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 has been a published executive for more than 20 years. He shepherded the wine book program of Wine Spectator as well as worked with Kevin Zraly, Oz Clarke, Matt Kramer, Tom Stevenson, Evan Dawson, Greg Moore, Howard Goldberg, and many other wine writers. He has also published Salvatore Calabrese, Jim Meehan, Clay Risen, and Paul Knorr. Mr. DeVito is the inventor of the mini-kit which has sold more than 100,000,000 copies world wide. He has also publisher such writers as Stephen Hawking, E. O Wilson, Philip Caputo, Gilbert King, James McPherson, John and Mary Gribbin, Thomas Hoving, David Margolick, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., John Edgar Wideman, Stanley Crouch, Dan Rather, Dee Brown, Susie Bright, and Eleanor Clift. He is also the owner of Hudson-Chatham Winery, co-founder of the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail, and president of the Hudson Valley Wine Country.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Left Bank Hudson Wineries Highlighted in The Journal News

Going west for wine
Take a day trip to the vineyards on the left bank of the Hudson
October 18, 2006

Not that anyone needs an excuse to take in the fall leaves at their peak - but the Greater New York Wine & Food festival this weekend in Tarrytown got us thinking about New York wines, and visiting a few Hudson Valley vineyards makes for a great day trip.

The wineries of the Shawangunk Wine Trail around New Paltz area are just a hour away. Throw in a walk along a gorgeous hiking trail, a stop at an antique center and an orchard and you've got a great fall trip.

I headed west on I-84 - but you can take the New York State Thruway- to the farthest winery, Baldwin Vineyards, and then headed back in a semi-circle, stopping at Whitecliff Vineyard and Benmarl Winery. There are also a number of other wineries on the trail if you have more time. (Check out

Route 52 rolls past silos, cornfields and small dairy farms to Baldwin Vineyards, which is set on 37 acres behind a 200-year old house. In 1974, owner Jack Baldwin took a trip to Europe with his family that changed his life. He wasn't even drinking wine at the time. "We stopped outside Paris and I tasted a Chateauneuf du Pape; it was like velvet." He was hooked. By the fall of 1983, Baldwin produced his first 200 cases of wine and had won three medals. By 1985 he had left his corporate life.

Now he looks forward to expanding the tasting and storage rooms and adding a kitchen next summer. I tasted Baldwin's 2004 Chardonnay: round and creamy. His 2002 Claret, made with Cabernet Franc, a hearty, popular grape well-suited to the region, is tannic and dry. Joseph's Vintage is a late harvest riesling "concentrated by botrytis, or 'the noble rot,' " Baldwin explained, which occurs when grapes are left on the vine long into the fall. The dessert wine's honey and apricot flavors called for Camembert and walnuts, though Baldwin suggested cheesecake might be a good match.

Baldwin Vineyards is also well-known for fruit-based dessert wines. The strawberry wine, made from nothing but strawberries, smells and tastes like liquid jam. It was awarded The Val Award as The Best Wine in the Hudson River Region in 2005 and a gold medal and Best in Class in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in 2006.

The abrupt white mesa of the Shawangunk Range, which is famous among rock climbers, loomed ahead as I headed east again. I have hiked the laurel-rimmed trails of Minnewaska State Park and The Mohonk Preserve in all seasons, but had never visited the Napa Valley-style tasting room and gardens below at Whitecliff Vineyard.

The breathtaking view of the mountains rose from the green valley over vines heavy with fruit. "There's one spot where you can see all the way to Ellenville in the Catskills," said owner Michael Migliore. Migliore and his wife, Yancy, met as climbers on those cliffs. Migliore came to the area as a graduate student at SUNY New Paltz and his degrees in physical-organic chemistry helped him teach himself about making wine.

"I experimented at each harvest," he says.

His is the most ambitious winery I visited. Migliore grows 40 to 75 percent of his grapes and is planting more riesling, pinot noir and gewurztraminer on two new sites into production in Marlboro, less than half an hour away. The remaining grapes come form other Hudson Valley farms, the Finger Lakes and Long Island, but Migliore is encouraging local fruit farmers to plant grapes to meet the growing demand in the region. "Before Prohibition it was grapes, not apples in the Hudson Valley," he says. "There were 13,000 acres of grapes."

Whitecliff cooperates with local growers in other ways. Two Gardiner ranches brought their grassfed beef to a Harvest Twilight tasting at the vineyard. This year Migliore trucked 6 1/2 tons of red grape pommace - what's left after crushing- down the road to Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, where Ralph Erenzo created a warm and smooth custom grappa for Whitecliff. Like Baldwin, Migliore is ready to expand this spring with another storage building for his oak barrels, which age his toasted almond Reserve Chardonnay and his Bordeaux-style blend, Sky Island red.

His 2005 Awosting White, named for the nearby mountain lake, is a summery combo of vignole and seyval blanc, the region's popular white companion to the Cabernet Franc grape. The peppery finish and vibrant flavors of his 2001 Cabernet Franc "should be even better in 6 or 7 years," says Migliore, rinsing and pouring another taste.

After curving south on Milton Turnpike, I turned into the vine-bordered drive of Benmarl Winery, almost parallel to the Hudson. No wonder weddings are so popular here: the view of the river from the lawn, stone courtyard and three buildings is spectacular. Victor and Barbara Spacarelli, who took over the winery this spring, are reclaiming 20 acres and restoring 10 more of what's touted as "the oldest vineyard in America.'" It's not the oldest winery, but grapes have been grown continuously on this site since the Huguenots planted them in the 1700s. Benmarl was founded by Mark Miller, influential Hudson Valley vintner and artist.

Except for the estate-grown Baco Noir, Benmarl's wines are made from grapes from California, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The rich 2005 vintage is is fruit-forward with a spicy finish. I also especially liked Benmarl's 2005 Slate Hill white, a summery, floral blend of chardonnay, viognier, sauvignon blanc and riesling. Sweet Sarah, an ice wine-style dessert wine for which the grapes are frozen to concentrate their sweetness, will keep good company "with pumpkin pie, gingerbread or apple charlotte for the holidays," suggests Molly Duncan, a winery guide. Walking through the arcaded cellars, Duncan shows off Benmarl's recently acquired larger crusher, mechanized bottler and labeling machines, all of which will help the winery modernize and increase its production.

I arranged my souvenir whites and reds, my Empire apples and Bosc pears and the little bags of vintage buttons I had found at the HiHo Antiques Center in the back of my car for the easy drive home. On a crisp fall day, this beautiful and so-close region made the perfect day trip. The steady growth of interest in food and wine is giving life to Hudson Valley agri-tourism and their wine is improving. Go taste it for yourself. Maybe this year you'll be serving Hudson Valley wines proudly with your turkey.


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