Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wine Tasting 101-From a novice to a novice

If wine/beer/spirits tasting is a new experience for you, it can be overwhelming.  In our area, there are so many choices plus throw in hiking, chocolate, cheese and ice cream, and planning can be a real challenge.  We were newbies a few years ago and as b & b proprietors, we’ve learned from the very best!  So we thought we would share a few tips for a great first-time tasting experience.

We find that we do better by tasting wine one day, beer the next, and so on.  If you’re pressed for time, maybe ½ the day for wine and ½ for beer, etc.  You’ll find that mixing not only causes you stomach distress, but it will also cause your taste buds to be a bit off. There is nothing worse than buying wine you thought you loved, only to get it home to ask “why did I like this?”  Food can also greatly affect how/what you taste.  If you’re bringing your own snacks, try to avoid those that may be heavily salted or seasoned.  Also, drink lots of water and take a break to grab some lunch.  Most places open at 11:00 (some at 10) and close at 5, although we do have a few that stay open later during the summer.

Most places will charge a tasting fee of $3.00 to $6.00 per person and may offer 3 (distilleries) to 6 choices or more!  Keep in mind, it’s perfectly acceptable, and sometimes encouraged, to share a tasting.  You never need an appointment to taste unless you’re part of a group, typically 8 or more.   Don’t be afraid to admit to the pouring staff that you aren’t sure what you like, i.e. dry vs. semi dry, or red vs. white. Many times, they LOVE that and can offer recommendations to get you started.  Also, don’t be afraid to dump in the dump bucket, this is a common practice!   Make notes as you go, the tasting sheets are typically yours to keep and can be handy for your next trip or your next purchase.  If drinking/driving is a concern, there are driving services in the area that will pick you up and drop you off at our door.  Most start around $75 per hour and some charge less if you don’t mind them driving your vehicle. The most important piece of advice we can share:  a lot of folks over indulge their first day which often ruins the rest of their time here.  Pace yourself! If you’re only coming for 1 night,  it can be a long and painful ride home.

Finally, if you aren’t sure of where to go and are staying with us, we have no problem making some suggestions.  Remember, the Seneca Lake region is very close to Cayuga and Keuka and planning time on all lakes is very feasible due to our centralized location.  You should also plan a little extra time to visit our state parks, the water falls and gorges here are spectacular! 

Summer in the Finger Lakes brings a lot of great events, but winter can also be a great time to visit as the crowds are much smaller allowing for a better tasting experience.  When planning your visit, it’s always wise to check the web site for the wine trail’s list of events (visit our "things to do" page).  You will find that wine trail event weekends are MUCH busier and more crowded and your tasting may be a bit more hurried.  Week days often provide a slower pace, and, our rates are a bit lower for Mon-Thurs. stays.

Regardless of when you visit, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  Happy Planning!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Seriously, what's with the price of Vanilla!!!

If you’re a baker like I am, or even just a simple maker of desserts, vanilla is always at the top of the ingredients list. I used to buy vanilla at Costco or Sam’s club, not too awfully long ago, large bottles for  less than $9.00, so imagine my horror when on my last trip to Sam’s Club I was aghast!!  $23.00—yikes!  I decided I needed to get to the bottom of this outrage.  Little did I realize that the largest grower of vanilla beans is Madagascar-who knew?  What I also learned is that the US is one of the largest buyers of vanilla.  In 2015, there was a huge shortage of vanilla beans harvested in Madagascar, so like everything else, it’s all about supply and demand. Since 2005, there had been an over supply of the delicious crop and farmers in Madagascar weren’t making much money so they burned their vanilla vines and switched to a more profitable crop—hence, not much vanilla and UP go the prices. Madagascar is back in the vanilla growing business but in an effort to reach the higher prices, the beans are picked while they’re still green rather than drying naturally on the vine, resulting in a less than quality product.  Futures tend to be looking to Mexico and Papau New Guinea for vanilla, only time will tell.  I will definitely be watching the market for trending prices. Happy, or not so happy, baking. 

Sources:  The Vanilla Company,

Thursday, March 2, 2017

......but I've Never Stayed at a B & B

Many guests tell us they've never stayed at a B & B before and do not know what to expect.  So b & b newbies, this blog is for you!  It's important to tell you that most of the time, innkeepers live in the b & b.  We typically have our own designated areas, usually including the kitchen.  This is extremely important for the safety & welfare of our guests and depending upon the number of guest rooms rented, is usually required by the state or county code enforcement division.  So no need to worry about unlocked doors or strangers coming on to the property who don't belong. As our guests, you may come and go as you please and use any of the common areas that are available to you.  You're not confined to your room in the least! At The Fox and Grapes, we want you to enjoy the outdoor space or the wood burning stove, have a glass of wine with other guests or a cup of tea while enjoying the peace and quiet. We don't hover, stalk you, or watch your every move.  Many times, you won't even know we are here. Innkeepers cook you a lovely breakfast each morning often using products grown/made locally or grown on our own property that is typically served at a set time, some b & bs provide cookies or other snacks in the evening as well as coffee/tea, your rooms are cleaned daily (usually included in your room rate), and provide you with useful information about the area. We may also engage in an evening glass of wine and conversation, if invited. Sometimes we may open a bottle of wine to share with our guests.  If being left alone is your thing, we're okay with that too.   So what things can you NOT do while staying at a B & B?  Well, typically you can't have your own party or entertain your own guests, (unless you have a written contract between the b & b allowing such activities), and you are not allowed to use the private spaces as designated by the owners.  There may be a restriction as to the age of the guest or number of guests per room, there may be resident pets--keep this in mind if you have pet allergies, and it may or may not be pet friendly (always ask if you're traveling with a pet). Some b & bs have TVs, some do not. Most have free wi-fi.  Some rooms are 1st floor, some are on the 2nd. Most have private baths, but some do not--ask if you are not sure. If you have a dietary restriction or severe food allergy, PLEASE, let the innkeepers know before you arrive.  It's a common misconception that we have a large stocked pantry.  For a small b & b (fewer than 7 rooms), specialty food items are only purchased when necessary as we avoid unnecessary costs whenever possible.  It is important to point out that most b & bs have been inspected by a county agency and are legitimately doing business, unlike many properties you see on Air B & B, VRBO, etc. We carry special liability insurance and have the required licenses set forth by our county or state departments.  A b & b, however, is usually someone's home and is not like a vacation rental.  If you're part of a large group staying at the b & b, remember that often times, the amenities available to you are the same as if you were an individual booking a room (this may vary with each b & b, so always ask).  One final & very important note, always, always, always check the b & b's cancellation policy before making a reservation. If you don't understand it, call for an explanation.  Small b & bs often do much of their business over a short season and cancellations can be very costly for them.  Understand that the policy is in place to protect the b & b.  It's up to the consumer to understand that policy and how it may effect them should they need to cancel.  You're going to find that most B & Bs are a relaxing place to stay while traveling and offer the many comforts of home. Don't be afraid to give us a try.  You may decide to never stay in a hotel again! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rosé-- The Forgotten Wine

When I ask our guests if they like Rosé, the most common response is "never really cared for it".  That's what I thought too until I came to the Finger Lakes. We have some of the most delicious Rosés anywhere--some are made from Cab Franc and others from Pinot Noir--both are superb.  I'm certainly not a wine expert by any means, but I do know what I like. Some of the Rosé wines I've tried from CA seem to have a high acidic aftertaste, I call them"vinegary" but I know that's not the correct wine tasting description but I'll bet some of you know what I mean. It's that lingering sourness that stays on your palate. Many of the Rosés in our area are somewhat fruity, dry and delicious!  So if you haven't had a good experience with a Rosé, make sure when visiting our area, you give them a try.  Some of my top favorites in the Seneca Lake area, Wagner, Lamoreaux, and Silver Thread. On Keuka Lake, stop by Point of the Bluff and give theirs a try. Don't put off tasting and buying the Rosé wines. Many wineries sell out by late spring.  Happy Tasting!      

Kim Wagner