Finger Lakes wineries have music in the air
FINGER LAKES--On many a summer evening, after the usual business hours for wine tasting are over, a few wineries remain open to offer old and new customers a chance to kick back and enjoy live, open-air music, sunset views, picnic foods and the company of others. Everyone benefits, from local bands with old and new fans, to caterers and food trucks and of course, the wineries themselves. Attendees are invited to buy wine from the host winery and food to go with it; the winery pays the bands but the musicians welcome tips. In most instances, there's no cover charge--the events are a combination of party and community.
Diane Buglion-Mannion of Rasta Ranch Vineyards on Route 414, Hector, counts herself lucky to have a musician in the family. For the past five years, Rasta has offered Monday night Blues sets with Brett Beardslee from 5-8 p.m. "Every Monday evening I make pizza or there's a food truck here," Buglion-Mannion says. "It's usually low-key, a sit back tapping your foot kind of scene, but if people want to dance, they can dance. We've been doing it for so many years, there are people who extend their vacation past Monday so they can come." Three years ago, she added Sunday Sessions with Jamie Arcangeli from 2-5 p.m. Arcangeli plays acoustic guitar and piano and sings. Each year, the music begins around the first of April and continues through the end of October, "The times of year we're open seven days a week," she says.
Just south, at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards on Route 414 in Hector, Friday is the night for music. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.--now year-round--a variety of family-friendly musical groups take the stage. Stephanie Jarvis calls it a "very social event. We have yard games too, like corn hole and kan jam, that the kids can play; people are sitting at picnic tables having dinner and you can buy wine or cider by the glass or water or soda or juice. Some people are dancing, some are just enjoying the music, it's kind of like a happy hour."
Food is available from a visiting food truck. In the warm weather, the event is staged at the winery's outdoor "Oasis" bar; when the weather is inclement, the music happens in the tasting room. Curious about who's on offer this week? Jarvis makes sure up to date information is posted on Hazlitt Vineyards' Facebook page. "It's laid back, super friendly and everyone looks like they're having a great time," she says.
And a few miles farther south, at J.R. Dill Winery on Route 414 in Hector, there's music and food Thursday evenings. "We do upbeat, classic rock," says Stephanie Rappleye. "There's a mix of ages ranges, from a lot of locals to people passing through. If someone is looking for live music, and a good time... It's good exposure for the winery and musicians as well."
Like others interviewed, Rappleye notices the ongoing support of regular attendees from the community, a solid core of people who often arrive at the beginning of the music and enjoy it until the moment the musicians pack up. "It's a nice local social spot," she says.
Many other wineries also offer music regularly or irregularly. Among these are Rock Stream Vineyards whose owner/winemaker/musician Dr. Mark Karasz is also a classically-trained cellist. At times during tasting room hours, he'll sit in the balcony above the public area and play informally. It's his way of unwinding, and he's discovered his customers find it entertaining--though he doesn't schedule when he does it. "Today I went up and started playing after bottling and paperwork," he said. "I'll just play when the spirit moves me." Karasz has written his own music and is working on the release of a new CD of his compositions. While some compare it to jazz, he says it does not fit into a single category, so he terms his work "alternative."
Glenora Wine Cellars annually hosts a two-part Jazz Greats concert series, on the third Sunday of July and the third Sunday of August. This ticketed event takes place on the lawn, with performers on the "Vineyard Stage" and the audience ranged on the slope above that functions like a natural amphitheater. Wine and food are available from Glenora and the Verasions Restaurant. This past Sunday, Dave Hanlon's Cookbook, a Syracuse-based group, opened for saxophonist Gerald Albright, the featured performer. The event tends to draw a mature crowd, says Hallie Weakland. "Definitely there are people who come specifically for the concert, people who come year after year for the jazz weekends. We're anticipating a sold-out crowd."
Glenora's autumn "Leaves and Lobster" event also features music; and during the late winter and spring each year, a musician plays one Sunday each month at Verasions "Feast and Fest" occasions where inventive chefs pair food themed with the music.
At Seneca Lake's northern end, White Springs Winery on Route 14, Geneva, features live music every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., year round. "We get a lot of locals who come just about every week, and the winery becomes a destination for folks," says tasting room manager Jan Van Allan. "We have people who come from Rochester to buy a bottle of wine, sit outside and stay for the afternoon to enjoy the music. In the winter we do this inside and try to keep to smaller musical acts." There's no charge to come and listen; wine and food are available. "It's a nice afternoon," she says.
John and Josephine Ingle, owners of Heron Hill Winery on Route 76 in Hammondsport noticed the fun of pairing wine and music more than 15 years ago.
"Not just to taste wine at a winery, but to slow down, taste wine and appreciate the surroundings," explains Erin Rafalowski, marketing manager at Heron Hill. After noting the success of an occasional "Tunes in the Tent," event, they decided to make it a regular feature and designed the expansion of their winery with that in mind. So the winery café, which has a large terrace, stays open to serve hearty snacks and wine every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a musical happy hour.
"It gives people a chance to sit down, slow down, savor their wine, enjoy the view and listen to the music," Rafalowski says. "We just appreciate the overall ambiance. It can be a lively, fun atmosphere that allows people to converse. And it's nice to give people a chance to sit down and have a full glass of wine rather than a tasting." Many locals regularly come, bringing visiting friends and family.
Sundays in October, Tunes in the Tent returns each week from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with chili, pizza and other food, as well as wine and beer.
Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. - the first and third Saturdays July through September, then every Saturday in October - Stever Hill Vineyards on Stever Hill Road in Branchport hosts a variety of bands and a food truck. There's an outdoor pavilion that can serve as a band-stand; lawn where kids can play and older people can dance.
"It gives people something else to do - they can hang out, stay a while, bring their families," says Liz Sprague, tasting room manager, who adds that the fun can be moved inside as needed - there's plenty of room there, too. There is no cover charge or admission.
Music and wine share the billing with gourmet pizza at "Tunes on the Terrace," at Rooster Hill Vineyards, Route 54 near Penn Yan. This is a ticketed event for which reservations are required.
"We feature a variety of gourmet pizzas, and the event is all inclusive," says Amy Hoffman, noting that wine and dessert are included in the ticket cost. "A few people bought series tickets. It's music that people like to sit and relax to, classic soft rock, sometimes acoustic guitarists, recognizable, sometimes there are a few people dancing. It's also nice to sit back and relax and watch the sunset. Certain musicians bring in followers; it's also nice for tourists who want to do something in the evening to relax after a day driving around." There is no cover charge.
Saturday evenings in July and August from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., McGregor Vineyard on Dutch Street, Dundee hosts local artists, mostly acoustic singer/songwriter style musicians, says tasting room manager Tammy Tones.
"It's generally inside with a nice casual atmosphere. A lot of folks sit and order a cheese board and watch the sunset. People will come and have a light bite to eat, check out the music, and then do something else for the rest of the evening." There is no cover charge.
At Keuka Springs Vineyard on East Lake Road, Penn Yan, mostly on Sundays (except for the last Saturday in August) there's music, food and sunset views on afternoons beginning at 1:30. Owner Judy Wiltberger says the concerts draw both local regulars and tourists, including families, with some audience members coming from afar to hear a favorite band in an outdoor setting.
"It's really a fun event," she says. "A lot of times people who've been here once will come back and bring their friends. Lake people will bring their company. We have a lot of kids who come, we're a family friendly winery and there's a lot of room here." There is no cover charge.
Find out about musical events online at keukawinetrail.com, senecalakewine.com or on individual winery websites.
This story was updated Friday, Aug. 21, 2015 to correct the Glenora Wine Cellars Jazz Greats concert series dates. The concerts are held on Sunday not Saturday.