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, January 25, 2010

Hudson Valley Wine Goddess Blogs About Industry Buzz About Hudson Valley Wines

Debbie, the Hudson Valley wine goddess featured a bit of news about what's been going on in the Hudson Valley.

More than 40 wine and liquor retailers from around New York state attended a Hudson Valley tasting at Brotherhood the other day, meant to showcase the great wines being made in the Hudson Valley.

In attendance were Brotherhood, Millbrook, Glorie Farm Winery, Clinton Vineyards, Hudson-Chatham Winery, Tousey Winery, Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, and of course Brotherhood Winery.

There was tasting in the morning, followed by a lunch, and then a large panel discussion group on how to promote New York state wines in store. The retailers and the wineries were very pleased with the day.

Congrats to the Hudson Valley Wine Goddess (who helped get the word out to the wineries), and the folks at Brotherhood (especially Colleen) who helped to put it all together.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Editor-in-Chief Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report (formerly known as has named his finalists for Hudson River Region wines of the year. In competition, these wines will go through a tasting, until one wine is chosen to represent each region in each category: red, white, sparkling. Those wines will then face the winners from the other three regions represented in the competition: Finger Lakes, Long Island, and Niagara Escarpment.

The finalists:
White Wines
Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery 2008 Awosting White A blend of the region's signature white variety, seyval blanc, and one of my favorite hybrids, vignoles. It won gold at the Hudson Valley Wine Competition and when I tasted it again at Uncork New York in December, I thought it showed nice balance and fresh peach flavors with a little residual sweetness.

Benmarl 2008 Slate Hill White This is another blend that includes chardonnay, riesling and traminette. Fruity up front, there is nice, citrusy acidity and just a subtle floral note from the traminette. It finishes dry and clean.

Millbrook Vineyards 2008 Tocai Friulano One of only a handful of Friulanos grown and made in New York, this wine is melony and grapefruity with nice balance and a longer-than-expected finish. This is a perennial favorite from the region and a wine that several readers have pointed out to me as a great wine from the Hudson Valley.

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2007 Empire Made with grapes from three vineyards in New York's three biggest wine regions blended in equal proportions — Long Island merlot, Finger Lakes cabernet franc and Hudson Valley Baco Noir. A great concept for a wine and each component contributes to the wines character.

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2008 Baco Noir Black and sour cherry lead the way with hints of vanilla, cranberry and spice beneath. It's fruity, like you'd expect, but there is a depth and a richness here that made it stand out. The finish is longer than with many bacos as well.

Millbrook Vineyards 2007 Block Five East Pinot Noir Yes, we all know that pinot is difficult to grow and it's probably even more so in the Hudson Valley, but Millbrook usually pulls it off and this wine is a fine example of that. The winner of best red at the Hudson Valley Wine Competition surprised the judges (including me) and may surprise on Saturday as well.Sparkling
Clinton Vineyards NV Jubilee The last of four traditionally made sparkling wines (all based on seyval blanc) we tasted on Saturday, it left quite an impression. Made without dosage, it's bright, crisp and finishes dry. Really classy and elegant. And I'm no fan of seyval.

Brotherhood Winery NV Blanc de Blancs Made with 100% Hudson Valley-grown chardonnay, it's a little less dry (1% RS) but for $11, I don't think you can find a better BdB in New York.

For the rest of the article:


So David Jackson and Lenn Thompson (from the NY Cork Report), Dan Rowland (Clinton Vineyards), and I went to Benmarl to visit Matt Specarelli and Kristop Brown. Matt met us in the courtyard. From there, Kristop took us on a tour of the winery. First, we went down to the old cellar of Benmarl. We walked past a Christmas tree made of wine bottles, which was placed near an old print of Mark Miller, Benmarl's founder.

In the old cellar, they keep the old bottles of wine, since Benmarl dates back to the 1950s. A large iron-bar jail-cell type door. That let you into the inner sanctum.

Kristop walked us around the winery. We saw dozens of barrels of wine maturing in the wine cellars. Then he took us to the wine making area, where in two rooms, they had a blend of old tanks and new tanks. And lots of history. Kristop was entertaining, and passionate. Maybe that's why I like Kristop so much - he's so passionate.
I think Benmarl is very lucky - they have two young men, who are fired by passion - and are filled with youthful zeal. They are Benmarl's secret weapon. And that is why Benmarl will ultimately be a very successful. They are open to new ideas. And they are passionate about making good wine and growing their business.

For the afternoon, Matt then made lunch for us. We enjoyed roasted duck, and sweet potato hash browns, as well as a plate of Hudson Valley cheeses and artisanal breads.

So, here we were, enjoying our lunch. Victor Specarelli was a ubiquitous presence around the winery. He was giving folks tours, planning weddings, and working the winery.

This 1988 Late Harvest Vignoles was brought up from the old cellars. It was incredible. Especially with the Old Chatham Blue Cheese.

It was an excellent meal. Really fabulous. New York City quality. And Matt made it! With it, we had a 2005 Benmarl Baco Noir. Exceptional.

Slate Hill is one of my favorite whites. It's a blend of several different wines, including Vidal, Seyval, and several others. I also think their Riesling I tremendous.

Dechaunac is a tricky grape. It is planted throughout the Hudson Valley. The Benmarl version is one of the subtlest I have ever had. It had the classic DeChaunac nose, but without the classic sharp cinnamon nose that comes form incorrectly made DeChaunac. It's smooth and drinkable. Approachable. Very nice. A great table wine. Fruity. Dry. Very wonderful drinking wine.
We also had a great New York Can Franc. It was big, fruity, with an elegant dry finish. And we also had a wonderful, deep, New York Merlot.

Benmarl is a old winery, that the Specarelli family is reviving. And they are doing a great job. Maybe you won't get the treatment we did. But you can taste and buy some of the same wine we did. And more. Got to Benmarl and meet Matt and Kristop. You'll be thrilled.


Phyllis Feder came down the walk from her Dutchess County Colonial farmhouse to greet us. She was accompanied by a friend, and a small Wheaton-mixed fluffy dog, who attended her every movement. Lithe and elegant, she greeted us warmly and entreated us to come inside. She moved slowly, but gracefully. She was, as usually, beautifully attired.

There is no getting around it. You can still feel Ben Feder's presence here. It is after all a very personal place. It was the magical place Ben and Phyllis turned into one of the most sought after farm wineries in the Hudson Valley. For as much as he was the grand old man of the Valley for the last five or so years, there was a time when Ben and Phyllis's country retreat was a swank oasis for numerous fashionable Manhattanites, especially those in the publishing and design world.

The winery has a classic tank room, that just as might be anywhere else. Save the little touches. A Princeton University banner hung on the walls. An American flag hung proudly - one with only 24 stars. These are personal touches. Who ever decorates a tank room? But it's fabulous. Your eye constantly dances around.

The tasting room is very much the same way. It is dark green, well lit with windows (one has a spectacular view), and it is handsomely appointed. As was the original intention, the room feels more like you are in Ben and Phyllis's elegant wine den, rather than a shop. There is a large plaid couch, and several chairs. And the walls are plastered everywhere with personal and professional mementos. Photos of Phyllis and Ben from their younger years. Pictures of them with friends, and notables, especially former NY Senator and now U.S. Secretary of State Hilliary Rodham Clinton.

The room is warm and friendly on a cold January day. The wines are beautifully displayed, and the bar is very handsome and functional. And the tasting in particular is fun. And Phyllis is chatty and funny. It is a good day.

Victory White is this year's bottling of Clinton's famous Seyval Blanc. Seyval Blanc is all they grow at Clinton. They make four different kinds of sparkling wine with it, and a classic dry white table wine. In this respect, Clinton is an old fashioned winery. They make wine with one kind of grape, and they do it very well. I think their Seyval Blanc is one of the best in the Valley.

Clinton offers four sparkling wines. These are three. The Seyval Naturel is classic Seyval, as a sparkling wine. With just a hint of sugar, it's a crisp, refreshing sparkling wine, with a touch of sour green apple, almost Riesling-like. Wonderful!

Peach Gala is a Seyval based white sparkler, with a touch of peach juice to it. It's got a nose that's incredible. It smells like here are fresh peaches soaking in your glass of sparkling wine. Not incredible sweet, it does have the slightest touch of sugar. Fabulous for brunch or dessert.
Royale is an all together different experience. It is a sparkling wine with some Cassis. A wonderful Kir Royale in a bottle. A lovely before- or after-dinner drink.

Clinton also makes some wonderful fruit dessert wines. Their Cassis, as was described in one of my previous posts (see East Coast Wineries Cassis Throwdown), is exceptional, and has set the standard in the Valley for some time. They also make an excellent Raspberry and Blackberry dessert wine. They sell all three in a boxed set. A great gift package.

Here's New York Cork Report Editor-in-Chief, Lenn Thompson, taking notes during his tasting.

Here's an ad from Avenue magazine that features Ben and Phyllis. Great ad!

Ben's presence can still be felt.

Phyllis and Ben were both designers. Here's a stunning photo of Phyllis from the 1970s while in Paris for a design competition.

Frank J. Prial did a wonderful profile of Ben and Phyllis not that long ago in the New York Times.

A wall plastered with all their old and present State Liquor Authority winery licences, which have to be renewed each year.

This is the Seyval Blanc up close.

One of the last surprises was when Lenn Thompson asked what Jubilee was. Phyllis yelped, "Oh, my, I almost forgot!" She readily poured it for us. It was easily a great shocker. Jubilee is a bone dry, Brut styled sparkling wine. I did not think anyone could make as good a tasting champagne-styled wine in the Valley. I am mistaken. This was easily the biggest surprised of our day. Lenn bought two bottles. I bought two bottles. It tasted like fine, French sparkling wine. Tremendous! Really quality stuff. In a blind tasting, I'd defy anyone to discern it from any sparkling in the Champagne region, and tell me it wasn't.

We had a great afternoon with Phyllis. A wonderful time. A great experience.