Eat Here Now: Castel Grisch Winery & Restaurant
Story and photos by Meredith Clarke
The sign for Castel Grisch Winery looks like it was designed by Roald Dahl and made out of wicker dyed in barrels of smashed berries. A canopy of deciduous green hovers over the crunchy road leading to the restaurant and shields your eyes from a bright sun. You turn a corner, burst into the light, and finally see it: a dark, small-ish cottage with red doors and green shutters. You can imagine it covered in snow perched on the side of a German Alp, but its home is on the edge of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen.
Castel Grisch was established by a Swiss German couple in 1984 as a restaurant, winery, and bed and breakfast in hopes of introducing their native cuisine to Upstate New York. The property extends for a healthy 60 acres, 13 of which are covered in grapes: Cayuga, Riesling, Baco, Chancellor, Traminette, Vidal, Deleware, Niagra and Concord. Castel Grisch is best known for their Baco Noir and Cayuga White wines, and their restaurant boasts some of the heartiest sandwiches you can get for under $11.
When we stepped inside, a confusing rush of cool air and sunshine smacked me in the face. The dining room was lit almost entirely by natural light, as the east-facing wall was simply glass. The only electricity that seemed to be present was lighting from little circular bulbs lining the perimeter of the ceiling. The dark wood of the rafters matched the chairs, and I couldn’t help but think the whole place was built out of wood that came straight from the Schwartzwald.
Our server led us onto the patio where we had a crystalline view of the vineyard, the lake and the mosaic of farms on the opposite shore. Those at Castel Grisch know what they’re doing when it comes to ambiance; the pickets of the rail that surround the patio are made of clear plexiglass so diners can see virtually everything around them, and they don’t even bother with music. The soundtrack to our meal was the rustle of wind through the grape leaves and the soft titter of birds flying just overhead.
I sallied forth with the Apple Herb Club, and my face felt like it was melting into a garden and an orchard at once. Dad stuck with his favorite German fare and opted for the Bratwurst sandwich. He finished his meal without a word and without offering to share. Mom went with the most popular sandwich on the menu, the Reuben, which she described as “the perfect amount of everything.” I wasn’t allowed a taste of that one either. We don’t share well when the food’s this good.
We were full after our sandwiches, but everyone knows that “dessert stomach” is a very real thing, especially when chocolate mousse is up for grabs. All in all, we put away three sandwiches, an apple tart, a heaping helping of mousse and tiramisu. And a bottle of Riesling. Thankfully, we’d gone on our hike before lunch. We never would have made it.
Winery hours: 10am-5pm daily, final pour at 4:50pm
Cafe hours: 11am-4pm daily
3380 County Route 28 Watkins Glen, 607.535.9614
Meredith Clarke is a summer writing intern for Edible Finger Lakes.
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