A Trip Around Canandaigua Lake
The Finger Lakes
Spread across central New York State are a series of lakes known as the Finger Lakes. Carved out of the earth by an ancient glacier, these five long and narrow lakes all lying in a north-south orientation, look like the fingers of a hand. In fact according to indian legend the five were created when the Great Spirit touched the land and the lakes were the imprint of his fingers.
Canandaigua is the western most lake of the Finger Lakes group and is rich in history and beauty. The pictures below will give you an idea of the beauty of the area.
California may be the premier wine producing state in the United States. With its gentle climate, irrigation and fertile soil it is difficult not to produce the grapes needed to make award winning wines - even beating the French on occasions.
But New York State is a very close second in terms of quality and quantity of wine produced and has long had a reputation for excellent wines.
Taylor and other names associated with California wines were established in New York years before they opened facilities in California.
Today many of the old established names in New York (and California) wineries are owned by big beverage conglomerates (note the words A Constellation Company at the bottom of the picture of the Widmer banner.
But new independents keep popping up, helped in part to the Internet and a recent Supreme Court decision that cast aside Prohabition Era shackles and allowing interstate wine sales via the Internet throughout the U.S.
Ironically, a big incentive for establishing new wineries in New York, in addition to its land and climate, is land costs.
Despite sky high prices per acre for good hillside land in this area, the price is a bargain compared to the out of this world prices in California.
Widmer was the first winery we encountered on this trip and, of course, we had to stop, tour the grounds and sample their wares.
I take a Wrong Turn
Our trip down the west side of Canandaigua lake was easy as the road paralleled the lake and we could usually see the lake in the distance on our left.
At its southern tip the lake tapers off into a marsh and disappears while the road continues south with only small country dirt roads branching off from it.
The Village of Naples is actually just south of the lake itself and is not on the lake. Like the west side of the lake, a similar road runs up the east side as well.
Unfortunately, not bothering to take time to get a map, I simply turned left on the first main road past Naples and began looking for the lake on my left to confirm my position.
Unfortunately, I choose the wrong road and ended up going north east rather than north. But it was still beautiful country and I eventually found a couple of landmarks and got going again in the right direction.
The first thing that should have told me I was off course (in addition to the lack of a lake on my left) was a farmhouse with a horse drawn carriage in the front yard.
Shortly after that was a sign warning to watch out for carriages. We had entered an area that was predominently Amish.
Founded in the seventeenth or eighteenth century in Germany, the Amish sect of the Mennonite faith have interpreted the simple life to mean a refusal to quickly accept new gadgets as they are invented.The Amish have thus continued to rely on horse power rather than gasoline.
Originally centered in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania, where they are commonly referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch, they have, in recent years branched out and established communities in many parts of rural America.
In addition to the quaint touch of their carriages on the roads they have brought up old farms, with poor soil, and with hard work, have turned them into productive farms supplying food for their families.
It was here, along this stretch of road in the flat plateau between the lakes, where the land is not good for vinyards or commercial farming that we encountered the farmhouse with the carriage and the sign at the right.
We Get Back on Course
I eventually got us back to the lake and we ended up at a little beach front park about half way up the east side of the lake which I recognized from my childhood.
The park is located in the Township of Gorham named after a Mr. Gorham who, with a Mr. Phelps (who also has a near by township, just as small, named after him) led a survey team that surveyed the new lands that the United States acquired as a result of the Pickering Treaty, thus opening the area for development.
My great-uncle Walt purchased a lake front lot in the Township of Gorham in the 1930s for about $4,000 and built a summer cottage which we visited regularly as children in the 1960s. He sold it about 30 years ago for some mid-five figure amount. While subsequent owners don't seem to have made many changes, my brother and I estimate that, based upon development and prices in the area, it would probably sell for between a half-million to a million today - of course property taxes on the property probably contain quite a few zeros between the whole numbers and the decimal point.
Gas is another thing that has risen in price over the years. When we reached the City of Canandaigua agin we stopped for gas. Of course the price was about fifty cents a gallon higher than Arizona, which is to be expected as New York works hard at maintaining its reputation as one of the highest taxed states in the nation. But while at the gas station I was reminded of another fun time at the lake when I was a child. This was the Genundowa Autumn Light Festival the continuation of an annual Seneca indian autumn harvest festival in which, instead of lighting bondfires around the lake as the Seneca villages did in the past, all the cottages on the lake light flares on their beaches so that the lake is ringed for a few minutes with the light of red flares.
Leaving Canandaigua and heading back to my brother's home in Rochester, we paused in the little village of Victor, New York. I think the name comes from the 1687 victory of the Marquis de Denonville, Governor of New France, over the Seneca indians on a hill just above the town. Today it remains, as it always has, a charming little town. However, I couldn't resist a picture of my son (and fellow Hubber) Victor posing in front of the sign welcoming people to Victor.