Water to Wine Tours
Speak of trips to stunning beaches, pristine skies and picturesque locales and you probably think of Hawaii or the Mediterranean, but you can get all of this at an affordable price just a few miles away in the scenic Finger Lakes region of New York. The Water and Wine tour on Skaneateles Lake gives you all of these as well as a chance to sample wines from some up-and-coming vineyards.
Skip Stamberger, captain and founder of Water to Wine Tours, designed the relaxing tours to combine two of his favorite activities; lake cruising and wine tasting. Skip says that the tours offer one of the most unique outdoor experiences available in the Finger Lakes. “This is unique. Going wine touring in a car or a limo is an indoor experience” he says. “A wine tour on a boat is a beautiful outdoor experience.”
The business is the natural combination of Skip’s love for everything maritime. His family has lived on a boat since 1957 and that’s where his deep knowledge of sailing matured into love for the line of a keel and the feel of water beneath his feet. Skip attended Cornell University and soon after graduating married his wife Maura. The family moved to Sheldrake in 1980.
“The most common question is ‘where are all the boats?’ The other question is ‘is it always so quiet?’ And it is. No matter where they come from, it is busier out of the Finger Lakes.” –Skip Stamberger
Back then, Skip ran an air-conditioning company, a business he eventually turned over to his oldest son. With his free time, he helped his wife run her Bed & Breakfast, The Silver Strand at Sheldrake. He wanted to join his passion for watercraft to Maura’s business and began taking guests out for boat rides. His natural friendliness helped guests remember the inn fondly, and also helped him develop relationships with local wineries.
What started off as a hobby has now grown into a full-fledged business venture. Encouraged by his wife and a friend (who happens to own Thirsty Owl Wine Company) Skip developed the Water To Wine Tour business. From that start, six wineries have joined the tour.
A typical tour includes visiting three wineries, stopping for lunch at cafes all over the course of five-hours. For one of those wineries, tourists get off the boat and walk around to see the vineyards first hand. For the other wineries, staff members meet the guests at the dock and drive them to the winery. Tourists spend around half an hour on the water between each of the stops. The highlight of the trip includes Skip driving the boat down the middle of the lake since it is the most scenic spots of all.
Skip is hoping to get more boats and enlarge the business. He believes the Water to Wine Tour has huge potential to boost tourism in the Finger Lakes region. “Most people haven’t gone boating in the Finger Lakes. It is really remarkable that so many people who live around this region haven’t explored it.” His love for the lake and region stem from his sailing experiences, and Skip would like nothing more than to share the joy of the water. “It’s home for me. You can go to the ocean from the Cayuga Lake, and I’ve done that. I’ve sailed from Caribbean right to my dock at Cayuga Lake,” he beams.