Hot Glass • Cool Wine
The story of wine dates back thousands of years. As does the story of glass. Two distinctly different and very separate tales that, at times, merge together to form new stories. In some instances, the one has even helped advance the other.
Few places, if any, are better suited for exploring the ways the stories of glass and wine have become woven together over time than Steuben.
Photo Credit: Luke Petrinec
This is where New York’s premiere wine region first took root nearly 200 years ago (Genesis to Next Gen). It’s also where some of the most monumental and life-changing uses of glass were first brought to life (Magic & Mysteries of Glass).
Fire & Vine
Leave it to the world’s largest museum devoted to glass to collaborate with the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes to create a special exhibit Fire and Vine focused on the unique and storied relationship of these two things.
Throughout 2022, The Corning Museum of Glass will present its Fire and Vine exhibit exploring the many ways glass touches wine as it travels from grape to goblet. A focal point of the exhibition is “a dense display of dozens of wine glasses from around the world, representing many styles and tastes, fit for a variety of occasions.”
Photo Credit: The Corning Museum of Glass
While the most obvious connection the material known as glass has with wine is found in the object from which we drink it, as well as bottles in which it is stored and sold, decanters in which it is poured and shared, there’s much more to the shared story than that.
“During your visit, you’ll see a rare 2,000-year-old fragment of cameo glass depicting a grape harvest, a still-sealed bottle of wine found in a shipwreck off the coast of England, and an exceptional 400-year-old document describing an ‘almost unbreakable glass jar’ that could prevent wine from spoiling.”
Though the ages, advancements in how glass is made have led to increased ways it might be used including offering winemakers a way to preserve the delicate treat. While much of what enables a grape to transform into a truly spectacular vintage happens in the vineyard, the winemaker must still use her or his respective skills and various techniques to help the grapes reach their full potential. Glass has aided in the process.
The Roots of One of the World’s Top Wine Regions
Named America’s “Best Wine Region” in 2018 (USA Today) and one of the “World’s Top 10 Wine Destinations” for 2019 (VinePair), you can trace the roots of Finger Lakes wine all the way back to the small town of Hammondsport in 1829 when Reverend William Bostwick planted the first vines in town.
While interested in making sacramental wine, Bostwick inspired several of his parishioners to grow grapes as a potential source of income for the community. According to historians, the vineyards flourished. By 1870, Hammondsport boasted 3,000 acres. Nineteen years later, that number grew to 14,500 acres and by the end of the century there were over 25,000 acres of vineyards in the area. For a sense of perspective, today the Finger Lakes AVA is the largest wine region in New York State and has about 11,000 acres of vineyards.
At first, the fruit was primarily sold as table grapes. It seems the folks in NYC and elsewhere gobbled them up quite voraciously. But eventually the area gained a reputation for its sparkling wines, in part thanks to Pleasant Valley Wine Company. Founded in 1860, Pleasant Valley was the first bonded winery in the United States, the first winery in the Finger Lakes region, and the first American winery to win awards in Europe (in 1867 and, again, in 1873).
However, the common belief for the next century was that it was too cold here to grow the delicate European Vinifera grapes. Until 1962, when Dr. Konstantin Frank started his own winery in Hammondsport and subsequently proved that theory wrong, kicking off the Vinifera Revolution.
In that same small town today, you’ll find third-fourth-fifth generation winemakers carrying on that same won’t-be-denied determination, as well as the next generation of award-winning winemakers who continue to raise the bar. Perhaps one of the traits that most distinguishes a wine-inspired visit to the Finger Lakes is the juxtaposition of exceptional quality of the wine with the unpretentious nature of the people who create it.
Photo Credit: Stu Gallagher
Used as decorative pieces, perfume bottles for the wealthy, and jewelry at one time, the applications for the material glass have certainly evolved over time. Limited for some time by the way it was made, once glass was able to be blown it opened up a world of possibilities.
Known today for innovations in glass science and technology that have become an indelible part of everyday life (from Pyrex to fiber optics), the town of Corning and the glass company that bears its name first gained renown for the exquisite etched and engraved objects created by master artists like John Hoare and, later, TG Hawkes who won Grand Prize at the1889 Paris Exhibition establishing himself as one of the world’s premier glass cutters.
Photo Credit: Corning-Painted Post Historical Society
At one point, there were over 20 glass-cutting shops in town earning Corning the nickname “America’s Crystal City.”
As with any great masterpiece, a lot of skill, hard work, and creativity have gone into making Corning America’s Crystal City. We’ve spent decades exploring and expanding the possible uses of glass and developing new ways to make it better, stronger, and even more beautiful.
This is where the first light bulbs were made for Thomas Edison, where Pyrex and CorningWare were invented, where Fiber Optics and Gorilla Glass (think cell phones) were first developed helping to advance communications around the world . . . 35 Centuries of Glass.
NASA just launched a new telescope into space. Did you know the 200” glass mirror for the Hale Telescope (the largest single piece of glass ever made, which took an entire year to anneal or cool safely) and Space Shuttle windows were also made by Corning? That’s right. Glass has helped connect us, not merely to people across our own world, but has helped connect us to other worlds entirely. Check it out!
Glass and Wine Experiences
Today, in Corning you’ll find a thriving historic downtown named after master glassblowers, the world’s largest museum devoted to glass, and studios like Vitrix and Hands-on Glass. You’ll also encounter antique shops, boutiques, and galleries, including one featuring the remarkable work of contemporary Master Engraver, Max Erlacher, who has more than 40 years experience working with copper, stone, and diamond engraving, as well as cold-working techniques [hyperlink to Erlacher]. Iconic glass companies like Steuben started in Corning and you can still find historic and contemporary Steuben Glass to purchase and take home [hyperlink to Steuben.
Skilled glass artists create works of art before your eyes at the museum and in local glass studios, and you’re encouraged to try your own hand at glassmaking at The Studio and Hands-on Glass. [hyperlink to Make Your Own Glass and Hands-on Glass]
Photo Credit: The Corning Museum of Glass
Photo Credit: The Corning Museum of Glass (left) , Cagwin Photography (right)
Browse the many glass galleries where you can shop for one-of-a-kind pieces made right here, or explore the rich history of Tiffany’s magnificent stained glass at several sites throughout Steuben.
Of course one of the best ways to enjoy the wonders of glass is by visiting the world-class wineries in nearby Hammondsport and tasting the exceptional vintages for yourself. There are 14 wineries in Steuben and 11 of those are located around Keuka Lake including two wineries, Dr. Frank’s and Ravines, named to the “Top 100 Wineries in the World” by Wine & Spirits multiple times in recent years.
Photo Credit: Jason Barnette
Whether you enjoy fruit wines, dry hybrid styles like Vignoles, unusual vintages like Saperavi, exquisite popular European styles like Grüner Veltliner, acclaimed unoaked Chardonnay, or Dry Rosé, you’ll find award-winning and exceptional offerings in Steuben. You’ll also find historic tours, gourmet restaurants and fascinating folk heroes, environmentally-conscious wineries and so much more. Check out our wineries.
Photo Credit: (Left to Right) Bully Hill Winery, Point of the Bluff Vineyards, Heron Hill Winery
With fun annual events like GlassFest, The Days of Incandescence, as well as individual winery and wine trail events, restaurants named one of “9 Standout Wine Restaurants in Upstate New York” by Wine Spectator in 2021 The Cellar, the story of Hot Glass and Cool Wine continues to be written in Steuben.
For a full list of great accommodations check out Places to Stay! And to make your trip planning easier, download our Explore Steuben App below.