The Finger Lakes region is increasingly focused on its fast-improving wineries and the local gastronomy tied to the wines. And there is no better expression of this newfound interest than the massive New York Wine & Culinary Center, 800 S. Main St. (tel. 585/394-7070; www.nywcc.com). Built just removed from the north shore of Canandaigua Lake in 2006, with important funding from local businesses, including Wegmans and Constellation Brands wines, this sparkling center offers a window onto the best local food and wine products. Of greatest interest to most visitors will be the wine-tasting room, where tasting flights of New York State wines change frequently. It's a great place to learn about the local vintages before embarking on your own wine trail -- or, if you don't have time for that, a decent substitute. The wine pourers are knowledgeable and friendly, so if you have any reticence about being over your head at wineries, this is the perfect place to begin your education. The center also has a great hands-on kitchen, where short-term cooking classes are offered (look for CIA-type boot camps in the future). Finally, head upstairs to the excellent Taste of New York Lounge for lunch or dinner. The menu, naturally, focuses on local products and New York wines and craft beers. There's live music and a terrific wraparound deck. The restaurant is open Memorial Day to October 31, Monday to Saturday, 11:30am to 9pm and Sunday noon to 9pm; November 1 to Memorial Day, Tuesday to Thursday 11:30am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 9pm, and Sunday noon to 6pm. For a special treat, check out the schedule of winemaker dinners, held in the sumptuous, medieval-style wine and spirits room.
Naturalists and garden enthusiasts should not miss the Sonnenberg Mansion & Gardens, 151 Charlotte St. (tel. 585/394-4922; www.sonnenberg.org). The 50-acre estate and 1887 Queen Anne Victorian mansion, which once belonged to the founder of what is today Citibank, possesses some of the loveliest formal gardens and landscaping you're likely to encounter, including Italian, Japanese, and rock gardens. The grounds also maintain an impressive conservatory and Finger Lakes Wine Center, which conducts tastings on the premises. Special events, such as the "Haunted Gardens" in October and "Festival of Lights" in November and December, are truly special. The Sonnenberg is open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day from 9:30am to 5:30pm and from May 2 to the day before Memorial Day and the day after Labor Day to October 31 daily from 9:30am to 4pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 students 13 to 17, and free for children 12 and under.
Nearby Attractions -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known to the rest of the world as the Mormon religion, got its start in the northwest region of the Finger Lakes before moving out west to Utah. Near Palmyra (17 miles northeast of Canandaigua), according to Mormon texts, Joseph Smith received golden plates, later translated into the Book of Mormon, from an angel in 1827. North of Canandaigua, along Route 21, is the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center (603 State Rte. 21, Palmyra; tel. 315/597-5851; www.hillcumorah.org); anyone who wants to learn more about the Mormon faith can drop in for some low-pressure information about the church and find out about Mormon-related sights in the area, such as Smith's log cabin. However, the big event in these parts is the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant, an incredible spectacle and the largest outdoor theatrical production in the U.S., with a costumed cast of 700, a nine-level stage, and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Every July its seven free productions draw thousands of believers and the curious. For more information, call tel. 315/597-5851 or visit www.hillcumorah.com.
Not far from the Mormons, but on an altogether different spiritual plane, is the Finger Lakes Race Track (tel. 585/935-5252; www.fingerlakesracetrack.com), in Farmington, also north of Canandaigua (1 mile south of I-90, exit 44 on Rte. 332). Thoroughbred horses race here from April to November.
Visitors interested in the region's Native American roots should head to the Ganondagan State Historic Site, 1488 State Rte. 444, Victor (tel. 585/924-5848; www.ganondagan.org), a real find located northwest of Canandaigua. A former center of the democratically inclined Seneca people, one of the six nations composing the Iroquois Confederacy, the site today features a replica 17th-century Seneca bark longhouse, as well as marked ethnobotanical, Native American-themed trails that aim to teach visitors about Seneca customs and beliefs. Trails are open year-round from 8am to sunset; the visitor center is open May through September, Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Interpreted trail walks are offered year-round Saturday at 10am and 2pm, Sunday at noon and 2pm. Visits are $3 for adults, $2 for children, though self-guided walks along the trails are free.
Canandaigua Wine Trail
The seven small wineries clustered around Canandaigua Lake have joined forces to form the Canandaigua Wine Trail (tel. 800/554-7553; www.canandaiguawinetrailonline.com), making it easy for visitors to group them together for tours and tastings. They include Casa Larga Vineyards, an impressive facility producing a collection of very nice wines, including ice wines, just outside Rochester, 2287 Turk Hill Rd., Fairport (tel. 585/223-4210; www.casalarga.com; year-round Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun noon-6pm); Arbor Hill Grapery, 6461 Rte. 64, Bristol Springs, Naples (tel. 800/554-2406; www.thegrapery.com; May-Dec Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm; Jan-Apr Sat-Sun 11am-5pm), which features a shop selling a large selection of wine, food, and gift items (including grape pies), and a great little bakery/cafe -- excellent for breakfast or lunch; and Widmer Wine Cellars, 1 Lake Niagara Lane, Naples (tel. 800/836-LAKE; www.widmerwine.com; year-round daily 10am-4pm), a massive, old-school Finger Lakes winery that's more than a century old. Part of the winery is the Manischewitz Winery, the largest producer of kosher wines in the world. Also of interest is the Finger Lakes Wine Center at Sonnenberg Gardens, 151 Charlotte St., Canandaigua (tel. 585/394-9016; daily mid-May to mid-Oct noon-5pm), which offers samples and the sales of more than 30 Finger Lakes wineries.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.