experience.

We all were also eagerly awaiting the arrival of my daughter Stefani who resides in Manhattan and decided to come up to the Finger Lakes and hang out with her family. As an event planner formerly with Wells Fargo and now with Morgan Stanley she is a "chip off the ole block" and no stranger to fine wine.


In Part 2 of 3 of my Finger Lakes vacation I chronicle my visits during Days 3 and 4 where i visit Fox Run Vineyards, Red Tail Ridge Winery, Billsboro Winery, Ravines Wine Cellars, Belhurst Castle and Winery, Keuka Spring Vineyards, Rooster Hill Vineyards and Weis Vineyards.


If you think the first two days of our excursion were interesting, wait until you read Part Two to be released soon. This was the trip of a lifetime and you have only read a small portion. Sign up for notifications so you don't miss the next edition. Cheers!



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