Museum Announces Wine Exhibit and Fall Programs

A depiction of White Top Winery with vines and steamer at its dock close to the village of Hammondsport. Photo courtesy of Charles Mitchell, Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society

Plans are underway for showcasing the history of wine production in the Finger Lakes as part of the Finger Lakes Museum at Keuka Lake State Park. “A 19th century winery exhibit is in the design and planning stages, so some ideas are subject to change,” said Gary Cox, program committee member and local wine historian, “but this part of the overall Keuka Lake State Park project has already been embraced by a number of regional wineries, some of which have offered to contribute artifacts and expertise to help create the exhibit.”

While those artifacts will be crucial in telling the story of Finger Lakes wine, the exhibit will feature much more, said Cox. “There will be three wine ‘programs,’ which will clearly reflect the museum’s educational mission.”

The first is an exhibit presenting the essentials of winemaking in the Finger Lakes before the advent of electricity, “when wineries were usually located on hillsides, thus allowing gravity to do much of the winemaking work,” Cox told us.

The second is the creation of a small vineyard or grapevine-lined walkway. It will show the diversity of grape cultivars and the trellising styles that accompanied Catawba and Isabella grapevines when they arrived here in the 1820s. “In those earliest days, there were no tractors nor trellis wire, let alone mechanical harvesters!” Cox pointed out.

The third program is wine tasting, and every Finger Lakes winery will be invited to participate. Tasting flights will be designed to help visitors not only find what they like, but also to identify wines from the exceptional variety produced in this region. Afterwards, visitors can visit museum kiosks for driving directions to wine producers or to order wine online to have it shipped to their home.

“The user-friendliness of this unique tasting program will help to attract visitors,” said Cox, “and, since individual taste preferences change, and there are substantial vintage differences from year to year, it will encourage repeat visits, which are important in sustaining the museum financially.”

The tasting program is also retailer friendly, he added, since the museum will not sell the wine. He envisions visitors shopping at their local wine stores and asking for specific Finger Lakes brands.

“In light of suggestions and financial support from our regional wine industry and its friends, and from the public at large, the museum’s ongoing winery programs promise to enhance the quality of life for Finger Lakes residents and visitors alike,” Cox said.

Fall Program

He encourages everyone to attend the museum’s “Wine to Vine: Savor Our Finger Lakes,” presentation that kicks off this fall. The program features discussions with local wine experts and a museum-produced film called, “Collision Course: Wine and Temperance in New York’s Finger Lakes.” It will be offered in several locations throughout the region. For a schedule and to register, visit

by Gary Cox

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