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.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the Hudson Valley the New Burgundy?

(Today, my guest writer is none other than Carlo DeVito, co-owner of the Hudson-Chatham Winery. I write this in full disclosure, because some of the viewpoints included here are from my viewpoints as a news source, but also as a participant in the wine industry as a maker and purveyor. I truly try to keep these two roles as separate as possible, but in this instance they are so married together, so inter-connected, that the separation of these strings of thought cannot be un-wound in my small mind. I beg your indulgence.)

Now before you tell me whoa! No one is ever going to mistake the Taconic Parkway for the charming back roads of Burgundy. No one on the Hudson River has a charming barque and a rakishly tilted baret. Where’s the baguette?

However, few regions can boast such an absolutely gorgeous valley. Few regions can boast as many wonderful little wineries, as many creameries and CSAs, as the Hudson Valley. And we not only have hundreds of exceptional restaurants, but the CIA to boot. The Valley is a food and wine mecca like nowhere else in New York state or the east coast.

But more than this, the best wines, especially the reds, seem, more and more, to be from the Burgundian tradition. Recently, the New York Cork Report chose the following wines for their Best Wines of the Year from the Hudson Valley.

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2009 Baco Noir Reserve
Millbrook Winery 2008 Block Five East Pinot Noir
Oak Summit Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir

Add to these, some of the other better wines these fine gentlemen missed, such as:

Benmarl Baco Noir
Whitecliff Gamay Noir
Brimstone Hill Vin de Rouge
Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Old Vine
Brotherhood Pinot Noir
Warwick Valley Black Dirt
Millbrook Pinot Noir

All these wines, made from Hudson Valley fruit, start to paint a picture of red wines of a Burgundian tradition. It seems to me that currently the Valley seems to be finding its true identity. And these wines are excellent wines and of great value. I have talked to several growers, and I can tell you that myself and others are leaning towards plantings of Gamay Noir, more Baco Noir, and more Pinot Noir.

I am not suggesting that these are the only good red wines in the Valley. I like almost everything Cereghino-Smith makes, but they are an anomaly, in that they are not growers (that doesn’t mean I hold anything against them, I love their wines). I like Millbrook’s Cabernet Franc. I like a lot of other reds. But if one is looking to find out what the terroir of the Valley is, it is to make soft, approachable reds. These are eventually the reds I believe that will help forge the identity of the valley as separate and distinct.

Personally, I always dreamed of making a big Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot. A Robert Parker fruitbomb par excellence. But in order to make the best red wine the land itself will give you, you have to bend your back a little, or you will miss it.

From the time since Stuyvesant ruled the sate with all the powers of a supreme ruler, people in the Hudson Valley have struggled to make Bordeaux styled wines. And some of the best wines in the Valley right now are made with grapes from the Finger Lakes or Long Island. Nothing wrong with that. I drink a lot of them.

But people outside the Valley, who are asking for Hudson Valley fruit in the bottle, are talking about our most approachable reds. These seem to be the ones breaking through. People are doing a double take and saying, “Wow!”

If one needs to examine the successes of the Valley one needs to look no further than the little rock walls and hedgerows of the Hudson Valley. Have a nice wedge of Hudson Red or a little button of Coach Fresh Chevre or a square of Old Chatham Sheepherding Camembert, some fresh hardy bread from Our Daily Bred in Chatham, an apple from any one of the Valley’s apple farms like Golden Harvest or Goold’s Orchards, and a bottle of soft red wines above and see why the future of the Hudson Valley lies somewhere near the Cote-d’Or.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye Whiskey in Gardiner, New York

"In an age of drink defined by sleek bars with house-infused vodkas and incessant techno beats, it can be difficult to comprehend a spirit that last enjoyed broad popularity back when the Ziegfeld Follies was the hottest show around. Fragrant and robust, with a character like a ragtime record played on an old Victrola, rye whiskey is a bottled anachronism. But more than 80 years after Prohibition ended rye’s moment in the spotlight, the preferred whiskey of the saloon era is re-emerging," wrote Paul Clarke in Imbibe magazine in a story called The Comeback Kid.

In the United States, "rye whiskey" is, by law, made from a mash of at least 51% rye. (The other ingredients of the mash are usually corn and malted barley.) It is distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof, and aged in charred, new oak barrels. The whiskey must be put into such barrels at not more than 125 (U.S.) proof. Rye whiskey that has been so aged for at least 2 years may be further designated as "straight", as in "straight rye whiskey".

Rye whiskey was the prevalent whiskey of the northeastern states, especially New York, Pennsylvannia and Maryland, but largely disappeared after Prohibition. A few brands survived. Rye is currently undergoing a small but growing revival in the United States.
Until Prohibition New York was known for its rye whiskey. This feisty spirit was the basis for the legendary Manhattan cocktail, made famous by Jenny Churchill (Winston’s Mum). Rye had not been produced in New York for over 80 years, but Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey signals the return of the quintessential New York Whiskey. Their rye is made from whole grain rye one batch at a time. It is not the blended rye whiskey your parents used to mix with soda. This is honest rye whiskey.

Before Prohibition more than 1,000 farm distillers produced alcohol from New York grains and fruits. Tuthilltown distillers are bringing back traditional batch-distilled spirits.

For 220 years Tuthilltown Gristmill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, used waterpower to render local grains to flour. It is located in Gardiner, New York, just outside of New Paltz. In 2001 Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan acquired the property and with the help of partner Brian Lee, they converted one of the mill granaries to a micro-distillery.The partners worked tirelessly to teach themselves the craft of small-batch distillation while navigating the legal and administrative aspects of building the company.

Two and a half years later Tuthilltown Spirits produced their first batches of vodka from scraps they collected at a local apple slicing plant. Now the distillers use fresh cider from nearby orchards. Production includes vodkas, bourbon, whiskeys, rum, eau de vie, brandy, and infusions.

In 2007 Gable Erenzo, joined the team and the distillery sent off the first international shipment to Paris. The team has continued to grow with the addition of Joel Elder, Jared Powers, and Nick Stoughton to the production team. Cathy Erenzo has come on board to manage compliance and administration. The Tuthilltown Spirits Team brings the craft of small batch spirits distilling back to New York.

Hudson Manhattan Rye is bottled at 92 proof. It is fruity, floral and smooth, with a recognizable rye edge that leaves no doubt the origin of the spirit. Each bottle is hand filled, capped, waxed and numbered.

I poured this spirit into a snifter. I love snifters, especially when I am tasting spirits or ports for the first time. Big carmel flavors, big whiffs of maple. Not as full bodied and flavorful or sweet as borboun, but defintely a bolder flavor than single malts, this Rye has a distinctive flavor.