BENTON — It’s going to be a nice weekend. You want to get out of the house and breathe some fresh air. But what you really want to do is to go wine tasting.
Your husband, while he enjoys a glass of wine over dinner, is more of a beer drinker. And the kids? What are they going to do while you are swirling and slurping? And, seriously, do we have to bring the dog too?
Antonio Arias has an answer for you. His new wine-tasting project, Once Finger Lakes, opened its doors to the public in April. It promises to be a new and enriched wine experience.
Arias was born in Mexico City to a family of engineers. His mother, a first-generation Mexican from a family that had fled Franco’s fascist regime, is a chemical engineer. His father is a mechanical engineer who owns his own firm. Arias naturally became a chemical engineer, working for General Electric’s plastics division in Mexico City.
It was his mother’s side of the family from Spain that instilled in him a great love for wine. After two years, Arias quit his GE job and enrolled in the University of Adelaide in Australia, one of the few schools in the world that offers graduate degrees in wine business. Arias decided to stay and work around Adelaide after graduation, but fate intervened and he would wind up in a place beyond his dreams — the Finger Lakes.
At a networking party organized by his former professor, he sat next to a girl named Meaghan. They began dating soon after. Meaghan informed him that she had to return to her family business after her graduation. She happened to be Meaghan Frank, a great-granddaughter of Dr. Konstantin Frank.
He didn’t know much about Dr. Frank at the time, but he told Meaghan, “I love Adelaide, but I love you a lot more.” He followed Meaghan back to the Finger Lakes.
Arias worked in marketing at Dr. Frank for a year and decided to broaden his experience. He became the beverage director of Wegmans restaurants, then a wine buyer for its 58 wine retail stores. But his goal has always been to start his own project.
“The moment I set foot in the Finger Lakes, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Arias said.
The first thing you should know about Once Finger Lakes is that “Once” is pronounced “AWN-say,” as in the No. 11 in Spanish. It is a nod to the Finger Lakes’ 11 lakes.
The building is situated on a bucolic spot with a sweeping view of Seneca Lake, just north of Fox Run Vineyards. Its front door opens into an airy and spacious tasting room with clean and uncluttered lines. A wall of windows and doors spill out onto a long and expansive deck. The view of Seneca Lake from the deck is stunning. Down below are picnic tables set up on the large lawn.
For visitors who want a deeper experience, there are five “Savour FLX”-themed wine flights, ranging from Tradition to Trailblazers to Terroir to Transitions to Sweet and Elegant. There are five “Flights & Bites” combinations with small bites of food accompanying each wine. They range from Hero Rieslings to Refreshing Whites to Sparkling to Discovery to Reds of Texture and Nuance. The flights have been curated to illuminate their different themes.
The staff is trained to offer in-depth information on the wines, but they are also sensitive to those who want a more casual experience. Besides the flights, you can order just a single taste, a glass (a healthy 5.5-ounce pour), a carafe (8.5 ounces) or a bottle of the 40 wines on the menu. Food such as charcuterie, cheese and smoked fish plates are available too.
The 40 wines are from 10 featured wineries, with renowned names such as Wiemer, Forge, Dr. Frank, Hosmer and Silver Thread. You can sample some of the best FLX wines without winery-hopping. The list will evolve as new wines come into the market.
For the whole family, you can pack a picnic lunch, grab a couple of glasses of wine and relax at one of the picnic tables while the kids play on the lawn. Canine members of your family are also welcome.
The star of the show is the Finger Lakes. Besides the wines, the food is locally sourced and the artwork on the walls are from local artists.
Experiencing Once Finger Lakes firsthand, I could feel Arias’ passion permeating the place. There is a sense of precision everywhere, no doubt from his engineer’s mind. It should appeal to anyone, from the beginning to the serious wine drinker. Once Finger Lakes is a gem among wine-tasting experiences, a most welcome addition to the Finger Lakes wine scene as pandemic restrictions begin to loosen.