The leaves along Lake Champlain's western shores have long since changed and the orchards are as thick with juicy Macintoshes as the farmhouse stores are with cinnamon-glazed donuts and spiced ciders. This rustic and caloric tableau presents an inviting challenge to the Lycra crowd: How to enjoy autumn on two wheels? The answer is simple. The 33-mile Adirondack Coast Wine Trail leads across corn fields, around mountain peaks cloaked in purple haze, through forests painted in fiery reds, and past the doors of an massive heritage farm that was the Googleplex of its day.
Start at the family-owned ELFS Farm Winery & Cider Mill in Plattsburgh. "His plan was to make apple brandy and plant the vines as eye candy," says owner Sean Frey of his father, Tom, who started ELFS' operations in 2005. "Of course, we still have yet to distill one drop of brandy." What the do produce is hybridized wine varietals, like the Marquette grape, capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. ELFS also ferments hard ciders popular throughout the region, including bourbon-barrel and strawberry-infused flavors.
From ELFS, the route heads north past Champlain's small marinas and quiet bays, offering expansive eastward views of Vermont's Green Mountains. In the town of Chazy is the Heart's Delight Farm Heritage Exhibit at the Miner Institute. In 1903, innovator William Miner built the complex into a massive 15,000-acre agricultural machine utilizing the latest advances in science to produce meat, poultry, dairy, and produce for restaurants in Boston, Chicago, Montreal ,and New York. "The farm had electricity before the governor's mansion in Albany," explains Amy Bedard, the institute librarian. An historical exhibit featuring some of Miner's 50-plus patents is open through October and guests can ride or walk through the farm's original structures.
Three miles south is Chazy Orchards' 1,700-acre empire. Founded in the twenties, the company was a pioneer in "Controlled Atmosphere" storage - 36 degrees with three percent oxygen - which prolonged the freshness of apples and was subsequently adopted by pretty much everyone. The on-site Farm Market includes a massive cooler stacked with bags of Macs and Cortlands, as well as house-made honeys, jams, and baked goods. Amped by a sugar rush of sweets and cider, continue the ride south past maple and maize back to ELFS to complete the loop.
More Information: Make it an extended stay by venturing one-hour west to New York's adventure-capital, Lake Placid and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. The Whiteface Lodge is a rustic luxury hotel with 96 one- to three-room suites, nightly campfires with s'mores – including two semi-private lean-to shelters with drink service – and a Grade-A cocktail program.