By Stu Gallagher, courtesy Finger Lakes Wine Country
Budget Travel has called the Finger Lakes “the world’s most beautiful wine region,” which makes it seem criminal to have a meeting there and not venture into its vineyards and tasting rooms.
There are just over 100 wineries clustered mainly around Canandaigua, Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca lakes, and a number have meeting and event spaces. The wineries vary in size and sophistication, but almost universally, none skimp when it comes to scenery. The view might be fields of grapevines at one; croplands at the next. And many are perched above a lake.
For example, at Glenora Wine Cellars, the winery, its 30-room inn, its resturant and its meeting space sit back from and above Seneca Lake’s south end, nine miles from Watkins Glen. Glenora was the first winery on the lake, which also has the area’s first and longest wine trail. There are 61 wineries on Seneca.
As Kathy Marchenese, event manager, explained, the winery’s growth was the result of need. The owners realized “people needed a place to eat, then, they needed a place to stay.”
Glenora’s meeting spaces are small. Its quietest is a lower-level room for 20-35 with views of the vineyard. For large dinners, the restaurant dining room can be commandeered; a covered terrace that seats 100 is nice on a summer night. The winery will also work with groups that want to use a tent on the lawn.
For those who literally want a taste of the wine country, the route between Glenora and Watkins Glen is fruitful. “Heading south to Watkins Glen, you can do five wineries in nine miles,” said Marchenese. “It is easy to have fun.”
Up the lake, at Villa Bellangelo, a new owner is taking advantage of the established winery’s prime location and view.
A tasting room that was once little more than a dressed-up garage has been expanded and given a Tuscan finish, inside and out, in keeping with its Italian roots. A long, granite tasting bar allows visitors to sip Moscato and watch the boats buzz by on Seneca. Part of the expansion includes a ballroom for about 100 with an adjoining terrace that overlooks a flat lawn and farther down the hill, the lake.