F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” Some say that fall is a sad time. A time just before a long winter, when all that has been blooming and thriving goes back to sleep for the cold months. I feel just the opposite. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and especially here in the Finger Lakes. The vibrant colors, cool breezes, the smell of wood fires, pumpkin pies and cider, rustling leaves, the happy shouts of trick or treaters, and the crisp taste of wines produced in this area, at vineyards overlooking the lakes that give this gorgeous part of New York State its nickname, all give me a welcome breather from the hot and sticky dog days of summer. Twilight is my favorite time of the day and twilight in the fall means pink and purple skies turning to dark, as the reds and ambers and oranges gleam on the hillsides before the sun sets. The hills during fall in the Finger Lakes provide a palette for Mother Nature’s artwork like no other time of the year.
Fall in the Finger Lakes offers up many different activities. Of course the Finger Lakes Wine Trail becomes a busy time, not only for those heading out to partake of the award-winning wines that this area is famous for, but also for the many vintners, toiling away to harvest their grape crops and process them into the sweet or dry, white, pink or red sensations that wine connoisseurs are looking forward to.
Mark Renodin, co-owner along with his wife, Amy, of Six Mile Creek Winery, said that fall is a very busy time, as harvest season runs from September through October, when he, his family (including son Daniel) and staff hand-pick 5.5 acres of grapes. There is no picking in the rain as the moisture waters down the flavor of the grape. So when is the right time to pick? Mark says “The grapes will tell you when they are ready.” Amy and Mark came to the Finger Lakes on vacation, and although thoughts of retirement were on their minds, they decided to take the plunge and buy Six Mile Creek Winery instead.
Available at the winery are French wines such as Seyval Blanc and Vignoles, and Cayuga, which is a Cornell University-grown hybrid, as well as spirits such as vodka, gin, Limocella and Grappa. The landscaped grounds around the winery are lovely, with picnic tables, a pergola, pond and a fountain, offering the perfect spot for weddings and parties of any kind. The winery is dog-friendly. For more information please visit www.SixMileCreek.com or call 607-272-WINE.
Not to be overlooked is apple season in the Finger Lakes. Steve Selin, from South Hill Cider, tells me that he and his team begin picking in early September, with the first pressing taking place midway through the month. Steve has 1,500 apple trees on approximately five acres of land, and works with volunteers and his family all through the cider-making process, often putting in 10-12 hour days. Steve uses an old press, built 50 years ago, called a “rack and cloth.” He sells his cider commercially. For more information please visitsouthhillcider.com.
The 36th Annual Downtown Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival will be held this year from September 28 through September 30, and will feature plenty of apples, along with local produce, fresh baked goods, family entertainment, games, live performances, crafts and more. Apples will be highlighted in a variety of ways, from hot apple cider to candied apples on a stick.
Danby residents Nancy and Vince Kotmel tell me fall is their favorite season. In 1997 they bought an apple cider press kit and have been holding an annual cider pressing party for family and friends ever since. Nancy says, “Looking back on the 21 years since we began holding this event, we have been blessed with six grandchildren who have grown up knowing this tradition. We have made wonderful memories!”
The Tompkins County 4-H Fall Festival will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 20 at Ithaca Tractor Supply Company. There will be live animals, fun activities, a giant pumpkin weigh-in with awards, and more. A chicken barbecue will be ready at 11:00 a.m. Stop by to learn what 4-H is all about!
Another very popular fall event is Wizarding Weekend, held this year from October 26 through October 28. This is a family friendly event that offers activities, crafts, games, live music, food, interactive exhibits and much more. We will see Harry Potters of all shapes and sizes, and of course magic will be in the air!
Never to be missed in the fall is Iron Kettle Farm’s “Spooktacular” in Candor, New York, 15 miles south of Ithaca, on Route 96B. For 49 years the Jackson family has put on their Halloween show at the farm, which includes pumpkins of all sizes for sale, cider, home-made donuts and kettle corn and candy apples, a corn maze, animal barn with goats, chickens, mini cows, ducks, rabbits, peacocks and mini horses, two fun houses, hay rides and a hilarious set up of “pumpkin people” through October 31. There is no admission and parking is free.
If hiking is your passion during the fall, you might like to check out the many Finger Lakes Trails, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this most beautiful area. Check out the website at https://fingerlakestrail.org/plan-hikes-finger-lakes-trail/about-the-finger-lakes-trail/.
As a lifelong book lover I was pleased to learn that many new books come out in the fall, including exciting new mysteries. The Killer Coffee Club meets at 7:00 each month at the Ithaca Barnes and Noble store, but during the fall season the group will be hosting best-selling authors at 6:00 p.m. to provide time for chatting and book signings. Everyone will go out for dinner afterwards! Please check out the schedule at www.killercoffeeclub.com.
Birding in the fall can be a fun challenge because the birds are not in their bright and colorful breeding plumage, and because things can change drastically from one day to the next. Fall is a good time to join a guided bird walk in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For the most up-to-date walk schedule please visit www.cayugabirdclub.org/. For more tips about fall birding please visit https://ebird.org/news/fall-birding-basics/ and to learn more about the Lab please visit their website.
At Longview of Ithaca, Director of Recreation/Ithaca College Liaison Breelan Nash, is gearing up for the many fall activities that Longview residents take part in through the Ithaca College Partnership program, such as the Harvest Moon Multi-Generational Dance, Veterans Day services, classes and much more. Residents also take part in “leaf peeping” day trips with a stop at Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil, New York, and the Iron Kettle Farm. There are trips to the Farmers Market, the Friends of the Library Book sale, and the Cornell Johnson Museum of Art, and of course there will be apple-picking. Elections are always a topic of discussion amongst the Longview residents, and they always exercise their right to vote.
When asking family and friends what they like best about fall in the Finger Lakes, their answers were varied. Traudel Lucente likes the colors of fall, crisp morning air, and the markets with fresh-baked goods such as apple pie! Pam Smith loves apples and making applesauce, and going to Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil, New York, to watch the apple pressing process, and taking the grandkids to Iron Kettle Farm. Tracy Havelick and her family like going to the apple orchards and eating freshly-made donuts. She says, “Fall is the time when our kids’ sports events kick into full gear. We sit in the stands cheering the kids on with our hot chocolate in hand. A bonfire is something we all enjoy, bundled up in warm sweatshirts making s’mores.” Judy Steele looks forward to crisp air and the colorful fall foliage, taking a walk and hearing the leaves crunching under her feet, apple pie and donuts.
So instead of mourning the passing of summer I invite you to embrace the beauty of fall in the Finger Lakes and have fun doing it. It is quite a glorious season. •