35 Years and Counting

Bacon on the Lakein wine trail event

The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail Celebrates an Anniversary in 2018

by Jason Feulner

It’s easy to take for granted the presence of the wine trails in the Finger Lakes. It seems as if they’ve always been here, and there is little doubt that they’ve become the cornerstone of wine tourism in the region. As 2017 draws to a close, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is reminding adherents and new visitors alike that 2018 marks the 35th Anniversary of the organization and they would like to mark the occasion with one long wine party.

The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail was not only the first wine trail in the Finger Lakes, but the first wine trail in the United States. Back in 1983, five wineries along Cayuga Lake – Planes (now Cayuga Ridge), Lucas, Americana, Frontenac, and Lakeshore – joined their marketing efforts. While this seems apparent in hindsight, these fledgling wineries determined that visitors were most likely to visit several wineries during one trip and that competing against each other could be counter-productive. By making the entire lake a wine destination, the wineries hoped that the number of visitors would increase for everyone.

Subsequently emulated by wineries forming trails on Seneca, Keuka, and Canandaigua, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail has been a smashing success for 35 years running. Now 16 wineries strong, the wine trail continues its regular 2017-2018 programming and in addition is holding two additional anniversary events designed for consumers who have long been a part of the action.

Cassandra Harrington, the executive director of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, emphasizes that the organization is not resting on its laurels. There is a new website coming, coupled with a re-branding effort to propel the organization to new levels of success in the coming decades. “We’re trying to target a younger audience,” she explains, noting that the new generation of wine drinkers gathers information in different ways and approaches trips differently. In response, the wine trail is creating a “build-your-own” itinerary app, and future events are going to be more leisurely-paced to encourage visitors to “hang out” for longer periods at each winery.

“We’ve always been a guide and information source in addition to our events,” says Katherine Chase, events coordinator. “People love the event atmosphere but wineries and customers alike enjoy opportunities to really experience each site at their own pace. We can help with both.”

An innovative approach that the wine trail has recently taken is holding an annual Vintner Vacation, arranging for applicants to spend three days getting a behind-the-scenes look at winery operations, winemaking, and cellar management. This June excursion is becoming popular among wine enthusiasts, and entry forms can be found on the trail’s website.

As the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail looks to its next 35 years, Cassandra Harrington sees 2017-2018 as a pivotal period for the organization. “The wine trail has always been about this beautiful scenery and the great wine made here. There’s history on this trail, but we are also looking to the future – there’s changes coming in the way we set the mold for what a wine trail can do.”

Upcoming Cayuga Lake Wine Trail Events

Mardi Grasi
February 24-15, 2018

Bacon on the Lakein
March 24-25, 2018

Wine & Herb Festival
April 27-29 or May 4-6, 2018

Special 2018 35th Anniversary Events

CeleBrunch – June 3, 2018
Wear your Sunday best as we celebrate 35 years of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail by eating breakfast all day! Try-before-you buy wines that  pair perfectly with your favorite brunch items. Cheers!

35th Anniversary Festival (official naming TBD)
Join us in celebrating the 35th birthday of America’s First Wine Trail. All member wineries will gather in one location for you to sample their favorites while listening to live music and seeing first-hand what 35 years means for the quality of our wines. Stay tuned for more details.


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