Adjusting the Zankapfel Life

Brewing, Cats, and Moving

A Trip to the Finger Lakes

I love to camp, and lucky for me, so does SpecSO. In light of our mutual enjoyment and his interest in mead and mine in wine, we decided to take a long weekend trip up to the Finger Lakes so we could camp and hike and enjoy the outdoors. A friend of ours recommended Back Achers when we were looking for a camp ground between Seneca and Keuka Lakes, and that was the first of many good decisions.

Just leaving the house was a bit of an event. Everything was packed and ready except for the perishables so we were pretty set, but as soon as we woke up Orion managed to make an epic hairball next to the bedroom book case. SpecSO went to get stuff to clean it up, and when he returned he shooed away Jeffe (who is a know and unrepentent puke feaster) found that a book had fallen into it. He swears, takes the book to wash it off, and comes back to see Jeffe knocking more books off of his old pulp paperback shelf into the pile of kittybarf. Jeffe was trying to cover it! So SpecSO is somewhat upset and cleans it up, but the carpet spray bottle is empty. Eventually everything was cleaned up, and we could finally hit the road.

The sun shone the whole drive, big puffy clouds floated by, and the mountain ridges just slipped by. It wasn’t a long drive, which was one reason for choosing this location. We easily found the campground, registered, and set up our site.


When the campground map says you’re “on the lake,” they really mean on the lake.

Yeah, this was our view. How can you go wrong with that? We cooked up some burgers on the grill, opened up some homebrews, and just relaxed by the fire for the evening. I know, we’re so exciting.

The next morning, I restarted the fire from some embers I banked the earlier evening and cooked up some beet hash and eggs. When we finished absolutely lounging our way through breakfast and packing a picnic lunch, it was time to check out what the finger lakes are famous for: wineries!

Another reason for picking this area of the lakes was the presence of Earl Estates, a meadery. If you haven’t noticed, our household is comprised of a beekeeper and a brewer. So of COURSE we’re interested in brewing with honey this winter. (Our trip was taken before we realized it wouldn’t be happening this year). But we arrived a half hour before it opened. No worries, we’ll drive around and look at the pretty vinyards and get some pictures and… hey, that winery is open! Pull in!

As the GPS took us some annoying back way because it was ‘shorter,’ I didn’t realize just how many wineries line route 14. We couldn’t go a half mile without passing *another* winery! That day we only hit three wineries and Earl Estates, but we didn’t go home empty handed! For anyone who hasn’t done a winery visit / wine tasting before, most of them ask for you to pay two to three dollars a person for a tasting of five or so wines, but often if you seem to be a serious purchaser the attendant will let you try a few others. Especially if you don’t just start at the top and work your way down.


Hey, grapes!

SpecSO and I have decidedly different wine profiles. I love CabSavs, Pinot Noirs, and other full bodied reds as well as dry Rieslings, Gerwertzerminers, and SavBlancs. One of my favorite types of wine is a Vino Verde, a VERY dry VERY young white. So I’m the dry wine drinker of the bunch, but a good muscadine or fruit wine will set me spinning. SpecSO loves sweet wines, and he certainly favored the ones that tasted very grapey, almost like juice. Because of this, we could each take about half of offered wine lists, and if we *really* liked something then the other could take a sip and put in their two cents.

After your tasting you’ll get a coupon for however much your wine tasting cost, and it will go towards the wine you purchase. I’m not sure if they do it this way because of a glut of wine tourists who *don’t* purchase or if it’s because of state regulations not allowing them to give free wine. Either way, it’s not a bad idea.

So, in order of the visit

Heron Hill Winery – Was probably my favorite winery that we hit. They had some well balanced Rieslings that ran the gamut from dry to sweet. Also, they had some interesting reds that didn’t taste “grapey” along with some sweeter choices. We left with a few bottles including their Tiger Lily, which knocked both of our socks off.

Earl Estates Meadery – They had an extensive selection of meads, fruit wines, and blends. I felt a little rushed, but I guess the attendants need to push people through so they buy wine and make a profit for the vinyard. However, oh my goodness, SO MUCH BAD COUNTRY MUSIC!! It made me *not* want to stick around.


Beehives were EVERYWHERE

Torrey Ridge Winery – was in the same building as the Earl Estates. Their ‘big draw’ was a series of ‘Red Neck’ wines (I guess that’s where the country music came from). I appreciate that they aren’t taking themselves super seriously, but really? Their wine was… ok. Most of their wines revolved around the Concord, Niagra, and Cayuga grapes, which I tend to not be too fond of.

Miles Wine Cellers – This winery is right along the water and they’re building a dockside tasting space. But the wines were really… mediocre. They had a small selection, which isn’t normally a bad thing, but not all of them were on the tasting list. Their “citrusy Riesling” tasted like lime juice and the rest were at about that level. SpecSO tried a white that he really liked, but I preferred many of his other selections through the day. They also had their own beers, which excited me. But after I paid *another* tasting fee for the beers they inform me that they don’t make the beers themselves, but “the owner’s son comes up with the recipes” and some other company brews the beers. Ok, so let’s give them a try anyways. The Pale Ale tasted like fizzy water and the Scottish Ale was downright foul. And then after trying these beers the attendant pulls out another wine for me to try: a CabSav with sugar added!? Ug…

After these four stops, I could have done another one or two, but SpecSO was driving and felt like it was a good time to head back to the camp site. So, oh no, we headed back to the beautiful forest and went for a wonderful walk along the lake. Then we read and napped and got a fire going and warmed up some tomato soup I had made earlier in the summer and toasted up some grilled cheese sandwiches. SO GOOD!!!! We relaxed and read some more until it got dark and then we played with fire and opened up a bottle of rum that we brought for adult purposes. The evening got chilly, but I just bundled up in my official campfire sweater, a big, bulky, handknit cardigan made from cream, rust, and grey variegated yarn. It’s ugly as anything but super cozy. That’s why it’s relegated to camp fires.


Snails! Wild grapes!!!

One of my favorite aspects of car camping is that it makes chilly weather camping so easy. I didn’t need to worry about packing in an appropriately heavy sleeping bag. Instead we had an air mattress (to provide insulation and comfort) and a down sleeping bag under us (more insulation), as well as a waffle weave blanket, a wool blanket, and down comforter on top of us. I slept so well that I didn’t want to come home!

But, we did have to leave. I finished up my book while SpecSO rekindled the fire and cooked up bacon and eggs. And then we packed up the camp site quite easily, made sure the fire was drowned, and headed home.

We were quite slow and lazy in the morning so we really didn’t leave till lunch time. We drove through Watkin’s Glen and stopped at the Wildflower Cafe, home of Roosterfish Brewing, and enjoyed a hearty lunch there (because we needed it). I LOVED their Nut Brown Ale so much that we took home a growler full. (Travel tip: unless you want to buy more, don’t forget your growler at home!)

The ride home was beautiful, if uneventful. Which is EXACTLY how travel should be during a super lazy vacation.

I think we might go back, and if we decide to go to the same area we *will* stay at Back Achers again. however, there’s a Brewery/Meadery/Distillary that caught our eye elsewhere in the state and we might want to give that a try.


Get used to it. I dig dead things. Like this catfish.

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2012 by in Travel.

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