My brother is a Cornell grad and Big Red football alum. Since he graduated, my mom has kept her tailgating tradition alive and returned for homecoming every year along with my brother. This year I was able to join and we extended the trip into a mini girls’ getaway in the Finger Lakes region. This part of the country is gorgeous (gorges?) year-round (as long as you don’t mind the snow), but I think Fall is the season when it really shines. We made the drive from Chicago to Ithaca and once you’re out of Ohio and start driving through the hills of Pennsylvania and western New York, it seems that there’s a more picturesque view around every turn.
Perched high on the hill overlooking the cool and quirky town of Ithaca, Cornell has a panorama that is hard to beat; the hills, the trees, and the buildings that scream ‘college campus’ all make it hard to visit and not fall in love. I didn’t even attend Cornell (I’m a Boilermaker for those that don’t know), but those views always leave me a bit nostalgic. Oh, the college days! The team didn’t fare so well this year, but let’s be honest, I’m mainly in it for the company and the surroundings anyway!
On Sunday we packed up and headed north along Cayuga Lake to visit a few wineries with my brother and his girlfriend before they headed back to D.C. Our first stop was at Americana Vineyards followed by stops at Thirsty Owl, Cayuga Ridge, Toro Run, and Sheldrake Point. We had tastings at each and by the end of the afternoon we had accumulated over a case of wine in the back seat, I’d consider that a successful day! We also made a stop at Taughannock Falls for some great photo ops – we really had the perfect weekend because all the leaves were so bright and beautiful!
After saying our goodbyes my mom and I continued on to the next leg of our trip which involved more wine, more beautiful fall scenery and a whole lot of relaxation at Mountain Horse Farm. Mountain Horse Farm was the perfect spot for a girls’ getaway, and it would be great for couples as well. It is a small B&B and spa located in Naples, New York, on the southwest side of Canandaigua Lake, just a short drive from Cayuga Lake. The B&B is owned by Suzanne and Rudi, a couple originally from the Netherlands, and it has 7 guest rooms, a ton of land complete with walking trails, and, as you might guess, several horses.
My mom and I stayed in the only two rooms in The Lodge, the log home where Suzanne and Rudi also live in a sectioned off area of the house. The rooms were rustic and newly remodeled and the room that my mom stayed in on the second floor was HUGE! They also have a large common room with couches for lounging, a coffee maker, and a long dining table – the perfect spot to convene in the morning or after a long day out an about. It was pretty cool that we had this whole area to ourselves – if you’re going to be booking two rooms, The Lodge is perfect. The Carriage House is the other building on the property and it is a newly built barn home that houses 5 guest rooms as well as the spa and the breakfast area. Suzanne cooked us breakfast here every morning and it was fantastic!
Once we were settled in and finished oohing and aahing, we headed out for dinner that night at the nearby Brown Hound Bistro. This was such a charming little spot with wonderful seasonal dishes; we started with fresh salads followed by Beef Wellington for my mom and maple-brined Pork Tenderloin for me. We finished the meal with a couple great desserts and then headed back to Mountain Horse Farm to rest up for a busy day of wine tasting ahead.
The next morning I woke up just in time for sunrise and then met up with my mom for a brisk walk before breakfast. Their property was so quiet and peaceful – it was the perfect place to soak in all the beauty of fall….
After breakfast it was time to set out for our wine tour. Suzanne arranged the private tour for us ahead of time; we basically had a personal chauffeur who drove us around to the wineries of our choice for six hours. We decided to stay close and check out some of the wineries on Keuka Lake, a smaller lake to the east of Mountain Horse Farm. We made stops at Dr. Frank’s, Heron Hill, Bully Hill, Ravines, and McGregor. Dr. Frank’s had very knowledgeable and friendly servers, Heron Hill had great views from the tasting room but a not-so-friendly server, Bully Hill had a two-story gift shop and a lively tasting room, and Ravines had fantastic chocolate and cheese pairings with their tasting. Ravines was hands down our pick for favorite winery of the day and McGregor took the title of least favorite. Stingy on the pours and a server that offered no insight on the wines we tasted, McGregor’s was the only winery we visited where I didn’t buy at least one bottle of their wine.
After a full day of wine tasting we kept it low-key with dinner at Roots Cafe in downtown Naples, followed by a whole lot of lounging back at the B&B. The next day we each had a relaxing 90-minute massage before driving back into town to do a little shopping. Artizanns is a great shop in Naples that sells all kinds of local gifts including jewelry, pottery, paintings, and other unique artwork. We attempted to find more cute shops about 30 minutes north in the town of Canandaigua, but none of their shops seemed to compare to Artizanns. A cold rain started to get the best of us, so we settled for a late lunch at Simply Crêpes and headed back to the B&B to enjoy our last night in New York.
The next morning we woke up before sunrise to start the drive back to Chicago, and just as quickly as it had arrived, our mini vacation was over. I wish we lived closer to Mountain Horse Farm because I would love to make a stay here an annual event. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with beautiful scenery and a bit of wine, check out the Finger Lakes, you won’t be disappointed!