Monthly Archives: May 2010

Finger Lickin’ Good Wine

I’ve taken a hiatus from city life and headed back to my country/suburb roots, literally, by staying with my parents for a few weeks. The main pluses are free rent and food for the few weeks that I am here, and I get to go on adventures that I otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience. There are also some ‘disadvantages’ though, which I actually volunteered for. If you’re wondering what I mean, stay tuned, because I might share about what it means to gallivant (a.k.a labor) on a farm.

One of the projects my mom is working on in her retirement years is establishing a vineyard. It is possible to grow grapes in Douglas, as we have 3 grape vines growing on the farm. She wants to take it to the next level and try it on a large enough scale to actually make a bottle or two of wine.

Grape Vines at Damiani Vineyard

This vineyard project gave me the opportunity to go wine tasting in the finger lakes region in upstate New York! We drove up to visit my aunt and cousins in Binghamton, NY, which is about an hour from the finger lakes wine areas. Our first stop was for some coffee in one of the buildings my Aunt helped renovate, and to see the famous waterfall in that town.

My Mom, Cousin Katie, and Aunt Margaret in front of Montour Falls' water fall

Our first stop was at a small vineyard called Damiani that really allowed my mom to ask questions of the vintners. She was able to ask where they got their vines, and they explained the unique micro-climate of the finger lakes that allows for all the vineyards in the region (there are probably a few hundred spread out over the 11 lakes, although that is totally an estimate). They even advised her on the type of grape that may grow best on our farm considering our different climate and growing season. All in all, they were very helpful, and my mom bought a bottle of wine in appreciation (the first of many).

Wagner Winery and Brewery

Sheldrake Point Vineyard

The other two vineyards we went to were larger and more commercialized. Wagner is a large facility that offers free group vineyard tours. They also have a brewery. After going on the informative tour my mom and aunt went to the wine tasting, and me and my cousin went to the beer tasting. At Damiani the tastings were free, but at Wagner they cost a dollar. Even though I am super frugal (as you may have picked up on), the one dollar fee is completely reasonable, particularly because the vineyard seems to cater to those looking to get drunk for cheap, rather than real wine connoisseurs. As a result the tasters are less likely to buy bottles of wine or beer, so the vineyard makes up for it by charging for tastings.

For example, there was an enormous parking lot with a few party buses parked. I know some tour companies sell wine tasting day trips, that wine tasting  is a great idea for a college senior day, and I even saw a bachelorette party. Of course, now that I am an old grump I found all of these young people trying to pound their samples super annoying, but I remembered when I was a senior in college, how we had a wine tasting. I remembered how we just wanted them to fill up the glasses instead of pouring individual sips, and how much fun we had/how obnoxious we were.

Sheldrake Point was similar to Wagner in that they charged one dollar for a regular tasting flight, and two dollars for the premium wine tasting flight. It was bigger than Damiani, but it didn’t have the younger crowd that Wagner had. The staff was nice and gave my mom some more wine making and growing pointers. They also had really yummy wine tasting crackers that were like sweet oyster crackers. I had never heard of them before, but boy were they tasty, and helped take the edge off the wine!

Amish cutting hay

To round out the day we also saw some Amish people working in the hay fields. We had to take about a million pictures to show my dad their machinery, and to see if he could figure out what their machines’ equivalent were to his machines. We also decided to go to Ithaca to see Cornell where my cousin, Lewis, will be starting as a freshman this fall. Of course we had to stop at another waterfall, this one was even more impressive than the last. And, to up the excitement factor, there were a ton of prom kids and parents taking pictures, because that is what you do when you live around here.

Taughannock Falls

Lewis (future Cornell student) with B.C. comics sculpture

But I Don’t Want to Pay Full Price…

Last weekend I had a visitor! That’s right, Daphne drove all the way to Canarsie, Brooklyn!!! After showing her all that my neighborhood had to offer (namely Caribbean food, bodegas and residential housing), we decided that we should venture into Manhattan.

The Met

Because Daphne was thisclose to finishing her Bachelors in Art History we chose to hit up some museums. Neither of us had been to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in years, so that was an obvious choice. One of the great things about a large city like New York are the sheer number of artists on display. As a matter of fact, one of the artist’s Daphne was writing a final paper about was a featured exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum, and as luck would have it, there are free visiting hours on Friday’s from 5:30-7:30!

So first, The Met. Being the frugal gal’s we are, we were hoping to find a way around the $20 entrance fee. Turns out, that amount is just a suggestion. For student’s the suggested entry fee is $10. Even that was a little steep for us (in our defense I’ve been unemployed for longer than I’d like to admit, and Daphne has been a full-time student without an additional job), so we paid about half the suggested fee.

Egyptian Wing

We began in the Egyptian Art area, simply because it was right in front of us. Daphne had an ambitious plan, because she seems to think that walking around a museum does not expend any energy. As an avid walker and gawker I knew that I would be tired after a few hours, but I let her choose the itinerary. Her goals: European Painting and Sculpture and Greek Art.

Creepy Child

Van Gogh

Van Gogh (up close)

Greek Legs

We had fun walking around. I especially enjoyed giving Daphne numerous pop quizzes. It went something like this:

Daphne: This is a great painting!

Me: Why? I need some historical evidence.

Daphne: Blah blah blah art history information…

In fact, Daphne was quite informative, and I actually learned a bunch. It was great getting historical context, learning specific terms, and her descriptions of what was going on in terms of symbology.

Walking around the museum was also fun because we have similar but diverging tastes in art. We both like impressionism in general. I like the more romantic paintings, and for some reason I also like creepy lithographic prints. Daphne likes creepier and ominous paintings (although I’m sure she’ll deny it now).

Near the end of our walk around The Met, which involved quite a few wrong turns (that place is impossible to figure out, thank goodness for the docents/security guards!) Daphne’s feet were in immense pain. For some reason she decided it would be a good idea to break in new shoes while being a tourist.

I read a great story in The New York Times (my favorite source for art reviews, apparently) about an installation being built on the roof of The Met titled Big Bambú by the Starn Brothers. I was very excited to check it out, and we were both excited about the opportunity to sit in the sun and relax. So up to the roof we went!

Big Bambú from within the piece.

Big Bambú from the side (tourist's are to help reference the size)

Daphne on the roof of The Met

I loved how the viewer really gets the chance to interact with the art. You are literally walking through it, touching the bamboo, watching it being built before your eyes. It feels almost as though you are in an unique little jungle. You can even sign up for tickets to walk along catwalks that have been incorporated into the design (unfortunately we didn’t know that ahead of time). The piece will be growing all summer, so you should definitely try to get over to the roof of The Met and experience it yourself.

After resting on the roof for a bit we decided to head over to The American Folk Art Museum to see Henry Darger (1892-1973).

American Folk Art Museum

Based on what I learned from Daphne, he was a very interesting man. Looking around the first part you saw his collages, which I thought were pretty appealing. A lot of his subjects were young girls, and girls from coloring books. That is when Daphne Started to fill me in (the following is a synopsis of what she told me). He wrote the largest manuscript in the world at approximately 15,000 pages single spaced. It was about a race of evil women who wanted to enslave a race of young girls. He illustrated the manuscript with large, graphic murals that depicted all the little girls with penises. This was likely not attributed to him using artistic license, but rather due to his incredibly sheltered upbringing. He simply didn’t know that boys and girls are different. Daphne said that Darger had some far more provocative pieces, but wondered why they weren’t included in this exhibition. I speculated that the museum wants to foster discussion, but needs to toe the line when it comes to outright offending people. I’m not entirely satisfied with this answer though, because I know some exhibits can be quite offensive, and that their point is to make the viewer uncomfortable.

All in all it was an informative and educational day. We both thoroughly enjoyed The Met, and hopefully Daphne got some interesting material to put the finishing touches on her final paper!