Hudson River Valley Wineries

This blog is dedicated to news, events, profiles and reviews of fine food and wine in the Hudson River Valley. We especially feature and spotlight the burgeoning wineries of the Hudson River Region. We accept and will relay information about releases, events, festivals and any toher happening related to food and wine in the Hudson River Valley. Send pertitnent information to

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Carlo DeVito is a long time wine lover, and author of books and magazine articles. He is the author of Wineries of the East Coast. He has traveled to wine regions in California, Canada, up and down the east coast, France, Spain and Chile. He was also a publisher at Running Press Book Publishers, where he published books from Wine Spectator, as well as books with Greg Moore (of Moore Bros.), Matt Kramer, Howard Goldberg, and many other wine writers. Mr. DeVito has also been the editor of many successful traditional trade books, including Strange Fruit by David Margolick, On the Shoulders of Giants by Stephen Hawking, and three titles by Malachy McCourt. Other authors include John and Mary Gribbin, Thomas Hoving, Philip Caputo, E. O. Wilson, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., John Edgar Wideman, Stanley Crouch, Dan Rather, Dee Brown, Susie Bright, and Eleanor Clift. He lives with his wife, pet publisher Dominique DeVito, their two sons, their two dogs, and their numerous goldfish.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hudson Valley Wine Goddess Debbie Gioquindo Raves About Taste Camp 2014 Hudson Valley

TasteCamp - Hudson Valley
by Debbie Gioquindo
Hudson Valley Wine Goddess
October 16, 2014 7:37 AM
The view from Millbrook's tasting room
This past weekend was the yearly event TasteCamp which is held in a wine region on the Eastern side of the United States every year.  I was thrilled when it was announced that they had chosen the Hudson Valley and the date was Columbus Day Weekend, the busiest weekend of the year.  

The organizers The New York Cork Report's Lenn Thompson and Drink Local's Michael Michael Wangbickler chose this weekend and at first I thought, the busiest weekend of the year, but then it truly highlighted the best, the Hudson Valley during harvest.

I attended the events on Friday and could only attend Saturday evenings dinner at Tousey. I will go into detail later about each winery and the new things I learned. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the weekend.

The gathering began at Noon in the vineyard at Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
Chardonnay grapes from Long Island at Millbrook

Processing the Chardonnay
Michael & Carlo tasting selections from Millbrook
Tasting Clinton Vineyards sparkling and Seyval

Kristop Brown, winemaker at Robibero Family Vineyards addressing the group

Robibero selections for tasting.

Bad Seed Cider at the grand tasting at Robibero

Benmarl selections at the grand tasting at Robibero

Clearview Vineyards at the grand tasting at Robibero

Frank from Clearview pouring Tiffany from Robibero a tasting
Dinner selections at Whitecliff Vineyards
Beautiful table arrangements at Tousey for dinner

The bloggers gather at Tousey

Tousey's Scarlet Tiger label (wait till you hear the story behind this!)

Bottled just for us
Great presentation of lamb for dinner

Remy and Katie having a great time

Evan presenting Carlo a gift of appreciation

Getting carried away and having fun

Many wines were tasted, new friendships formed and old friends visiting!

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In the November 2014 issue of Wine Enthusiast Benmarl Winery received scores of 90 and 88 points for their Cabernet Francs and Hudson-Chatham Cabernet Franc scored an 88!!!

Congrats to both!!!


Lenn Thomson, New York Cork Report: Top 10 Tastes from TasteCamp 2014: Hudson Valley

Top 10 Tastes from TasteCamp 2014: Hudson Valley
New York Cork Report
Posted October 21, 2014
by Lenn Thompson                      
Scott Koster, Director of Sales at Millbrook Winery (far right) talks with TasteCamp attendees about the winery’s plantings and history.

With TasteCamp 2014 in my rearview mirror, I’ve spent some time considering event — what we tasted, who we talked to and what they said — and while I’m not typically the biggest fan of “Top 10″-style writing, I think my iinitial thoughts lend themselves to the format, so that’s what we’re going with.

More generally, the event couldn’t have gone better. My c0-host for this year’s event, Carlo DeVito of Hudson-Chatham Winery  (make sure you try his Chelois and Baco lineup), worked his tail off to put together an event that truly immersed our group of 20 writers in the region. The focus was wine, but we also tasted a lot of cider and spirits and talked to people from just about every corner of the Hudson Valley beverage community. All of our event hosts along the way were prepared, welcoming and generous. For that, I’m thankful.

Best of all, I think that our group came away impressed impressed by what they saw and tasted — maybe not across the board, but I think even those within the region would agree that the Hudson Valley, despite its potential, is playing catch-up with other New York regions.

Personally, my already-high expectations were exceeded at nearly every turn. I tasted only a wine or two that was overtly flawed (a change from my last extensive visit a few years ago) and some of the producers that I once thought had a long way to go in terms of quality have made great strides. Some of those producers forced their way onto this list.

Top 10 Tastes from TasteCamp 2014: Hudson Valley
Millbrook Winery 2013 Proprietor’s Special Reserve Tocai Friulano: A long-time favorite, this was a wine I knew I’d like going in and it didn’t disappoint. Peachy and fresh, it’s not going to wow you with complexity but it will keep you coming back for its deliciousness.
Hillrock master distiller Dave Pickerell
Everything at Hillrock Estate DistilleryI knew that our visit to Hillrock — the only field-to-glass distillery in the country does its own malting — was going to be special, but I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing the place (and those operating it) is. I came home with a bottle of the bourbon, but the single malt and the double cask rye are calling me. My colleague Evan Dawson will publish a story on Hillrock this week.
Glorie Farm Winery 2102 Cabernet Franc: Glorie pushed itself onto this list with this lighter styled, plummy, spicy, estate-grown cabernet franc. At $19, it’s a good value to boot.
Robibero Family Vineyards 2013 87 North: No matter how good many of the vinifera-based wines were over the weekend, you can’t talk about the Hudson Valley without at least touching on hybrids. This fresh, fruity blend of Cayuga from the Finger Lakes and estate-grown vidal blanc is another summer favorite of mine. Tasting five-year vertical of this wine was a special treat too.
White Cliff Vineyard 2013 Reserve Gamay Noir: I’ve long lamented the lack of quality gamay in New York — because I love the wines of Beaulolais (not nouveau). I’m not sure how owner-winemaker Mike Migliore’s rendition never found its way into my glass, but it was a revelation. More Hudson Valley growers should be growing it. It may have been my favorite red wine of the trip.
Benmarl Winery 2012 Ridge Road Estate Vineyard Cabernet Franc: Not long after his parents bought Benmarl back in 2006, general manager and winemaker Matthew Spaccarelli has worked to revamp the business. He’s eliminated the wines made with California fruit and has started to focus on some estate-grown wines, like this ripe, earthy, distinctive cabernet franc.
Tuthilltown Spirits Half Moon Orchard Gin: At first I was a bit disappointed that Tuthilltown hadn’t brought any of its whiskeys to the tasting (because they are good) but then this hugely flavorful, unique gin hit my glass. It’s so interesting that I’m not sure I’d want to cover any of the flavors with tonic or lime.
Tousey Winery Rieslings: If you’re a riesling lover — and most of the TasteCamp gang is — then you need to try these Hudson Valley-grown rieslings. We tasted a handful of different wines from a few vintages and some were truly outstanding. The 2012 and the 2013 Reserve will hold their own with all but the very best Finger Lakes wines.
Victory View Vineyard 2013 “Turning Point” Marquette: In the northern extreme of the Hudson Valley, owner-winemaker Gerry Barnhart is focusing mostly on Minnesota hybrids that can withstand the often-extreme weather of his site — with impressive results. This Marquette shows black and blue fruit with a subtle earthy streak and smokey notes from time in American oak. I look forward to trying more of his wines in the future.
Aaron Burr Cidery Foraged Ciders: Super-small production (most under 100 cases of 500ml bottles) with many made with foraged apples and pears from ‘wild’ and abandoned orchards, these are singular, intellectually compelling ciders that don’t taste like anything else I’ve tasted.
I didn’t even know that we were going to get to taste these unicorn ciders, so it was a special treat. Don’t miss any chance you have to taste these.
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The Daily Meal; Travel & Food Hudson-Chatham Highlighted in Travels Through the Berkshires

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Fall in The Berkshires: Elegant, Serene and Colorful
by Deborah Bowen
The Daily Meal
Travel and Food
Nice mention of Hudson-Chatham Winery in this piece - the editor

I just returned from a quick trip to the Berkshires, to Lenox, Massachusetts with a stay at the peaceful Garden Gables Inn, dating from 1780. Classic New England and a great base for soaking in the colors of October’s finest foliage, the inn reminded me of my many summers and falls in this beautiful corner of Massachusetts and made me fall in love with bed and breakfasts all over again.

I welcome back guest blogger Judy Nayer who has just spent a month in the same area, making her home in the nearby town of Hillsdale.

If you're looking for the perfect place to stay while exploring the upper Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, I suggest you visit The Inn at Green River in Hillsdale.  Just a 2 ½ hour drive from New York City and located in a scenic, pastoral setting 25 minutes from either Hudson or Great Barrington, the inn is one of only three Select Registry inns in the Hudson Valley.

This beautifully restored 1830 property combines the upscale elegance of a small country inn with the warmth and hospitality of the best of the bed& breakfasts. Each of the seven guestrooms is lovely and true to the website photos, and the breakfasts served in the sunroom and dining room are memorable. Among my favorites was the poached pear with goat cheese followed by very thin pear pancakes made from local artisanal flour. Also topping my list was the roasted plum with Greek yogurt and a local honey drizzle which preceded mini frittatas with tomato and spinach and a slice of polenta. Homemade scones, locally made jams and fresh fruit accompany each meal, leaving guests smiling and ready to begin their day. 

The mastermind of all of this is owner/innkeeper Deborah Bowen whose talent and commitment to excellence began 25 years ago when she opened her doors to guests after renovating and expanding this Hudson Valley gem. Deborah is passionate about her guests, and it shows.  From the moment you walk through the door she makes you feel as if you are at home. She helps you plan your days with suggestions for local outings and dinners (and maps how to get there), and always has a batch of homemade ginger molasses cookies and tea in the afternoons, perfect for relaxing in the living room, library, or outside in a hammock.  We all crave authenticity in our lives, and here it is evident in myriad details: watercolors painted by Deb’s grandfather, sterling silver napkin holders that were Deb’s grandmother’s, lampshades handcrafted by Deb, a book collection well curated over time—just to name a few. There is nothing staged here. Even after 25 years, Deb’s labor of love is as obvious and passionate as ever and generously shared.

The setting is so lovely you may be tempted not to leave the inn at all, but there’s a lot to see and do. True to its name, Hillsdale is an area of rolling hills, with beautiful vistas at every turn, and Columbia County is blessed with more farmland than any other Hudson Valley county. The excellent farm-to-table restaurants have located here to take advantage of the relationships between chef and farmer in the state. Visit the farms, wineries, and bakeries throughout the region, and check out the local calendar for festivals and farmers’ markets. In this area, growing food while preserving the land is a passion. In Ghent, the Hawthorne Valley Farm is a biodynamic farm that spans 400 acres and includes a farm store and restaurant, and the Hudson-Chatham Winery is known for its award-winning wines. I really enjoyed the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, where you can see farmers make fresh cheese and yogurt. 

Olana, courtesy: Wikipedia
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the many opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing in the area, including the trail system at Taconic State Park. Take the mile-long hike to see a dramatic waterfall at Bash Bish Falls, and in the winter, enjoy cross-country and downhill skiing at the Catamount Ski Area. This area is also rich in cultural and historic attractions. Plan a visit around Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, and don’t miss the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Hancock Shaker Village, and the Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. A little further, in Williamstown, is the renowned and recently renovated Clark Museum. And not to be missed is Olana, just outside of Hudson, the home of Hudson River Valley school painter Frederick Church. A guided tour will take you through a mansion that looks like a Persian palace, and outside around the grounds you will see some the area’s most spectacular scenery with breathtaking views of the Catskill Mountains.

When you are hungry after all this touring there are a great many options. Closest to the Inn at Green River, and my favorite choice for dinner, is the Old Mill Inn, with delicious fare and terrific hospitality. Sit at a table in the bar section and you will feel like a local within minutes, or enjoy the elegant dining room. I loved the organic salmon with crispy horseradish crust, parsnip puree, and beet coulis on one occasion, and returned to splurge for a classic filet mignon on another. If possible, save room for one of the decadent desserts. Nearby, I had an excellent dinner at John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, which emphasizes local seasonal ingredients. For lunch, right in Hillsdale is the Crossroads Food Shop, with baked goods and grilled sandwiches. The town of Great Barrington has many dining options. My favorite was Bizen, an organic Japanese restaurant that competes very well with the best in New York. When you visit the city of Hudson, go to Baba Louie’s Organic Sourdough Pizza Company for lunch (also in Great Barrington), and don’t miss Mexico Radio for the best fish tacos this side of the border. Among a plethora of restaurants here, I recommend the Italian Ca ‘Mea and the French bistro Café Le Perche, and there are dozens more to try. Plan your time so you can explore the numerous galleries, antiques, and boutique shops of this city—it has been undergoing a major revival in the last few years.
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Watershed Post: Craft beer industry booming in the Catskills

Craft beer industry booming in the Catskills
Beers of the Catskills: There's plenty to choose from. Photo from the Facebook page of Cave Mountain Brewing Co. in Windham, whose proprietors are planning to expand into wholesale.
Craft beer drinkers of the greater Catskills region, rejoice: many new taps will flow this spring.
Between April and June, three new breweries are scheduled to debut, offering small-batch brews from the hands of two industry veterans and one newcomer.
Up first is Hunter Mountain Brewery, a microbrewery and restaurant created by longtime local brewmaster Nat Collins, co-founder of the annual TAP-NY Craft Beer & Fine Food Festival. Hunter Mountain Brewery, slated for late April, is now under construction in the former home of the Fireside Restaurant, along Route 23A between Hunter and Tannersville.
Over in Catskill, a new microbrewery on-site at Angela’s Italian Family Restaurant is expected to churn out kegs by late May or early June, said proprietor Joey LoBianco. Like Collins, LoBianco is a local industry veteran; his family operates the 19-year-old Hyde Park Brewing Co. Restaurant and Brewery and, up until Jan. 1, ran the now-shuttered Skytop Steakhouse and Brewery in Kingston.
Also this spring, in Schoharie County, brewer Justin Behan will open his first establishment, a brewpub on Middleburgh's Main Street called Green Wolf Brewing Co.
In another development, a beloved brewpub in Windham is gearing up for a major expansion. The proprietors of Cave Mountain Brewing Co. are currently seeking space and funding to expand their production from a brewpub into a wholesale operation.
Community business leaders are pleased to see the craft beer industry taking off. “We’re really excited there are more breweries opening,” said Greene County Chamber of Commerce Director Jeff Friedman. “More growth in that area is great—it’s very positive for the county to have businesses based on agriculture.”
New York becoming a more beer-friendly state
Craft beer is undergoing a statewide renaissance spurred in part by legislation meant to stimulate development of breweries using local ingredients. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the number of microbreweries and restaurant-based breweries had risen more than 130 percent since 2011. Statewide, there are 93 microbreweries and 23 combination restaurant/breweries, according to the state government’s count. Those numbers include 26 newly licensed “farm breweries”; a dozen more applications are in the pipeline.
The New York State Brewers Association (NYSBA) puts the count of breweries and brewpubs even higher, at 146 in total. But NYSBA director Paul Leone likes to say that while the recent growth is "astounding," there's still plenty of room in the market.
Before Prohibition, Leone says, the Empire State's much smaller population supported 350 breweries – more than double the number currently operating in the state. Leone's group has been working with the governor's Taste NY initiative to establish "beverage trails" that will help direct tourism dollars toward beer, wine and spirits producers.
New venture from a longtime local beer veteran
Left: Nat Collins of Hunter Mountain Brewery. Photo by Jennifer Strom. 
For those who know the history of the Catskills craft beer scene, the upcoming opening of the Hunter Mountain Brewery is particularly promising.
Collins was an early pioneer of the Catskills’ beer scene. He founded Woodstock Brewing Co. in Kingston in 1989 and the annual TAP-NY Festival in 1997. (Woodstock Brewing Co. closed in 2003; its former building now houses Keegan Ales.)
The idea for the Hunter Mountain Brewery was born last year, when Collins agreed to help Greene County businessman Michael Osterer recruit a brewpub for a vacant building he owns. Collins drew on a large network of contacts developed over years of brewery consulting throughout the region, but eventually realized the perfect candidate was in the mirror.
“We couldn’t find the right person, and somehow, it ended up being me,” Collins said.
While Collins is respected across the region for the award-winning brews he crafted in Kingston, the new brewpub marks his debut as a restaurateur.
“Honestly, I just want to make beer; my passion is making beer,” Collins said one bluebird day last week, giving a tour of his 90-seat dining room, which, along with a 90-seat deck, offers diners panoramic views of Hunter’s slopes. “But there’s nothing like this in this area, and I saw so much potential here.”

Above: The future home of the Hunter Mountain Brewery on Route 23A, with a view of the slopes of Hunter Mountain. Photo by Jennifer Strom.
A newly constructed brewhouse carved out of part of the seating area will house a five-barrel system capable of brewing 10 kegs at a time. Offerings will include a Bohemian-style lager that’s a general crowd-pleaser, but there will be plenty of options for more adventuresome drinkers.
“I’m known for big beers like porters and stouts—high flavors, high gravity,” he said, the latter referring to percentage of alcohol content. In his Woodstock Brewing days, Collins collected awards for creations like Ichabod Crane, a pumpkin-spice holiday lager, and Braveheart, a Scotch ale.
On the food side, Collins has hired an experienced team, including John Jones, who came from Van Winkle’s to serve as general manager. The menu will feature American comfort food: burgers, steaks, soups and salads, along with pizza and wings.
Collins envisions a lively spot that’s “not just another beer joint” but also “not a 5-star restaurant.” He leased several surrounding acres for overflow parking and outdoor events such as weddings. Long-range plans include a drive-up window from which skiers can collect orders to go, without having to get out of their gear or their cars.
“It’s going to be a restaurant with a good brewery, and a brewery with a good restaurant,” he said.
That's the vision for Angela's as well, where LoBianco's new brewery will produce beer for the 35-year-old pizza and pasta restaurant on-site, as well as wholesale kegs for other establishments. For LoBianco, the chance to produce his family’s flagship Winkle Lager and other beers for outside sales is “like a dream that’s been a long time coming.”
TAP-NY bigger than ever
Around the time that Hunter Mountain Brewery opens, Collins also will be hosting the annual TAP-NY festival, which he owns with co-founder Bill Woodring. The festival, which has called Hunter home for 15 of its 17 years, started with a crowd of a couple hundred and a handful of beers. This year’s event, scheduled for April 26-27, is expected to draw more than 6,000 people. Vendors include nearly 100 breweries, as well as several hop-growers, malting companies, distilling companies and cideries—all from within New York State.
In addition to showcasing craft beer and artisan food produced throughout the state, the festival serves as an informal conference for the New York State Brewers’ Association, where beer-makers from Utica to Brooklyn gather after hours to sample each other’s creations, network and share ideas.
Left: Green Wolf's Justin Behan raises a celebratory glass. Photo from Green Wolf's Facebook page.
This month, in yet another indication of the momentum mounting around craft beer, another professional group is organizing. The Farm Brewers’ Association of New York will hold its inaugural meeting Feb. 16, said Green Wolf’s Behan, one of the brewers leading the effort.
“As the new farm brewery license is written, it really calls out for healthy communication among farm breweries—for all of us to work together to promote New York beer and New York farmers specializing in hops and barley and other cereal crops that go into brewing,” Behan said.
The time is right for a new crop of craft breweries in the Catskills, LoBianco said.
“The attention of craft beer right now is tremendous,” he said. “People’s tastes have changed and evolved, and people are valuing quality over quantity. It’s like a second wave of craft beer, and this time, the wave is really sinking in.”

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Mid-Hudson News: Wine, beer, liquor growth industries in Hudson Valley

Wine, beer, liquor growth industries in Hudson Valley
Mid-Hudson News 
October 10, 2014
HYDE PARK – The art of craft brewing, wine making and spirit distillation is trending and becoming a growing industry in the Hudson Valley. To promote those local forms of agri-business, the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation and Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance held an event at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park where local wine makers, distillers and brewers could showcase their products.
Local craftsmen set up stalls in the Marriott Pavilion of the culinary school and provided tastings of products. Many of the owners of the local companies like Clinton Vineyards, Dutch’s Spirits and Slovenia Vodka were there to interact with the attendees and to educate them on their processes.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said this is a rebirth of these crafts that will create promise for the region. 
“It’s great to see a rebirth of this industry and it’s growing exponentially,” Ball said. “Every one of the sectors, whether it is wine, brewers, cideries, distilleries, the growth is in the 50 to 100 percent ranges all the time. So, we don’t really know what the top of the market is here, or the extent of the market but, as the local food movement has caught on, the local interest in all these products has grown, I think we’re really at the beginning of great things.”
The growth of these industries locally is creating a diverse spectrum of different, but related, products. Although the increase in new businesses is creating competition for veterans like Clinton Vineyards owner, Phyllis Feder, she says it’s really beneficial to the industry all around. “With the growth of so many distilleries and breweries, people have many more choices of places to go to. So everybody is not going to like beer, or like wine, they’ll go to where they want, they’ll have choices. That brings a lot of people to the area. It’s great for business, it’s great for tourism, it’s great for the restaurants. It’s good all around.”
An added bonus is the small operations in the Hudson Valley. Peter Kelley, owner of Slovenia Vodka, said that this makes the area unique and the products of high quality. 
“What separates our products from others, I think, is the quality that goes into it,” Kelly said.  “These are really craft distilleries, craft cideries, craft breweries; these are not mass produced products. It’s the same as the quality of our produce and farms here. It’s all about quality, it’s not about production per say, it’s about quality.” 
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Poughkeepsie Journal: Hudson Valley Summit at Culinary Institute Targets Industry For Growth

Drinks summit talks business growth

Changes to the state's laws, fees and licenses for small-scale alcoholic beverage makers created a boom in the industry and additional jobs. More state streamlining is in the works.
That's according to business owners, state officials and others related to the drinks industry, who shared successes and challenges at the second annual Wine, Beer, Spirts & Cider Summit.
The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation hosted the summit Thursday at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. About 400 people attended, organizers said.

The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation and its Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance hosted the Beer, Wine Spirits and Cider Summit 2.0 (fl. oz.) at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. About 400 people attended. Emily Stewart/Poughkeepsie Journal

"What is really growing in the business is higher-quality beverage alcohol," said James Mariani, the keynote speaker and co-CEO of Banfi Vintners in Long Island.

Mass-produced beer is losing some of its market share. Craft beverages (those produced on a small scale by independent businesses) are gaining, he said.

Selling well in restaurants is important to growth, particularly beer. But it's the same with wine, he said.

"(You) want to get sommeliers excited about it," he said. "It's more powerful than at the retail level."
Choose what segment is going to be the company's heart and soul, he said.
"It's very difficult to be all things to all people," he said.

Thomas J. Donohue, special counsel to the State Liquor Authority, gave an update on laws and regulations that have changed, and those in the works.

Along with the creation of the "farm cidery" license (in October 2013), beverage makers can now choose to market the drink as a wine or a cider. Different rules apply, he said, but "at least you have the option."

The state is eliminating surety bonds — money it can claim in the event disciplinary fees go unpaid — for small manufacturers, he said.

Laurence Gottlieb, HVEDC president at CEO, said a lot of the first summit was expressing issues to the state. He is glad to hear they listened.

Tom Edwards, president of the state Liquor Store Association, said his organization is hosting roundtable discussions in January — during the slow season — at four sites across the state, including the Hudson Valley.

"The retailers have a very large commitment to promoting NY products," he said. "If you want to break into a new markets, get to those roundtables."

Michael Babcock, President of in Tilson, Ulster County, said at the first summit it was intriguing to see people from the highest levels of state government interacting with and listening to people specifically in the industry.

"You can see from this year all of the changes that have occurred or are in the process of occurring as a direct result of the summit last year," he said.

Emily Stewart: 845-437-4882;; Twitter: @estwrt.

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Daily Freeman, Onieda Daily Dispatch: Hudson Valley Wineries Busy With Tourists

Hudson Valley wineries busy with tourists
Wineries busy with tourists at peak of season

Todd Godbout, Wine Compass, Discovering Hudson Valley Spirits Part #2 Tuthilltown Distillery


Monday, October 20, 2014

Discovering #HudsonValley Spirits During #TasteCamp: Part II

In Part I - Hillrock Estate Distillery of my TasteCamp series, I described the field to glass philosophy of Hillrock Estate Distillery and expressed surprise at the breadth of Hudson Valley distilleries. In historical terms, I shouldn't have been. In the early 1800's, New York, with major help from the Hudson Valley region, produced over half of this country's barley and rye. And with these grains, distilleries followed. In fact, approximately 1,200 farm distilleries were operating in the Empire state when Prohibition destroyed the industry.  In recent years, the distillation industry in New York has slowly materialized, thanks in large part by entrepreneurs in the Hudson Valley.

Ralph Erenzo is the face of the spirits industry in New York, both as co-owner of Tuthilltown Spirits and the driving force behind the four year effort to pass the Farm Distillery License Act. According to, Erenzo "was researching the possibility of booze-making and discovered a little-known 2000 law on the books that allowed locavore micro-distilling at a greatly reduced licensing rate. The state had slashed the $65,000 distilling permit to just $1,500 — so long as the producer was a little guy, making less than 35,000 gallons a year. "  When Tuthilltown was founded in 2003, it was the only farm distillery in the state; today, thanks to the Farm Distillery License Act, there are over 40. As long as distilleries use NY grain or fruit, they can self-distribute - ignoring wholesalers when suitable - and sell directly from the tasting room.  

I visited Tuthilltown and learned that their award winning bourbons were not the first products Brian Lee (Erenz's founding partner, distiller, and principle investor) produced. It was actually the Indigenous Empire State Wheat Vodka (80 proof / 40% abv, $27) and Indigenous Fresh Pressed Apple Vodka (80 proof / 40% abv, $37). Both very smooth and also used as the base for the Half Moon Orchard Gin (92 proof / 41% abv, $37). In addition, the distillery produces a Hudson Valley favorite, cassis, with their Cassis Liqueur (44 proof / 22% abv, $24) -"created by hand-harvesting organically grown local fruit and macerating it with raw cane sugar in a neutral spirit for 4 months in Tuthilltown Whiskey-cured barrels." The result is a tart and tannic port styled liqueur. Quite tasty. And then there's the world class whiskeys: from the Hudson New York Corn Whiskey (92 proof / 41% abv, $41) to the Hudson Single Malt Whiskey (92 proof / 41% abv, $41 375ml), Hudson Manhattan Rye (92 proof / 41% abv, $41 375ml), and Hudson Four Grain bourbon whiskey (92 proof / 41% abv, $41 375ml). The Hudson Maple Rye Whiskey (92 proof / 41% abv, $41 375ml) is an interesting twist - aging the base of the Manhattan Rye in used maple syrup barrels. The whiskey retains a fair bit of rye character with subtle maple notes.  Like Hillrock Estate, this whiskey does not come cheap; but boy are they oh so good. 

The growth in the Hudson Valley distillery industry due to the Farm Distillery License Act led our TasteCamp party to Hillrock Estate and the Saturday morning spirits tasting.  A dozen distillers participated in this event - which organizer Carlo Devito billed as the largest single tasting of Hudson Valley spirits in modern times. And appropriately, Tuthilltown participating pouring their Indigenous brand, the Half Moon Orchard Gin, and Cassis Liqueur.  I started the tasting with Millbrook Distillery, founded by Paul Coughlin and Gerald Valenti in Dutchess County. Their Dutchess Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey (90 proof / 45% abv, $37) is made from local corn and rye (25%) with natural spring water from Rolling Hills Farm.  Plenty of caramel to finish off this very drinkable bourbon. 

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery table was vacant, so I parked in front in order to sample their Black Dirt Distillery series - named after the fertile soil in Orange County. The Black Dirt Bourbon (90 proof / 45% abv, $45) produced from 80% corn, 12% barley, and 8% rye and aged a minimum of three years in new American Oak. The result is a clean, slightly honey sweet whiskey with the rye coming through in the tail. I'm a lover of apple jack and was excited with the Black Dirt Apple Jack (100 proof / 50% abv, $45) made from Jonagold apples and aged in charred new American oak. This starts with honey and vanilla which then yields to the apple profile, finishing with pie spices. Nicely done. The final offering was the Warwick Gin (80 proof / 40% abv, $27) and uses classic botanicals such as juniper, coriander, angelica root, and anise. It also includes lemon and lime peels which gives it a citrusy profile.

Nearby, Dutch's Spirits had the most interesting spirit, Sugar Wash Moonshine (80 proof / 40% abv, $28), a 100% cane neutral spirit produced in small batches from pure Demerara sugar. Very clean with hopscotch notes. Sugar Wash is a traditional moonshine recipe when corn is scarce and is a perfect fit for this distillery's past. There's too much to convey for the full story, but click here to read it's connections to mobster Dutch Schultz and his clandestine underground distillery. Co-founder Ariel Schlein was also pouring the distillery's Peach Brandy (80 proof / 40% abv, $42) - subtle peach and very smooth. They also concocted a cocktail of the Moonshine, hard cider, and house made bitters - delicious.

The newest player in the Hudson Valley spirits is Denning's Point Distillery, who just celebrated their Grand Opening September 20th. They were pouring two products, the VisKill Vodka and Beacon Whiskey. The vodka is distilled from a mash of Finger Lakes winter wheat and is quite smooth. The Beacan Whiskey is light, smooth, with hints of caramel.

I wish I had more time to spend with Angus MacDonald, Master Distiller of Coppersea Distilling.Like Hillrock Estate Distillery, Coppersea floor malts and mills their grain - for the later sourced from various Hudson Valley farms. However, I was given the two minute warning to hurry up so savored their Pear and Peach Eau De Vie as well as the Coppersea Green Malt Rye (90 proof / 45% abv) - a 100% malted rye whisky made from unkilned malt (unroasted malt). Very limited quantities for this herbal treat.
While walking out I noticed that Hudson Valley Distillers, LLC had arrived and were sampling more Apple Jack. The bus could wait a little longer, right? This veteran owned distillery is owned and operated by Thomas Yozzo and Chris Moyer, who utilize the fruit from Moyer's Spirits Grove Farm orchard. They also built greenhouses to grow botanicals for their future Tom’s Old Tom gin. I quickly sampled the Adirondack Applejack ($25 350ml) and the Hardscrapple Applejack ($25 350ml). The former was aged in white oak barrels like an whiskey while the later is produced to align more with Scotch. The latter also honors Chancellor Robert Livingston, entrepreneur,  contributor to the  Declaration of Independence, and former owner of the land that now includes Spirits Grove Farm. That's the beauty of the burgeoning Hudson Valley distilling industry. Young, but loads of history in every bottle. And the Hardscrapple is more like a whiskey than applejack - toasted nuts, vanilla, and caramel. Very nice.

Unfortunately the bus spirited us off to our next destination and I failed to sample from Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery and Catskill Distilling Company . Next trip for sure. Cheers to Hudson Valley Distillers.
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