If you are planning a trip to Niagara Falls from either Boston, New York or even Washington DC, abandon the idea of flying. Instead, take the road. Because a roughly five-hour journey from either of these cities, on the way to Niagara Falls, takes you to a bioregion called the Finger Lakes. (A bioregion is a territory defined by characteristics of the natural environment rather than by man-made divisions. ).
The Finger Lakes is a group of 11 long, narrow, roughly north-south lakes; the area falls in the Central New York State. “Perhaps the shape of these lakes reminded early cartographers of human fingers, and so the name stuck,” says a young man at the Heron Hill Wine Tasting Room at Bristol, near Canandaigua Lake. Apart from the unspoiled natural environment, the Finger Lakes is renowned for its wines.
With over 100 wineries in the region, there’s something for every taste. “We are best known for ‘cool climate’ wines, made from grapes that can withstand long winters,” adds the young man.
The chief variety is Riesling; others are Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The twisting roads of the area offer you a fun driving experience. On a particular stretch you’d be climbing a hillock at 60 mph (96 kph); on the next you’d be doing a steep descent towards the waters of a nearby lake.
You have to choose your vehicle wisely.
We chose Nissan Murano, the crossover SUV. Its elevated driving position offers you a good view of the surroundings.
The Murano is a five-seater midsize crossover, with ample room for all passengers and plentiful luggage space. There are four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum). Prices start from $29,740 (for the S) to $39,180 (for the top-end Platinum). It’s a smart choice if you want an upscale, V6-powered crossover, without having to pay over $50,000 for a midsize Mercedes-Benz or BMW.
Its 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine delivers 260-horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. It’s powerful enough to take the Murano from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and frugal enough to deliver 28 mpg on the highway. The fuel tank capacity is 19 gallons.
On the winding roads of Finger Lakes, a technology called speed-sensitive power steering system comes into play. The steering response becomes more nimble at low speeds, while at high speeds the system becomes rigid, increasing feel and response.
The cabin is plush for a car this price. In the top-end Platinum, it is done up in Mocha leather—the cashmere colour is a nice contrast to the green and the blue in abundance outside, which you can see clearly by opening the power panoramic moonroof. (A moonroof is just like a sunroof, but its panel is made of glass and thus it can let light in even when closed.)
There are a lot of stay options. You can club your stay with a winery tour. The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance website www.fingerlakes.org offers you nice choices.
The area requires at least two days to explore, even partially. Our suggestion is drive around in an SUV, stay in a property that overlooks a lake, and raise a toast to the moon, or its reflection off the lake.