Cascade Mountain Winery Undergoes Major Changes
The spring of 2006 has brought sweeping changes to the Cascade Mountain Winery with longtime owners Bill and Margaret Wetmore passing the torch to two new faces after 35 years in the business.
The winery has long been one of the premier wineries in the area, along with a successful restaurant, also located on the property. The Wetmores have named Cesar Baeza, a winemaster who has more than 30 year's experience, as the new head of business.
He has a master's degree in viticulture and enololgy from the University of Madrid and has practiced winemaking in Chile, Spain, France, the Balkans, California and the Hudson Valley.
Besides winemaking, Baeza also worked from 1978 to 1987 in the quality assurance program for PepsiCo's Monsieur Henri line.
In that position, he developed wines imported from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Most recently Baeza has been developing table wines for the Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville.
Along with Baeza, George Cafiero was named the new managing partner in charge of wine sales and restaurant operations.
After starting his career as a grape picker at Cascade, he moved on to become a chef on a commercial fishing vessel, before returning to the winery.
Since then, Cafiero has been busy expanding Cascade's restaurant operations and bringing the wines to the various farmers markets in the Hudson Valley.
"George is terrific and Cesar is one of the best winemakers in the country," said Wetmore.
"I look forward to working with both of them. Plus I love to eat here, so I am going to keep doing that," he said.
Cafiero said he's excited about his new position and thinks his career at the winery has come full circle from his days collecting grapes.
"It's a little overwhelming, but nothing I can't handle," he said.
"Everything works well here, so I don't plan on making any major changes. There are some challenges I have to focus on, like staffing and marketing, but every decision is equally important," he said.
Five years from now, Cafiero said he hopes things stay pretty much the same at Cascade, but he may expand the restaurant's hours to be open all year.
Although the Wetmores are making major changes, the two have no plans of stepping down from the winery.
"We want to stick around and enjoy our good fortune," said Bill Wetmore.
"New York wines have come a long way in the past 30 years and we want to see what the future has in store. We are delighted to have such experienced men, as well as good friends, helping us out. Both Cesar and George are great assets," he said.
The growth of the winery stems to 1972 when the family planted 15 acres of land and had to cut down about 1,000 locust trees to create vineyard posts.
In 1977, the Wetmores started the winery as a school project for their son, with Bill having only a background in writing to start with. In fact, he has four published novels to his credit.
"As a novelist, I couldn't afford to buy wine, so I had to make my own," joked Wetmore.
"For a long time, New York had a terrible reputation for making wines, basically only sweet desert wines. Now that we have cold resistant grapes, New York is just as competitive with the rest of the world," he said.
By 1983, the winery was doing so well that the Wetmores decided to open a restaurant there.
The idea was that people could try the wines with food and learn that wines created in New York were just as good as any other on the market. Today the restaurant has received numerous awards and has been highly rated by both Zagat and the New York Times.
Some of the wines include Vintage Seyval Blanc, Vintage Private Reserve White, Summertide, Summertide Splits, Vintage Coeur De Lion, Vintage Private Red Reserve, Harvest Rose and Heavenly Daze.
"Summertide is the most popular, but Vintage Seyval Blanc and Private Red Reserve are the most appreciated by the experts," said Wetmore.
According to Cafiero, it's not just wine connoisseurs that make their way to Cascade to sample the variety of wines.
"I have seen a lot of new drinkers come up to the vineyard. Our wines are very approachable, not only in prices, but they also are easy to drink. It is also a very relaxed environment so people aren't afraid to ask questions about the wines," he said, adding, "We have a fun setting and that translates when the customers come in."
Word of mouth is spreading quickly and Cascade is seeing more and more people from New York City, Westchester and the tri-state area stopping by when visiting the Hudson Valley.
"Lots of people start their trip or end their trip here," said Wetmore.
"We are the only winery that has a restaurant as well. The summer and the fall are our two biggest seasons," he said.
The Cascade Restaurant is open for lunch Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday holidays with dinners Saturday by reservation only. For more information, call 845-373-9021.
©Harlem Valley Times 2006