Have you ever had an out-of-body experience, feeling like you have transformed into something else? I did last weekend - I felt like a grape! Yes, you read that right. In fact, it's practically impossible NOT to feel like a grape while attending the annual Naples Grape Festival in the Finger Lakes.
I started the morning with a scenic drive from Rochester with my co-worker Sara and our significant others past Canandaigua and down Route 21 into Naples. The fall foliage is absolutely stunning this time of year, and Route 21 provides some incredible views of Canandaigua Lake. We took a small detour and headed up County Road 12 which gives you a view of the rolling hills and deep valleys, as well as an amazing view of the lake looking north. After a few photo ops, it was time to head into Naples!
As we went down the hill and entered Main Street in Naples, I really started to get that grapey feeling! We passed vineyards with the fog just lifting, and saw some of the area's true colors of fall in the hillsides surrounding the town. The smell of grapes permeated the air, and the fire hydrants and ambulances were purple too! Now, this town is so serious about grapes that the purple fire hydrants and ambulances aren’t just for the festival; this is a year-round thing!
We started walking around and taking in all the wonderful treats. We stopped by the Simply Crepes booth and enjoyed a Grape Crepe with Monica’s Pies Grape Filling and New York State maple syrup. Yum! There were so many local vendors handing out samples of their goodies that it was tough to walk more than 30 feet without something new to try. Arbor Hill Grapery had a variety of their homemade jams and jellies, as did Naples Valley Brand, who's hot mustard on a pretzel was to die for. Venturing further, we ran into Wohlschlegel’s maple syrup products made right in Naples, which were delicious, and, naturally, I couldn’t get enough of Chef Lerman’s sauces.
After eating all the goodies (especially the hot mustard!), we of course had to wash them down with some Finger Lakes wine! We stopped by the wine tent, and to be honest, we pretty much liked everything we tasted. There were wines from Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, and of course, our very own Canandaigua Wine Trail. As usual, I still can’t decide if my favorite taste was from Inspire Moore or Arbor Hill.
No trip to Naples is complete without a grape pie, and every year at the Grape Festival there is the World’s Greatest Grape Pie Contest. So many good grape pies to try, and so many clever piemakers yearning for bragging rights! And it's always especially fun to watch people trying the local favorite for the first time - cheers to them for venturing to the right place to do it! Needless to say, there were so many grape pie vendors lined up and down the street, that it was easy to think that I was starting to turn purple...
The festival isn't even just limited to foodies like myself. There were local artists and artizanns with booths that were tough to walk right by - the artistic talent in Naples is amazing! From photography to painting, and woodwork to glass blowing, the Festival is a great place to take home a unique gift from the Finger Lakes. Oh, and did I mention the we got to visit with the guy in the photo to the right? Even the alpacas came down to the festival!
We ended our day with a trip to Brew and Brats restaurant at Arbor Hill Grapery where I had a pint of local beer and a local wine sausage. Yup, more grapes! I couldn’t think of any better way to end my Naples grape extravaganza! It surely is a grape place.