Back in July, my wife and I did something that we had never done before. We took a ride to the Finger Lakes region of New York State, and decided to do a little wine tasting. Unfortunately thanks to a wee bit of a heat wave, definitely not the result of global warming according to anybody who’s ever opened a science textbook, we had to reschedule one of the nights we were there since the bed and breakfast we were going to stay in lacked air conditioning. 95 degrees and my chunky 54 year old body are not a good combination, especially when I’m trying to get to sleep, so when the proprietor of the grounds told us that she didn’t “do refunds,” we became concerned. “Fear not,” she exclaimed, “we have an excellent fan.” We retorted by saying that if you will allow us, we’d much rather come back in the fall. October arrived, and we stayed in her abode, but for the second night we decided to lodge in the historical town of Seneca Falls, New York and bedded down at the venerable Hubble House. If wineries, breweries, quaintness, and women’s history are your passions, then this was the trip for you. (I would also add that if you favor all of those things, I’d like to meet you because you sound like a unicorn.)
The Finger Lakes region of New York state as I’ve discussed in one of my past blogs on my other blogging site, (https://blog.timesunion.com/hoffmanfiles/the-finger-lakes-point-to-fun/44586/) is a “hidden gem” that we are lucky enough to call our own here in New York State. We denizens of the Capital Region are quite fortunate to be so close to so many wonderful places that we can happen upon in just a moment’s notice. We are the “equi-distant” capital of the world. Albany is approximately three hours from New York City, Boston, Montreal, the Finger Lakes, and SUNY Oswego. They say “Location, location, location.” I say, “Capital Region, Capital Region, Capital Region.”
By now, everybody who’s been to the Finger Lakes knows that the region is famous for its wine. While many snoots and snobs will turn their collective noses up at the wine produced in the area, there are plenty of fine wineries along the lakes that make up this geological peculiarity that was carved out by the glaciers all those years ago. The white wine is certainly of the finest quality, and while the region may not be renown for its reds, Shalestone, a winery located right on Seneca Lake in the town of Lodi produces some of the best red wine found in New York State. In fact it’s so good, you won’t even mind if your car breaks down there and you find yourself stuck in Lodi again.
While it’s not unexpected that the region has its share of wineries, it’s the sudden influx of breweries and distilleries that can force one to take a step back and say, “Wow, I think this area has a drinking problem.” It’s almost as if every few feet there is some sort of establishment dedicated to the sport of “drink.” One certainly can’t question the results though, since practically every place you go is crowded with tourists, but still, what about the scenery you booze hounds? At any rate, many of the breweries along the lakes are a lot of fun, and some of them even serve food or at least popcorn, which may be the best snack food ever to be paired with a glass of beer.
The breweries are also a good place to view those who love to sport a really good beard. People who frequent breweries as well as those who work in them, love to discuss beer. They are like newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, hopefully without the nasty innuendos hanging over their reputations. For some reason, when you walk into a brewery, and the guy pouring the beer is sporting a Duck Dynasty influenced set of whiskers, it seems as if he has more credibility as he pontificates upon everything pertaining to hops and yeast. (Is it just me, or when people were pouring back “Schlitz” or “Schaeffer,” the brewing process didn’t seem so pertinent?)
In addition to all of the booze and spirits we came across, apparently the Finger Lakes region is now expanding into the world of cheese, goat cheese to be exact. For centuries it was the Greeks with their feta that dominated the goat cheese market. No more my lactose tolerant friends. Now you can enjoy all sorts of goat inspired curds that are just waiting to wreak havoc upon your upper and lower GI’s. Cows of course aren’t going to take this standing still. (Although, based on every time I’ve ever passed a herd of cows, all they seem to ever do is stand still, but perhaps this will inspire them to move a little.) Since there are plenty of dairy farmers in the Finger Lakes region, as well as throughout all of upstate New York, New York State cow based cheese is making its way onto your cheese and charcuterie plates in the finest dining establishments throughout our state. Even the makers of Laughing Cow aren’t taking this challenge lying down. They’ve replaced their jocular cow seen on their package for decades in exchange for one who is snarling while standing with the severed head of a goat. I thought it was a little strong, but what do I know? In response, goat farmers have come up with a cheese called Sneering Goat. I will say that goat farmers appear to be a little bit more “groovy,” compared to the staunch conservatism of the cow farmer, if the hat I saw at a goat cheese farm we visited is any indication.
As we wrapped up our day of cheese, wine, beer, and stopping to go to the bathroom, we eventually ended up in the historically significant town of Seneca Falls, New York. Anybody who’s ever passed a New York State U.S. History Regents exam can tell you that Seneca Falls is the birthplace of the modern women’s rights movement. Allegedly, noted male chauvinist Bobby Riggs spent a week there one night. Seneca Falls is the town where suffragists, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Angelina Grimke, as well as many other brave women, and their husbands, (If they knew what was good for them.) gathered together in 1849 to proclaim that it was time that they receive the rights they felt were guaranteed to them by the Declaration of Independence.
At this time, women in America couldn’t vote, keep their wages, or speak in public. They could be disciplined by their husbands for speaking out in public, but couldn’t appear in court as a witness, or on a jury, and couldn’t even own property. (Unmarried women were allowed to keep their wages and own property since they didn’t have a man to “take care of them.”) Based on these gross inequalities, Stanton, Mott, and others drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, based on the aforementioned Declaration of Independence. In their monumental document, the women proclaimed that “all men and WOMEN were created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.” The women then went on to list all of the grievances that they held against men for all of that they had done to women throughout America’s brief history. While little changed after this convention, it did open the door for women’s equality, and set the stage for the ladies’ ultimate victory, universal suffrage, granted to them in 1920 by the 19th Amendment.
We landed at a bed and breakfast called the Hubble House. Now, I don’t expect all of you good people to be historical savants, but let’s see if you can guess who the Hubble House is named after:
A- Laura Hubble – Daughter of a wealthy Seneca Falls resident who helped develop the town.
B- Edwin Hubble – The inspiration behind the Hubble telescope.
C – “King” Carl Hubble – Famous screwball pitcher for the New York Giants
Well, the answer is clearly “A.” Laura Hubble’s house was built in 1855 and updated in the 1870s. Unlike a lot of bed and breakfast establishments, it’s located right in the town of Seneca Falls, as opposed to being found out in the countryside, and is within walking distance of the downtown area. The house is located right on the flats of Seneca Falls, and has a railroad track running literally though the front yard of the house.
The stay in a bed and breakfast is quite a different experience than crashing at your average Ramada Inn. Any way you slice it, when you stay at a bed and breakfast, you are living in somebody’s home. It can feel even weirder if the house is venerable such as Hubble House. First of all, there’s always that outside chance that the place the person is named after was murdered in the room that you are sleeping in. Whatever did happen to Laura Hubbell anyway? Then, even though the hosts literally couldn’t be any nicer or inviting, including the very hospitable proprietors of Hubble House, you’re still not completely sure what you are allowed to take, eat, or use. Mi casa es su casa, maybe, but does that mean I can grab one of those whoopie pies now, or do I have to wait for breakfast?
The house was immersed in history. Not only were there some classic artifacts, but there was a picture of the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which he actually autographed, one of the few in existence. Wadsworth was one of the biggest celebrities of his day. Imagine Justin Bieber with a long, and what I would imagine to be a very ticklish beard. The house as well as the town made one feel as if they had stepped right into the 19th century, and it was a nice break from the rough and tumble of modern life. Relax, they had wifi, we’re not animals you know.
I wholeheartedly endorse the Hubble House, Seneca Falls, the Finger Lakes, and all of the wine, beer, history, and anything else one can glean from this underrated part of the state. I also encourage people who haven’t experienced the whole bed and breakfast genre to take the plunge and see what it’s like to live with another family for a night, without television by the way. What if you’re shy you ask, and you’re not sure what goodies you can grab, and what needs to be left alone? The answer is simple, take everything. You’re only doing the hosts a favor. They don’t need all of those whoopie pies believe me. You don’t have to be a Longfellow, or a Mott, or a Hubble to figure that out.