Whether you go to sample the area's best wines or not, you'll find plenty to enjoy at the Finger Lakes Wine Fest. At the festival, held in Watkins Glen, I wandered from vendor to vendor, examining offerings that ranged from wine-glass necklaces to reusable wine corks to sun catchers.
Under a large tent, festival-goers grooved to the music of several bands, including the Boogie Men. There was no shortage of foods to choose from, either. The most popular item seemed to be a huge serving of homemade potato chips called potato twisters.
The "main course" of the festival, the wineries, could be found under large tents and in a building. It was the ultimate wine tour, with some 70 wineries, mostly from the Finger Lakes area, all in one place. Each offered samples of their finest wines and also had bottles of wine for sale. One of the neatest things was that a customer could purchase a bottle or two of wine, fill out a claim ticket, and after 30 minutes or so, their purchase would be delivered to the front office for easy pickup on the way out. I also discovered that designated drivers are eligible for complimentary non-alcoholic juices and soda from certain vendors.
Although I wasn't sampling wine that weekend, I enjoyed chatting with the winery owners and employees. I learned a lot about wines and winemaking, and even discovered a winery from my own area of New York State. While visiting with the winery reps, I got the impression that they enjoy the fest as much as the attendees.
I did get to taste samples of another kind. There were vendors offering samples of cheese, olive oil dips, beef jerky and salsa.
I was delighted by the Corning Museum of Glass glass-making exhibit, the Hot Glass Show, which took place from their portable stage. Children and adults alike watched in amazement as fine glass vases and decorative bowls were created right before their eyes. The museum has been a sponsor of the festival since 2001.
The Watkins Glen area is beautiful region of waterfalls and gorges, located within the Finger Lakes area of NYS. After leaving the wine fest, I took a little tour of the area, which only whetted my appetite. So next time, I'll go earlier, stay longer - and bring a designated driver.
The 2006 Finger Lakes Wine Festival is scheduled for July 14 - 16 at the Watkins Glen International Speedway, and is held rain or shine. For tickets or information, contact the Watkins Glen ticket office toll free at 866-461-7223 or log on to the festival website at Wine Fest.