By Jason Feulner, Finger Lakes Correspondent

I grew up in Corning, NY, on the southern edge of the Finger Lakes. It has always been a great small city with a tremendous amount of beauty and culture. Every year, throngs of tourists stroll through the world-famous glass museum, visit the quaint shops on Market Street, and enjoy various outdoor music and art festivals.

Of course, that all takes place in the spring and summer. Recently, I was surprised to see an announcement that Finger Lakes Wine Country and Corning's Gaffer District were hosting a week-long wine event called PALATE from February 16 through the 22.

As far as I know, nothing ever goes in Corning in the winter! (Well, I do remember going to high school and shoveling the driveway…).

I caught up with Finger Lakes Wine Country president Morgen McLaughlin and asked her about the thinking behind a week-long winter event. "We are trying to increase off-season visitation. PALATE is in the spirit of the Mustard Festival in Napa, which is actually two-months long."

The name PALATE refers to the genres of wine, food, and art, all three of which will be incorporated into the 2009 celebration as well as the annual tradition that McLaughlin and her fellow planners hope to establish. The itinerary on the website is still under construction, but the week will include barrel tastings from several Finger Lakes wineries, food and wine tastings at Market Street restaurants, wine presentations by local experts and enthusiasts, a live music crawl, and even a screening of Merlove, an off-beat documentary for wine lovers.

McLaughlin expects at least 300-400 attendees for PALATE, although the focus this year is not on numbers and broad marketing but on creating an event that can build upon itself year after year. She has high hopes for the future of off-season wine festivals in the Finger Lakes.

I will be attending at least some portion of Palate with a great deal of enthusiasm as I will get to experience Finger Lakes wine as well as visit my mom and dad: a wonderful combination. Warm weather or cold, Corning is always a delight to visit any time of year.