By the time we finished our tour of Graycliff, it was time for lunch. Checking the map, we spotted a likely place less than a mile away along Lake Erie: Suncliff on the Lake. Formerly an historic mansion built in 1914, and later owned by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, it now serves as a learning and leisure retreat that includes a restaurant.
We chose to sit outdoors, where we could enjoy a view of the lake as well as the adjacent gardens. The weather was bright blue and sunny, so after lunch, we walked the grounds and stopped to relax on a bench. Through the years, how many people had sat on these same benches, watching the boats go by on Lake Erie? But time to move on.
The area between Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY is known as the Lake Erie Wine Country. Across that 53-mile span there are 20 wineries, too many to visit in a few hours. So we chose one close-by in Sheridan, NY, Liberty Vineyards, on US 20. While we waited for a tasting, we met the owners who, by coincidence, were also named Pam and Gary. But of course he spelled it the right way.
We learned Gary's great-grandfather planted a Concord vineyard here in the 1860s, and grapes from those vines are still being harvested today, over 150 years and six generations later. They opened the winery in 2008, and now produce a diverse selection of award-winning wines. Gary also explained how the weather and geology of the region interact to give their wine its unique properties.
Back in the car, our next stop is the famed Chautauqua Institution, on the shore of Lake Chautauqua, founded in 1874. Established to promote lifelong learning and self-improvement, every summer it offers extensive programs that span arts, education, religion, culture and recreation that draw visitors from around the world. Driving along its narrow streets, it’s like a visit to a college campus. Don’t miss seeing the Athenaeum Hotel with its grand porch. If we only had more time to have a drink and enjoy the view.
Our two days in Chautauqua have flown by. While we packed a lot in, it's time to pack something else -- our bags. Tomorrow morning we strike out for our next destination on this Empire State Road Trip: Watkins Glen and the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. Stay tuned!