Our adventure starts in Dundee, at a nondescript ranch-style house with a marquee shaped like a wine bottle: FLX Wienery. Bates and his wife, Isabel Bogadtke, hadn’t planned on opening a hot dog joint. “But that’s just what the space wanted to be,” he tells me. “It had that roadside feel. Plus, the Finger Lakes doesn’t really do classy.”
To go with his housemade whole-hog sausages, he pours me some of the Element wines he makes with his father in an upcycled auto-body garage; the Syrah and Cabernet Franc are among the most exciting reds I’ll try on my trip. He also tells me more about his newest venture, a 12-seat tasting-menu restaurant in Geneva called FLX Table. The food is more ambitious than the Wienery’s—duck egg with black polenta, a dry-aged rib eye with mushrooms and chive blossoms, chicken thighs with charred carrots and dukka—but the ambiance is just as inviting. “We throw a lot of dinner parties at home, so we’re channeling that vibe,” Bates says.