The conclusion: I needed more time!
This year has squashed many travel plans and turned my focus on where I could travel by car. While hiding out in rural Pennsylvania from Covid since mid-March, I’ve been taking to Google Maps to scope out what’s in the drive-able vicinity.
It’s been a constant mental battle of when is the “right” time to really get out and travel to public places / touristic areas. Everyone has their level of risk and reasons like having a mom at home who’s in her 70s and not wanting to be the cause of the spread. My family and I have been wearing masks, washing our hands like crazy and being very mindful of social distance measures.
Summer has started to bring about warmer temps and drawing many outside. I wanted to get to a place like Finger Lakes with ample outdoor and alfresco options to limit human interaction and risk. The region and local businesses really appeared to be taking lots of precautions and taking this very seriously, which eased our concerns as well.
After picking a weekend just after the initial phase of openings, I mapped out our visit. I found a place right on the water to be our “homebase” and proximity to the activities that were most appealing. The pretty recently renovated Plum Point Lodge is perched right on the water with a dock, fire pit, pool, and restaurant. It was ideal for the four of us.
Scoping out the wineries and the time we had there, I made reservations at nearby Hermann J. Wiemer Winery, and across the lake, Wagner Vineyard, a highly awarded winery, known for the wide selection of Rieslings for that Saturday.
We arrived late afternoon on Friday, checked-in to Plum Point Lodge, and made our way to Grist Iron Brewery with a lake view and dining outside. No reservations needed and the team there had a system setup to keep us all safe, while we enjoyed their craft brews, pizza and the view. There were a lot of great beers, so while we couldn’t do flights, we did some sharing among ourselves and sampled a few. Favorites that we tried: QKA Cream Ale, Sweet Disaster Cherry Kolsch, That’s My Jam! Mixed Berry Sour, Boom Scotch-A-Lotcha.
We took some beer to go and went back to make good use of our lodge’s dock and weather.
The following morning we got a reasonably early start to check out The Windmill Farm & Craft Market (mostly outdoor market with precautions in place) before the crowds showed up. It was nice to support the local vendors, who were genuinely happy to see people and start recuperating their businesses.
The Amish have a great selection of baked goods, lots of knick knacks, some craft made items, antiques, outdoor furniture, produce and things to eat like breakfast sandwiches, BBQ, and typical fair food.
While we had some time before our first wine tasting, a short drive north of the market is a quaint town called Geneva, lined with stately houses decorated in flowers, many overlooking Seneca Lake. It’s a place where you go for your architecture and home envy needs. Limited on time, we got around on foot for an hour or so.
By now, we’ve had some coffee, filled our bellies with baked goods, taken a nice walk, so now it was time for our first wine tasting appointment at Hermann J. Wiemer Winery back down the road. The sun was dead center on the winery, so thankfully, we were seated in the outdoor terrace with only a couple and us out there.
To keep germs limited, we were able to order half, full or bottles to be served to the table. That suited us just fine, so we could tailor to our palettes. We were happy to learn they specialized in non-sweet, dryer wines. The day called for refreshing white wines, rose and bubbles.
As we were closing out our tab and buying bottles for later on the dock, we saw lots of people coming through, so our timing was perfect for a tasting at 2 pm, departure just after 3 pm.
While everything is a pretty easy drive (just up one side of the lake or the other), I’m glad we spaced out our vineyard timing. We made our way over to Wagner Winery just in time for the 4:30 pm tasting. Our tasting was pretty quick, so we could squeeze in time on the terrace overlooking the lake and snack on some cheese curds that you can buy on site.
Side note, they close at 5 pm and allow you to linger a little while til they have to close up. I would advise an earlier tasting, so you have time to try their on-site brews and cafe (closes at 4 pm). That was the only drawback, and well, the lack of umbrellas for the sun. Bring sunscreen, especially for my fellow fair skinned friends.
As we left Wagner, we ordered ahead to get carry out pizza at local favorite, Jerlando’s. During our short wait in Watkins, we had to treat ourselves to dessert first at Ben & Jerry’s down the street. You can’t come into Watkins Glen and NOT go there. Plus, it’s great to see the B&J folksy car out front and the social activism on the walls inside. Happy to support their business and activism. More companies like this, please.
The weekend really flew by. By Sunday morning, I was realizing that we really didn’t have much time left before our drive back to Pennsylvania. The hotel had keyless check-in and out, so we packed up, left a tip and were on our way. My brother being a cider fan, we dropped into the neighboring Cidery. While they tasted ciders, we got ourselves a slushy drink with a mix of cider and some sort of fruit wine. It fit the bill for the heat that day.
At long last, we had to drop by the Seneca Harbor Station with a view of the town’s iconic pier and red cabin, overlooking the lake. Their outdoor terrace offered a social distance al fresco lunch option and a chance to have some local seafood. Get the clam chowder!
A few minutes down the road, we stopped to enjoy the Watkins Glen Waterfall Trail on our way out of town. The ranger said it would take us a few hours, so in the heat, we paused after he told us how many steps there were. After a few grumbles from the group, we made our way into the park and it didn’t disappoint. The cool rock formations and waterfalls trickled into the crevices as we weaved deeper in. Even stopping for photos and putting our heads under the falls, we finished the trail in a little over an hour. A perfect end to our wine and food indulgent weekend.
Now I’m already planning to return. Apparently there’s a wine tour by boat on the next lake over. So, I have to do that.
Stay tuned for the next jaunt.