The Wine is Poured… Let’s Eat!

Wegmans chef, Russell Furguson, hosts a culinary demonstration in the New York Wine & Culinary Center’s educational theater. Photo by Kurt Brownell

Wine has often been considered a food. If you haven’t been enjoying the way wine can complement a meal, now is the time to give it a try. Don’t know how to begin? Just stop in at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua to learn what the New York agriculture and wine industries have to offer. You may even want to take a cooking class to sharpen your skills.

A Gateway to New York’s Finest
Located right next to the pier in Canandaigua, the Wine & Culinary Center is a great starting point as you discover what New York’s food and wine enterprises have to offer.

“The Center will be used to educate, engage and entice visitors,” states Alexa Gifford, executive director. “By getting a taste of what we offer, we expect people to go on to explore the bounty of the region on their own.”

Four primary partners pulled together to form the foundation upon which the Center is built: Constellation Brands, Wegmans, RIT and the New York Wine & Grape foundation (formerly located in Penn Yan). The building went from concept to grand opening in just 10 months.

Indeed, just walking in from the parking lot gives you some idea what this place is all about. New plantings of plum, apple and cherry trees sit among herb gardens and several plantings of grapes. An outdoor tent is set up to handle special gatherings and overflow. When you step inside, you can wander among rooms such as:
•    The Educational Theater where you can view hands-on cooking demonstrations by renowned chefs
•    A beautifully appointed Hands-On Kitchen used to host cooking classes for up to 36 visitors
•    The Pride of New York Exhibit Hall that showcases New York agriculture
•    A spacious Wine Tasting Room with a second story balcony
•    A private dining room for corporate and special events, decked out to resemble a winemaker’s cellar
•    The Culinary Boutique where you can purchase culinary and wine-related products
•    The Taste of New York Lounge, a wine and food bar that offers light meals and appetizers
•    An outdoor wrap-around deck, ideally situated to enjoy views of the lake and garden area below

Although you can purchase a bottle or two of the wines featured at the time, there will be a kiosk available for ordering wine to ship home.

A Place to Visit More than Once
The Wine & Culinary Center features samples of wines and light fare that change weekly. Organized in “flights,” they offer a broad range of different wines and beverages, such as:
•    Empire Tasting: A wide variety of wine styles
•    New York Traditions: Wines made from hybrids that are less well-known outside the state
•    New York on the World Stage: Wines made from European (vinifera) grape varieties
•    New York Harvest: Non-alcoholic fruit juices

Food tastings are designed to complement the wine offerings. When I visited in June, I sampled locally-produced cheeses, port wine ice cream, steak tartare with guacamole and tortillas, mushroom bruschetta, beef in sate sauce and raw oysters drizzled with apple cider vinegar. A recent visit to the website revealed the following culinary offerings:
•    Asparagus Milanese
•    Indian Farms brown egg frittata
•    Heirloom tomato salad
•    Family-style antipasti
•    Tarragon-roasted chicken on a baguette
•    Lively Run Goat and Mascarpone Cheesecake

If you want to try your hand at whipping up savory dishes for friends and family, look into the cooking classes offered at the center. You can learn what to do with garlic or fresh tomatoes, participate in hands-on classes with local chefs (and eat the results of your labors), learn the secrets of wine from local winemakers, and find out what makes for good wine and cheese pairings. They even offer classes for kids.

Not sure when to visit? Check the website to see what’s cooking, who’s teaching and what’s being uncorked.

A Commitment to the New York Wine Industry
“Thirty years ago, there were just 19 wineries in New York State,” claims Patrick Brennan, New York State Agriculture Commissioner. “Now there are 230. This Center holds the pride and promise of a thriving food and wine industry across the state.”

The Wine & Culinary Center represents an unprecedented commitment to the state’s food and wine industries. The center can only be described as rich. Wood-paneling and stenciled walls, original artwork, medieval-inspired furnishings and a friendly staff all speak to the message that the wine industry is here to stay.

The marriage of wine and food in the serenity of the Finger Lakes has long been a primary tourist attraction. If the center is any indication of where the wine and food industries are headed, the future is bright indeed.

by Joy Underhill
Joy Underhill is a freelance writer from Farmington. You can reach her at

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