Phrankly Focus – Fox Run Vineyards and Cafe

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On any journey through the Finger Lakes it’s almost as enjoyable to marvel at the winery dotted hills along side the water as it is to venture inside and taste the wines. Okay, okay, I said almost! Even among all the options, Fox Run Vineyards stands out on the northern area of the west side of Seneca Lake. It has one of the more spectacular build outs and a view to match. Greeting you at the entrance is an eye catching giant archway surrounded by nature themed metal sculptures from noted artist Sam Castner at Ironvine Studios.

Fox Run is one of the larger wineries in the Finger Lakes both in size and influence. Almost every time I’ve visited, the interior has been humming with events, tours, or just people on day trips up and down the lake. Their location near the top of Seneca Lake makes them a popular entry point for tours going down the lake. Thankfully, with the combination of the tasting room and local focused café, this is the perfect spot to kick off your Finger Lakes wine adventure.

I’d recommend grabbing some of the well sourced food from the café before shifting over to tasting. Not every winery has legitimate food options so don’t miss out on the opportunity before you head out to other spots. The menu is full of local farm to table dishes built to satisfy anyone in your group. And what better way to start off a meal than a cold plate featuring some of the Finger Lake’s finest cheeses from places like Muranda Cheese Company and Lively Run Dairy? Chef Brud Holland is intimately involved in deciding on what gets on the boards and he’s a big fan of what Muranda is doing.

They like to talk about the quality of the milk. You have to pay attention to every part of your process to come up with an excellent product. You go to his farm and it is immaculately clean. You can see he is doing everything he can to follow that process. His cows look like they’re dry cleaned! I honestly think it makes a difference.

While the cheese is a great starting point, there’s plenty more to dive into on the café menu whether you’re in the mood for a flatbread with crust made in house or their Signature Club. That Club sandwich is loaded with local goodness from Maggie’s Microgreens to Bostrom Farms bacon and a Riesling vinaigrette with wine right from Fox Run Vineyards. What shouldn’t be forgotten though is the market selection that runs down the opposite side of the café. There are very few places that have such a quality selection of local specialty foods and so many are perfect for a long day wine touring. Grab some Wine Snacks breadsticks, Luke’s Garlic Scape Pesto, Wixson’s Honey and know you’ve got some real food to eat on the road.

While the café is worth the trip alone, Fox Run is a winery first and foremost and you can’t forget the diverse wine selection from respected winemaker Peter Bell. Fox Run plays the balance between approachable and refined with a tasting room that has options for just about everyone. From Riesling and Chardonnay to Cab Franc, Lemberger, and even port, the execution level is solid across the board. While I was talking with Brud, it was evident that he felt that he and Peter worked well together to find balance in pairing the subtleties of the cold climate wines with his food. The spirit of collaboration doesn’t stop there and it’s evident in everything Fox Run does, especially with their annual special release; Tierce Riesling. The winemakers from Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt all come together to blend their Rieslings to make a wine that is unified, delicious and a notable expression of the Finger Lakes.

While searching for more information, I was struck by the amount of places and people Fox Run and Peter Bell had touched since he arrived there in 1995. Peter has consulted for multiple wineries in the Finger Lakes including Red Tail Ridge, Miles Wine Cellars, and Hunt Country Vineyard and is known to be an eager mentor to those willing to take the time to learn. Regular winemaker tastings are held at Fox Run for people to get honest feedback on wines and to continue building a community focused on quality and continuous improvement.

The more time I’ve spent looking into FLX wineries, the more occasions I’ve had to see someone who spent time at Fox Run and has moved on to capture their own vision of the region. For instance, Kelby Russell, now a winemaker at Red Newt, and Tricia Renshaw who was the subject of a chapter in Evan Dawson’s Summer in a Glass and is working on establishing her own label called Venus Rising. Fox Run wines are distributed all around the East Coast with notable presence in New York City and the Western New York region.

Also noteworthy, Fox Run hosts the Glorious Garlic Festival on the winery grounds each summer where farmers and producers from around the region come together to highlight garlic in myriad forms. The café serves a special garlic themed menu, there are more varieties from vendors than most have ever heard of, and you can taste garlic in everything from kettle corn to cheese and even ice cream. It’s a great way to check out the space, grab a tasting, and see all of the fantastic things Fox Run has to offer. If you want something that happens more regularly, check out the Food & Wine Experience every Friday that gets you a tour of the vineyard, a light lunch focused on local food, and wine tastings to go along with it. I think it’s an especially great way to spend a Friday afternoon!

Keep on reading the Phrankly Focus for places all around that do things the right way like Fox Run Winery & Cafe on Seneca Lake. Until then keep eating and drinking and let me know if you find something we need to feature here!

You can listen to Chris Lindstrom on the award winning Food About Town podcast or check out his food blog, Share any dining tips with him on Twitter and Instagram @stromie.

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