Wine and Buckwheat
Story and photos by Kathleen Walls
Wine and Buckwheat? No it just doesnít seem to go together. Not unless you are visiting Yates County, New York. Then the two just belong together. Well, maybe not at the same meal but both are famous products of this Finger Lakes County.
New Yorkís Finger Lakes were sculpted out of the earth around 12,000 years ago by a retreating glacier. The glacierís icy weight resulted in steep, rocky hillsides rising from the lakes to provide sheltering environments and complex rich soil that nourish the local grapes, enabling thsi region to be one the country's best wine producers.
The largest pancake pan
Possibly the same conditions favor the growth of Buckwheat since this area is also one of the biggest growers of the latest health food craze. Buckwheat actually is a berry and itís not related to wheat at all. Buckwheat contains all essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. This makes it a more complete protein than any other plant-derived food. Another reason Yates County is considered the Buckwheat Capital of the country is evident when you drive into Penn-Yan. You canít miss it. It is the largest frying pan you are ever apt to see, just over 28 feet. In large letters it proclaims that is the griddle used to cook the largest pancake.
The business that sports the giant pan is Birkett Mills, the townís oldest and largest employer. The mill has been in continuous operation since 1797. I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the mill and found it fascinating how the specialized machinery can remove the hulls from the buckwheat and grind it to several different grades. Along with the buckwheat flour, they also mill some interesting other buckwheat derivatives. By removing the hull from the groat and then roasting it they produce Kasha, a popular middle-European substitute for rice, The mill also processes wheat but the buckwheat products are the main thrust.
Fox Run's restored 1860's barn
Seneca Lake Wine Trail boasts 48 wineries. Many offer tours and have restaurants and gift shops attached, Fox Run Winery near Penn-Yan provides a daily tour and tastings in a restored Dutch Style barn built shortly after the Civil War. Their Cafe at Fox Run is another way to sample the wines and enjoy a salad, soup or sandwich overlooking beautiful lake Seneca. They offer lots of the locally grown ingredients,
Should you fall in love with a local cheese or other product, just a short drive south of Penn Yan is The Windmill Farm and Market, one of New York State's largest farmer's markets. Here you can find local wines, produce, and other regional items. When you drive up to the market and spot the scores of Mennonite buggies parked in the lot, you know the food sold here will be superb.
Recipes from Fox Run
Recipes from Birkett Mill
(Some of these recipes will go great with a glass of wine)