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Cayuga Wine Trail uncorks 35 years of grapey good times

Get ready for “CeleBrunch” with these Cayuga Wine Trail fun facts!

Thirty-five isn’t as major a milestone as, say, 40 or 50 — but don’t tell that to the players behind the Cayuga Wine Trail. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Syracuse, it’s the country’s first and longest-running wine trail. At 35, it has every reason to pop some corks and throw a party.

The party, scheduled for Sunday, June 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., has been dubbed a “CeleBrunch.’’ At each of the trail’s 14 member wineries, guests will sample signature wines paired with brunch bites. Menu items will include chicken and waffles, cinnamon roll waffles with cream cheese glaze, savory Amish breakfast bake and blueberry sour cream coffee cake.

“We’re suggesting that people dress up and put on their ‘Sunday best’ for this event,’’ says Cayuga Wine Trail interim director Katherine Chase.

The event is intended for guests 21 and older. Tickets are $35 per person (plus tax) and include a souvenir glass, recipe collection and more. Discounts are available for designated drivers. For information and to purchase tickets, visit cayugawinetrail.com/event/celebrunch/.

In the meantime, here are some “fun facts” about the wine trail:

 

Wineries along the Cayuga Wine Trail has signs denoting their membership. Some believe it is an honor to be a part of America’s first wine trail. (Provided by Cayuga Wine Trail)

History

The Cayuga Wine Trail was established in 1983, when Plane’s Cayuga Vineyard (now Cayuga Ridge), Lucas Vineyards, Americana Vineyards and two others (Lakeshore and Frontenac; no longer trail members) banded together as an organization to create a promotional brochure and draw visitors to the area. Their efforts became a model for other wine-producing areas in New York state and beyond.

The first winery on Cayuga Lake was Lucas Vineyards, launched in 1980 by Ruth Lucas, one of the first female winemakers in the Finger Lakes and co-founder of the Cayuga Wine Trail. Lucas Vineyards marks its 38th anniversary this year, and Ruth Lucas remains at the helm, along with her two daughters. The newest member of the wine trail is Toro Run Winery in Ovid, launched in 2014. Visitors enjoy estate-grown wines paired with Spanish-themed small plates, called tapas.

Wine and Dine

Visitors can sit down to meals made with seasonal and local ingredients at several winery restaurants on the trail, including the Vineyard Restaurant at Knapp Winery, the Crystal Lake Cafe at Americana Vineyards and the Bistro at Thirsty Owl Wine Company. The Copper Oven, a restaurant at Cayuga Ridge Estate Vineyards, offers artisan, wood-fired pizza and other dishes with local flair. Several wineries will host food trucks throughout the summer season, Chase says. In addition to tapas, Toro Run Winery will offer several “Paella on the Porch’’ events this summer. For information, check out the wine trail and individual winery websites.

Several wineries on the trail are accessible by boat, including Long Point Winery, on the east side of the lake, and Goose Watch Winery, Varick Winery and Thirsty Owl Wine Company on the west side. This is one way the Cayuga Wine Trail distinguishes itself from the Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake wine trails, Chase says.

“It’s really awesome to see the wineries and the lake from that perspective,’’ Chase says. “It’s more than just a wine tour that way. It’s a whole day getaway.’’

Several companies, including Water to Wine Tours, School’s Out Charters and Discover Cayuga Lake Boat Tours, offer a variety of group/charter options.

 

A group enjoys a lunch at a small picnic table while visiting a winery along the Cayuga Wine Trail.

A group enjoys a lunch at a small picnic table while visiting a winery along the Cayuga Wine Trail. (Provided by Cayuga Wine Trail)

 

Extend Your Stay

Two wine trail members offer on-site accommodations. Buttonwood Grove Winery has four cozy, pet-friendly cabins in the woods behind the tasting room. The Inn at Varick Winery offers four luxurious guest rooms in a historic (1833) cobblestone home.

Tasting Rooms with a View

Most wineries offer clear views of the lake, but visitors to the wine trail frequently cite the panoramic view from Toro Run, situated on one of the highest points on the west side of the lake, as the most memorable.

Awards and Accolades

Cayuga Lake wineries consistently “medal” at regional, national and international competitions. The Governor’s Cup, “the Oscar of New York Wine,’’ has been won by multiple wine trail members and is currently held by Buttonwood Grove Winery, for its 2016 Riesling. Swedish Hill Winery, in Romulus, has won the award in 1994, 2008 and 2010.

Woof, Bark, Howl

All 14 members of the Cayuga Wine Trail are pet-friendly. Bring your well-behaved furry friend(s) along while you tour and taste.

How Sweet It Is

Several wineries produce fruit wines and dessert wines, but Montezuma Winery, near Seneca Falls, is the only winery on the trail that creates mead, an alcoholic beverage made with honey, water and yeast. Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. Dilly dilly!

For information on the Cayuga Wine Trail, including dining, accommodations, transportation and events, visit cayugawinetrail.com or call (800) 684-5217. The June 3 CeleBrunch is the last official wine trail event until late fall, but most of the wineries host their own summer events, so be sure to click on the individual links.

Margaret McCormick is a freelance writer and editor in Syracuse. She blogs about food at eatfirst.typepad.com. Follow her on Twitter, connect on Facebook or email her at mmccormicksnt@gmail.com.

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