story and photos by Libby Cook
As the conclusion of our undergraduate careers at Ithaca College draws near, my roommate Emily and I toasted to our four years spent studying and working in the Finger Lakes Region. Over the weekend, we celebrated our final semester in regal fashion, over lunch and drinks at the Belhurst Castle in Geneva.
The Romanesque Revival-style castle has been a part of Geneva history since its construction, which began in 1885 and finished in 1889. The estate was initially a private residence that underwent several construction projects by various owners until it was opened to the public as a restaurant, speakeasy and casino during Prohibition. Belhurst was added to the National Register of Historic Places then purchased by current owners Duane and Deb Reeder in 1992. Today, this historic landmark has three hotels, including the castle chambers, the Vinifera Inn connected to the castle and White Springs Manor, a historic farmhouse two miles west of the castle. Belhurst also has two restaurants, a spa and salon, a winery, a cidery and a craft brewery. Its amenities and prime location on the shore of Seneca Lake make for a relaxing day trip or weekend getaway.
Emily and I began our Belhurst visit with lunch at Stonecutter’s Tavern. Compared to Edgar’s, the castle’s other, more upscale restaurant, Stonecutter’s had a relaxed, pub-style atmosphere and menu. The friendly staff let us choose a table in the spacious dining room that overlooked the castle gardens and Seneca Lake. We opted for a house-made hummus served with toasted naan bread for an appetizer. The light, homemade fare was a perfect starter for our meals. For the main course, I ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich served with coleslaw on a pretzel roll and a balsamic-dressed side salad.
Following our delicious lunch, we stopped by the castle gift shop bar for a Belhurst Winery tasting. Emily and I split a flight and sampled five wines of our choice. First, we tried the “Knight,” a sweet white wine that Emily preferred. We followed it with the “Carrie,” a semi-dry rosé named after one of the castle’s original owners. We then tried “Naturel,” a sparkling white wine, followed by the “Dry Rosé.” Our shared favorite from the tasting was the final wine called “Isabella,” a sparkling rosé. We purchased a bottle of the Isabella and then departed the gift shop to explore the castle grounds.
The poor weather and gray clouds obstructed views of the lake, but the castle garden was blooming and full of color. Just outside the windows of Stonecutter’s and the entrance to the castle’s ballroom, a stone pathway snaked through rows of hedges and beds of fuchsia and gold flowers. A tree of tiny white blossoms decorated a mini courtyard of stone tables and benches as water dribbled through a fountain nearby. This hidden waterfront escape would be a beautiful place to spend the afternoon on a sunny spring afternoon.