We arrived late at night in Hammondsport, New York. While we drove through part of the town and past the lake, I wasn’t able to get a visual of where we were. I knew where we were located on the map yet I had no clue what exactly I was straining my eyes to see in the darkened night. Hammondsport is a village that until this trip, I’ve never heard of. It is a village of no more than 700 people situated on Keuka Lake. I was excited to explore this lesser known destination in the Finger Lakes region. I rested my head well that night at the Best Western Hammondsport for the adventurous day ahead.
Once the sun came up, we were able to truly experience Hammondsport. Our first stop was Champlin Beach, where we were able to enjoy the peaceful Keuka Lake in the early morning. The only people at the lake at this time was a couple, fishing along the water’s edge.
I walked around the lake, through the dewy grass, taking in the beautiful view of the lake. While I have experienced the lake views from the Northern Finger Lakes, they did not compare to this view of Keuka Lake. This hills rolled into the distance of this y-shaped lake. The shape of the lake created a depth of field that the other lakes do not have. While the other Finger Lakes are beautiful in their own right, Keuka is truly distinctive.
Once the Keuka Watersports rental shop opened, we geared up to hit the water. We had a choice between kayaking and paddle boarding. I choose to paddle board as I’ve never gone before. At first I tried to stand on the paddle board. The unstable surface made my legs quiver. I quickly repositioned myself to my knees, where I was able to comfortably paddle on the lake.
Being on Keuka Lake on this warm September morning was so relaxing. The water was still and there was barely a breeze. As I swayed gently in the calm waters, I became more confident with the stability of the board. I took a deep breath and stood on the board, paddling in the proper way for a moment. When it was time to paddle back to shore, I briefly hesitated, not wanting to leave the water. Paddle boarding was such a lovely way to experience the lake. Yet, we were off to experience Keuka Lake in other equally amazing ways.
We drove through the small, quaint town of Hammondsport on our way around the lake, following the road as it led uphill to the wineries. As we drove, we passed several wineries including large-scale ones such as Heron Hill and small estate wineries such a Keuka Lake Vineyards. The winery we were headed to was Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars is the most renowned winery in the Finger Lakes region. Dr. Frank, who was a professor of plant sciences, elevated wine growing in the United States. After previous failed attempts to grow European vines in the Finger Lakes region, Dr. Frank found a way to put European vines on North America rootstock.
Thoroughly fascinated with the history of Dr. Frank, I was ready to try the wine in the tasting room. Tastings for small groups are free at Dr. Frank’s, large groups of 12 or more have a $5 fee which includes a Dr. Frank wine glass. We arranged ourselves at a spot by the window overlooking the vineyard. After a couple samples, it was clear that the wine measured up to its namesake. Our tasting started with signature Dr. Frank wines. I was pleasantly surprised that none of the wine was overly sweet. The flavors leaned to a drier taste. While dry, they had an impeccably smooth finish. We tried a couple of varieties of Riesling, which is the top producing wine in the Finger Lakes.
My eyes lit up when the reserve wine was brought out during our tasting. We were able to try the Late Harvest Riesling and Late Harvest Chardonnay which are not typically available for tasting. The Late Harvest Riesling and Late Harvest Chardonnay are dessert wines. The grapes that are used for these dessert wines are left on the vine until December to give them a sweeter flavor. Unlike some dessert wines, the Riesling and Chardonnay at Dr. Frank Cellars are not sugary tasting at all. They have a syrupy sweet taste that is pleasant on the palate.
Once we fished our wine tasting, we went to the vineyard for a tour. The vineyard was absolutely beautiful, with the view of Keuka Lake below. It is the type of vineyard you picture when thinking of wine tasting, with its sprawling vineyards down the hillside.
To gain another perspective of Keuka Lake, we were off to our next activity at Harbor Lights Marina.
We were going up on a sea plane! Finger Lakes Seaplanes offers scenic flights over the Finger Lakes region. When we arrived, our plane was floating at the dock in anticipation of our arrival. It was so surreal to board a plane from a dock. We even had to put on life jackets because a sea plane has to abide by the rules of the water.
The next thing I knew, we were in the plane and up in the air. The departure was so smooth that it didn’t feel much different from a regular plane. However, the views assured me that this was no average plane we were on. We were high enough to get a wide view below but still close enough to see the details: the rooftops, well-trimmed fields and the boats dotting Keuka Lake.
I had headphones on so I could communicate over the loud propellers. Yet, I don’t think I uttered a single world. The view stunned me into silence leaving me unable to say anything more than “wow” and “oh my”. Our flight lasted about 30 minutes and took us on a tour of Keuka Lake. From up above, the y-shape of the lake was even more prevalent. The pilot pointed out where the bend of the lake was. The ariel views brought the lake into prospective.
The sea plane circled lower, readying for a landing. The landing was a reminder that we were in fact on a sea plane. As the plane touched to make its landing, the water splashed up behind it. With ease, the pilot maneuvered the plane back into the dock and we were back on dry land. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my time in Hammondsport. Hammondsport is a place that before this trip I didn’t even know existed. But now, I know that Hammondsport is more than its quaint exterior lets on. I found adventure, tranquility and beauty in this small village on Keuka Lake.Come Join My Journey was hosted by Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes, however, my opinions are as always my own.
Finger Lakes Sea Planes: $225 for 30 minute Keuka tour