Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region, Geneva, N.Y. has been host to the Colleges for nearly two centuries- a city that has welcomed our students, supported our efforts and advanced our mission. But for many Hobart and William Smith Colleges alumni and alumnae, the region is simply home.
Originally from Maine, Jessica Giles '98, an owner of the Stonecat Café and manager of the Tasting Room by Atwater Estate Vineyards, has made the Finger Lakes Region her home since graduation.
by Lori A. Gable '86
As an owner of the Stonecat Café on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in Hector, N.Y., and manager of a brand new tasting room in Watkins Glen, Jessica Giles '98 has seen firsthand the growing appetite in the Finger Lakes region for local and organic food paired with fine local wine-and the response of restaurants, wineries and local communities.
"We're now seeing the possibility of niche producers that can focus on just Riesling or Pinot," Giles says. "This kind of business couldn't happen just anywhere. This region is blessed with a kind and cooperative community of educated agrarians, artists, technophiles and folks looking to enjoy our blessed landscape. The wine and food industry is pivotal to the financial and ecological success of our region. Geneva stands as a gateway to gastro-tourism."
Originally from Maine, when she graduated from William Smith, there were just a handful of farm markets across the region. Today there are more than a dozen organic farms within a 20 mile radius of Hector, a community of 5,000 about 30 miles south of Geneva, where Giles has worked in the wine and food industry for the past 14 years.
Giles ventured into the hospitality field the summer after graduation, starting as tasting room manager and primary server for Sheldrake Point Vineyard and Café in its opening season on Cayuga Lake. A year later, she and her former husband, Scott Signori, opened the Stonecat Café and Bloomer Creek Vineyard in Hector.
When Giles first touted the benefits of the organic items on Stonecat's menu, she felt she had to convince some patrons of its healthy merits, but "now people expect you to be organic," she says. "It's not just a political statement."
Retaining a 20 percent ownership of Stonecat Café, Giles has followed her passion for local wines to the new Tasting Room by Atwater, where she manages Atwater Estate Vineyard's one-of-a-kind shop. In Watkins Glen, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, Tasting Room by Atwater offers tastings and bottles from around the region in one convenient stop.
It's a great way to showcase the best of the Finger Lakes wineries and others across the state, Giles explains, as well as a way to encourage more tourism. "The more you have to offer, the more people will come to see a place and region as a destination," she says.
And for wine enthusiasts and food lovers, Giles has this advice: "Throw a true love of food and beverage into the mix and a dedication to clean, local ingredients for healthy and tasty living, and you've got a career in the Finger Lakes hospitality industry."
Tracking The Renaissance