Great Western Wines

How decadent was the night before?  We turned on the AC and watched Short Circuit 2 on the TV, drank wine and ate nuts.  No popcorn on the menu, but it’s just because no one thought of it.  Megan slept in the RV again, and we buttoned everything up and left the AC on figuring that we would have a very comfortable night.  I’m of the age where I travel occasionally in the middle of the night, and I gave no thought to the fact that the AC never cycled all night long.  About 8:30 AM we got up, it’s vacation of course, and we saw/heard nothing from the brother or nieces side of the family.  Something seemed different, so I checked the outside temperature. 57 degrees! Just a little chilly.  I decided that we’d turn the heater on, as the coach was 64 degrees, and cook breakfast inside.  Home fries, toast, coffee, tea, OJ, sausages and eggs any style you wanted.  The best breakfast in Watkins Glen that morning, if I do say so.

Things were a little of a mess in the coach, so I spent about an hour straightening things out.  Once finished, we headed off to walk the Glen again.  We took in the lily pond, the suspension bridge, walked lover’s lane and then up Watkins Glen to the mile bridge, talked to Joanie,  a very nice woman who kept order at the Glen, and took dozens more pictures.  There were trees whose genus and species we were uncertain about, dragonflies, salamanders and a hornet’s nest for our viewing pleasure.  We returned to the RV ands had assorted lunches, peanut butter, ham and cheese, things that satisfied at that moment ands then it was off to take a wine tour.

My grandfather developed a taste for New York State wines sometimes in the 50’s.  I don’t know if it had anything to do with a customer/friend who had a liquor store and needed electrical work, or if NY State wines are close to German wines that cost more than the value, but grandpa liked Great Western Champagne Taylor Sauterne, and Lake Country white in his latter years, a sweet pleasant wine that was great during the summer, and better than soda.  A holiday wasn’t a holiday without Grandpa’s Champagne or Sauterne, and even though we weren’t of the drinking age initially, we were allowed a sip.   In 1970 when I hit the magic age to have a drink, it made and excellent meal even better.  Every holiday since he passed in 1992 I either had or brought a Great Western Sauterne or Taylor Sauterne.  It became harder and harder to find, and finally in 2010 I was told that Taylor was no longer making the Sauterne.

The Traylor vineyard was located in Hammondsport, NY, just around the corner from Watkins Glen, so we headed out.  The place looked abandoned and unmaintained since 1970.  We arrived just in time to get the last tour of the day and after $25 the five of us took off on the tour.  The tour included visiting the original buildings built for the Great Western Winery.  Louise and I have been to the Sonoma and Napa Valleys and toured vineyards on the Route du Vin in the Alcaise.  Thinking about the experience, touring the Great Western Winery, now known as Pleasant Valley Winery was like going to a wake of a movie star who was popular in the 40’s retired and has never been hears from since.

The winery was bought by the Taylor Family in the 1960’s after being a neighbor for a hundred years.  Obviously the Taylor’s saw something that Great Western was unaware of  because business in the last part of the sixties and the early 70’s was gangbusters.  The Taylor’s sold the business and their name for huge money from Coca Cola and ran.  Coke sold the business to the Seagram’s corporation, then to a wine conglomerate and then to an aircraft corporation.  Each one along the way picked as much as they could off the bones, and then moved on.  All those inexpensive, sweet wines of my youth are gone along with the people who worked making wine there for years.

We went to the tasting room, free, and tasted about an ounce and a half of wine.  The wine was generally lackluster and a pale imitation of what else is available in the marketplace.  Having never seen the Pleasant Valley winery in the marketplace, I can only suppose that with everything else the distribution network was sold off to someone.  Stepping into the ‘museum’ is stepping into a time machine.  All the displays are from the heyday of Taylor.  All the displays prominently display the Taylor family name, now owned by a different corporation.  If you didn’t know better, you would think that Taylor was still in business at the site and that all the machinery was still being used.  It was sad.  I’ve visited cemeteries and come away feeling better.  At least I’ll stop looking for that bit of nostalgia in the marketplace.

Since we were close we zipped over to Bully Hill Vineyard, started by Walter Taylor who way back when went off at length at not being able to use his family name to make wine as the name was trademarked, hence Bully Hill.  The difference between the two places was remarkable. One was a mausoleum, the other a celebration of the good things in life.  The tasting was $5 and no one else was interested, Brian was driving and sensible, so I bought an interesting bottle of wine recommended by a moderately intoxicated, attractive, middle aged woman who said it was great.  Who to get a better recommendation from?

The trip back was filled with great houses built when real  money was in the area, scenery reminiscent of Europe and spectacular, great hills, meadows, trees, clouds, blue skies and magnificence.  Dinner was chicken grilled over a wood fire, pasta, Alfredo sauce, salad, broccoli and Italian bread and white wine (for the adults).  S’mores were desert.  The last four days went way too quickly.  All in all, a great time.