Where is the Hudson Valley?
Recently I overheard a conversation in which several winemakers and farmers were discussing where the valley ends. Several posited it ended at New Paltz or Kingston. Others still said it ended at Millbrook or Rhinebeck at best.
Of course these are all wrong, but it does speak of a mentality that exists of people in and out of the valley, that the southern part of the valley IS the valley - it is not. And this leads to consumer confusion.
The problem with the valley is that it is quite large, and incredibly diversified. And in that diversity, as Jim Trezise (New York Wine and Grape Foundation President) likes to say - lies our strength. The Hudson River Region AVA (viticultural area)was establsihed in 1982, and served the purposes of outlining the region as it then stood. It's drawing was somewhat arbitrary in that it took into a account only the wineries that were in existence then, and was cut in such arbitrary ways so as to include all the wineries that were established at that time. It is outdated now, and in need of readjustment. But it's existence, while useful at first, is now cause for confusion among consumers.
The real definition of the valley is seen here on the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area map. The Hudson Valley stretches from New York harbor, where the river flows into the sea, all the way up beyond Albany, where a confluence of rivers and streams empty into what we know of as the Hudson River.
As far as a wine region goes, the Hudson Valley is mainly broken up into three areas - The Lower Hudson Valley, the Mid-Hudson Valley (which includes the Hudson-Berkshire region) and the newly developing Upper Hudson Valley.
The lower valley is dominated by the Shwangunk Wine Trail, which is named for the mountain range in the area. It is on the west side of the river. There are many wineries in this section of the valley. They tend to be some of the oldest wineries in the region, and are the best know section of the wine world in the valley. The vistas are beautiful, and the landscape is dotted with beautiful homes, large apple orchards, and small farm stands.
The Mid-Hudson region is dominated by two wine trails - the smaller Dutchess Wine Trail, and the newer, larger Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail. These wineries are on the east side of the river, and extend from the Millbrook area in Dutchess County to as far north as Columbia and Rensealler counties. This is an incredibly diverse region, with numerous CSAs, organic meat farms, artisanal creameries, and home of the Culinary Institute of America, making it a more and more desirable culinary destination.
The newly developing Upper Hudson Valley region occupies the outlying areas north of Albany and Troy, where the river begins. This burgeoning area is home to a growing number of new wineries, and will eventually form into a formidable presence in the Hudson Valley wine landscape. While wine is being made there now, the coalescing of this region is some years away, but it is happening as of this writing.
Regardless, the Hudson Valley is going through a massive renaissance, both agriculturally and culinarily, and the burgeoning number of wineries, and the different wines they produce, are a part of that explosion. And that explosion is expanding the understanding of where the valley really is. Indeed, the wineries are its leading edge.
Winery tourism in the valley grows week by week, and month by month. Record numbers of visitors are filling the valley's tastingrooms. Sales have never been higher. The wines have never been better. And the enthusiasm has never been greater.