New York’s Finger Lakes (FLX) region is renowned for both its physical beauty and its wineries. Once part of a vast inland sea, the area later saw its landscape carved by glaciers, resulting in the namesake lakes, beautiful waterfalls, and T-shirt-inspiring gorges (“Ithaca is…”), all of it now ringed by vineyards. The hospitality options, however, have long been far less enticing.
That all has changed, though, as over the last year several new hotels have opened, with others announcing upgrades and renovations. Here, just in time for summer travel, is a look at what’s new, as a suddenly cool FLX seeks to challenge the Catskills for upstate supremacy.
Where to Stay
The Lake House on Canandaigua, the region’s first true boutique hotel, opened in August. The 124-room property boasts the area’s finest accommodations, with furnishings created by Fitzhugh Karol, the artist-in-residence at The Brooklyn Home Company, which designed the hotel in partnership with Post Company, a firm founded by former partners at Studio Tack. It’s also home to Rose Tavern, which elevates local design and dining with on-trend navy, white, and warm-wood finishes and an FLX-heavy wine list paired with seasonal Ameri-can cuisine (think ricotta toast and pork ribeyes cooked on a wood-fired hearth).
In Skaneateles (the Sag Harbor of FLX and hometown of President Joe Biden’s first wife, the late Neilia Hunter Biden), the 214-year-old Sherwood Inn renovated its younger sister, the adjacent Hannum House, which is a sprightly 181 years old. The result is an elegant five-room B&B that’s appointed in Old World style, with four-poster beds, period art and furnishings, and, of course, lake views.
On the east shore of Cayuga Lake, mean-while, the beloved Inns of Aurora will soon debut a 15,000-square-foot spa and healing center. Reset with Ayurveda treatments, essential oil and tea blending classes, and meditation exercises, in addition to yoga and massage.
Where to Eat and Drink
Big aLICe Brewing Co. (capitalized thus because the production facility is in Long Island City, Queens) was awarded Small Brewing Company of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival 2020, and it’s celebrating by opening a new taproom in Geneva. The 2.5-acre site on Seneca Lake will have plenty of outdoor space for tossing back hazy IPAs and barrel-aged brews.
There are more than 100 wineries in FLX (the region is an official American Viticultural Area), but one that’s worth seeking out is Louis Barruol and Richard Rainey’s Forge Cellars—especially since the dry riesling specialist recently debuted a sit-down, appointment-only tasting experience in Burdett, on the east shore of Seneca Lake. The Summer House, where this takes place, is a small, unmarked white building, complementing the unmarked Scandinavian-style black barn that contains the winery. While it may take a bit of looking to find either spot, the under-the-radar approach guarantees an in-the-know crowd.
Lastly, Christopher Bates, the Master Sommelier and winemaker for Element Winery who helped drive Geneva’s food renaissance, is installing three dining concepts in a 170-year-old building in Corning’s historic Gaffer District. Already open are The Quincy Exchange, a bistro with a craft cocktail bar inside a former bank, and F.L.X. Provisions, a wine bar, boutique bottle shop, and gourmet grocery; The Maillard Club, a destination steakhouse with a 1,500-label wine list, is due this summer.