Sunset

Hot and muggy summer days require a trip to one of my favorite state parks on Seneca Lake.

The park was surprisingly quiet on this particular evening, and the sunset was beautiful.

The seagulls even congregated to watch the sun drop after an extremely hot day.

Just like the lyrics in the Zac Brown Band country song – “toes in the water”

The sailboats begged for admiration.

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The hot hazy day made the lake mysteriously alluring.

The sun finally decided to rest after a long day of working overtime.

What do you do to cool down after a hot summer day?  Do you have a favorite state park you like to go to?

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Roll Out the Barrel, or Two!

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my email last week to find an invitation to a special barrel tasting event at Standing Stone Vineyard

I’ve done a lot of wine tastings where you belly up to the bar, but I’ve never tasted wine straight out of the barrel (with the exception of the glass carboy we use for making wine at home).  Since this sounded like a unique opportunity, and a great learning experience, I  eagerly accepted the invite.  

Now, please keep in mind that I am a regular Josephine where wine is concerned.  I am not a wine snob, nor will I ever be one.  I’m just a non-biased taster.

Standing Stone Vineyards is located on St. Route 414 on the East side of Seneca Lake in the Town of Hector, NY.  The winery is perched just high enough on the hill to give folks that visit there a beautiful birds eye view of the lake.

Upon arriving at Standing Stone, hubby and I, along with four others, met up with  Marti Macinski.   Marti and her husband Tom are the owners of this 21 year old winery.

Just prior to starting our tour Marti armed each of us with a rather large piece of baguette (from Tribeca Oven), an empty wine glass, and a clip board that held the list of wines that we would be tasting.  She then lead us off to the “Old Steel Barn” to get down to some serious tasting.

The brisk, unheated barn was indicative of a great wine making environment.  And it’s there that we found rows of oak barrels marked with the type and year of deliciousness that each one contained. 

Marti was a great tour guide. She explained the varieties of grapes, the conditions in which they strive, and in some cases, the conditions that they don’t. She talked wine, and shared personal experiences as a grape grower and wine maker, and she filled the tasting with interesting facts. For example, did you know it costs about $20,000.00 to plant one acre of grapes. I had no clue! 

For this specific event we  tasted a total of five wines.  A 2010 Reserve Chardonnay (available this summer), a 2011 Reserve Chardonnay (available this summer), a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2010 Merlot, and a 2011 Petit Verdot which may be Standing Stones one and only.  The three later wines are currently available for purchase and will be ready to pick up in May of 2013.   My favorite wine in this selection?  The 2010 Reserve Chardonnay.  So good!

Also as a bonus, we got six additional tastes of  Standing Stone’s 2012 Pinot Noir and Saperavi in a yeast trial.

Once we finished tasting the five wines in the “Old Steel Barn” we headed to the basement of another barn.  This is where we got to be part of the yeast trial.  It sounds kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ish doesn’t it?

A yeast trial  is the winemakers way of searching for  unique and individual tastes in their wines.  Each  yeast  offers different characteristics and works differently from one another. 

Yeast (natural or otherwise) plays a very important role in the fermentation process of winemaking.  When added to grape juice (must) it converts the sugars to alcohol.

I recognized that some yeasts gave the wine a smooth finish, while others gave the wine a much more acidic finish.  And while I liked the flavor and finish from the first barrel  of the Pinot Noir, my husband’s favorite came from the second barrel.  All of the tasters were all able to identify subtle flavors and characteristics in each of the wines that we tasted.  

Following the barrel tastings we were  offered some tasty snacks including Muranda Cheeses before heading back to the tasting room for yet, more wine.  It couldn’t have gotten any better than this.  Great wine, great bread,  great cheese, and great company.

I couldn’t help but notice that while everyone was busy tasting till their little hearts content, the ducks just outside of the tasting room were having a little fun all of their own.

Before leaving Standing Stone Vineyards we found a few more things to sample – a  great  variety of delicious local dipping and barbecue  sauces, and salad dressings. 

This was a super fun event.  It’s not your typical wine tasting.  If you’re looking for something completely out of the ordinary in wine tasting – this is definitely a must do! 

My suggestions for barrel tasting.  Dress warm and comfortable, go in small groups, listen up because there is a lot to learn,  and as always, have a designated driver with you.

Information on Standing Stone Vineyards can be found at this link, or by calling (607)582-6051.

Please note that while I did receive a complimentary barrel tasting, I was not compensated to write this post, and the opinions expressed here are my all my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes Food Revolution 2012

If someone were to ask me to explain to them what makes the Finger Lakes food and beverage scene so unique, I’d have say it’s the fact that we are fortunate enough to have it all.

We are literally sitting in the midst of four specific wine trails – Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, and Canandaigua Lake. There are dozens of craft or microbreweries scattered throughout the region, and yes, there is even a handful of spirit producing distilleries here as well.

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But don’t let me steer you into believing that the Finger Lakes is just about booze; it’s not.

We have a considerable number of local Finger Lakes dairies producing some of the most delicious farmstead cheeses you’ve ever tasted. We have access to pasture raised meats, farm fresh ingredients, u-pick farms, along with deliciously unique products produced right here in this region.

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Also on the food scene, there are community supported agriculture programs, local farmers markets to explore, along with and farm to table dining experiences at an array of local eateries.  Not to mention,  agriculture food festivals galore; maple, grapes, potato, garlic, tomato, sauerkraut – take your pick.

And it only gets better.  This year the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection which promotes tourism in Ontario County, is hosting the Finger Lakes Food Revolution, all part of the annual Slice, Dice and Spice IV.  This event gives locavores like myself, and tourists who love Finger Lakes, the opportunity to nominate, vote, and support our favorite Finger Lakes foods, beverages, restaurants, food events, and locally made ingredients.

Do you have a something you favor from the Finger Lakes? You are welcome to participate in this event too.  Just visit the Finger Lakes Food Revolution website and get in on the nomination process which is currently underway.  Nominations are expected to wrap up in early December – so don’t miss your chance to join in on the fun, and let your voice be heard!

That Time of the Year in the FLX

It’s grape harvesting time here in the Finger Lakes and that means several things to this region.  Grape pies, grape festivals, and wine making galore.  All of which are great for our regions economy.  A trip through Naples, New York during last weekends Grape Festival was proof of that.  Not a parking spot to be found along State Route 21, or a bare spot to be found on the village’s never ending side-walk.  I had to stop counting the number of people I saw carrying  baskets of grapes, or the number of  signs I saw for homemade grape pies – because there were too many.

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On any given day, it’s not uncommon to pass by area wineries where you’ll see limos and busses waiting for their passengers who are inside bellied up to the tasting bars. 

We recently took a trip to Fulkerson Winery on the West Side of Seneca Lake. Fulkerson’s has one of the largest wine selections that I’ve seen at any given area winery.  And I have to say that the girl who poured our samples at Fulkerson’s was much more personable and attentive than the fellow who waited on us at the other big winery just down the road.

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Aside from delicious wines, Fulkerson Winery also sells fresh grape juices, and they are one of the areas few suppliers of home brewing and home wine making supplies.  I think their prices are very reasonable and their selection is superior.

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If you can’t make it to their winery they offer on-line shopping.  Every season I get their annual catalog which gives the specifics of what type of grape juices are available for purchase, and what date they anticipate they will be made available.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention their nice gift shop too.  We usually end up dragging my mother in-law out of it – just kidding, sort of…

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If you are wondering if I’m promoting Fulkerson Winery because they have paid me to say nice things about them, I’m not.  I just like giving you a local’s perspective on the places I think are worth visiting here in the Finger Lakes. * (If you are a winery in the Finger Lakes and you’d like me to write about business – I’d love to hear from you.)

I originally got acquainted with Fulkerson Winery when I made my first batch of homemade wine.  And here is how it turned out – go ahead take a peek.

A Day at Willard Asylum for the Insane

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Recently, the former Willard Asylum for the (chronically) Insane in Ovid, NY, and later known as the Willard State Hospital for the (acute and chronic) mentally ill, opened its doors for a guided tour.  This opportunity called out history buffs, ghost hunters, (yes, there have been reports of paranormal activity there) psychiatry professionals, and curious people like myself. The tour provided a rare glimpse of  one of New York State’s most historic psychiatric hospitals.

During the tour we were guided by former employees of the psychiatric hospital.  They took us through many of the old buildings that remain on the Willard Campus today.  Willard is no longer in operation, having closed it’s doors in 1995.  Currently, part of the campus serves as a drug treatment center; a specialized 90 day shock incarceration prison for drug addicted offenders. This part of the campus was off-limits during the tour for obvious reasons. Many of the buildings that we visited during the tour are no longer in use, and many appeared in a state of disrepair. 

As I walked up the sidewalk and stepped onto the porch of Grandview, a massive brick building at the former asylum for the insane, I tried to imagine what it might have felt like to have been involuntarily committed there as a patient when it opened it’s doors back in the late 1860’s. It was a time that merely being indigent could have landed you in such a place.  Willard was built to help reduce the census in poorhouses and almshouses. The treatment of many of the residents of poorhouses and almshouses was deplorable, asylums were suppose to create a better alternative.

As I entered Grandview I could imagine desperate, frightened, and helpless people begging for their freedom; and at the same time, I could envision the deformed, deranged, and violent patients screaming through the bars of their small rooms. I’m sure I was right on both accounts.

What really happened behind the thick walls of the Willard hospital during it’s 126 years of existence?  It is hard to speculate.  Locally, rumors have circulated that experimental psychiatric drugs, and procedures like lobotomies and electroshock therapy were exercised on patients there in the later years of operation.  A document that I located, authored by Dr. Robert E. Doran, suggests the treatments given during the early years at Willard were much less sinister.  The early years of treatment were labeled as “moral treatment” or “custodial care”, and as Dr. Doran explained, “Patients were treated with kindness, given good but not fancy food, given clothes, exercised, and protected from the outside world.”  He does however, concede that in 1942, there were 1443  treatments of electroshock therapy performed on patients at the hospital. 

The Willard asylum was in essence, a community within a community.  For many years it was self-sufficient. Capable patients were assigned work, many of which remained institutionalized for their entire lifetime.    Dr. Doran wrote that  “In 1883, there were 801 patients willing and able to work.”  In irony, the work itself, prevented many patients from ever being released back into society.  Once the asylum was up and running it became dependent on the patients free labor.  

The history and evolution of this asylum over the years it was open is amazing; but how people ended up there as patients is even more astonishing.  A mental illness diagnosis could have resulted from a person publicly displaying their emotions, flaunting their sexual preference, being subjected to trauma; for instance, domestic abuse, the loss of a loved one, partaking in the consumption of too much alcohol, or merely being unable to communicate in English.  Behaviors that are acceptable today, were not acceptable in the late 19th, and early 20th centuries.

These pictures depict some of the highlights of our tour.

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These are bunks in rooms at Elliot Hall; the former medical hospital on the campus.  This building is now used by NYS Dept. Of Corrections during trainings.

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The morgue, pictured above, has had very little work done to it as the picture reflects.

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This Ford Fire Truck was in excellent condition: definitely a great relic.

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Brookside was home to the institutions medical directors over the years.  Inside of the house boasts beautiful fireplaces, woodwork, and eleven bedrooms.  The house sits overlooking Seneca Lake.

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This building caught my eye from the second floor of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton School. It was not open for tour.

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My favorite place on the tour was Hadley Hall.  The hall housed a basket ball court, theater, cinema room, bowling alley, and snack bar in its day.  The patients were entertained there. The cinema room still has the old movie projectors in place, and scribed on the walls are the names and dates of some of the movies that were shown there over the years.

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Of the 54,000 patients that were admitted into Willard during its years of operation, 5776 patients were buried in the cemetery on the property.  Today, they rest (in what some refer to as an overgrown field) in unmarked graves.  This has become a bone of contention for advocates of the mentally ill, and in my opinion, should be rectified by the State of New York. 

There is so much more of the Willard story to tell. I can’t even begin to touch upon it in one post.  After the tour, I purchased the book The Lives They Left Behind.  The book is co-authored by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny and is a definite must read. It chronicles the lives of former Willard  patients, their treatments or lack thereof, and their demise. The book also gives readers a sense of how the mental health field has changed significantly over the last century. 

Willard will be displaying some of the former patient’s suitcases and their contents sometime next year.  The date for this exhibit is yet to be announced.  The suitcases were originally found in the attic of one of their buildings shortly after the hospital was closed.  The previously mentioned book and the New York State Museum in Albany, New York, were the first to publicly share the information about the suitcases and their contents.

I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit “Lost Cases, Recovered Lives” when it was on display in Albany, and it left a lasting impression on me.  I am looking forward to the suitcases returning to Willard next year.  My suggestion to New York State and Seneca County: Take advantage of this great historical piece of property by rehabilitating at least one building on the campus and opening it as a permanent museum. “If you build it, they will come.” 

For more on Willard see my update post.