Baldwin Vineyards Opens this Weekend, March 31 and April 1, for their 31st Season
Hard to write a history of the Hudson Valley without including the first wave of winegrowers after the Farm Winery Act. Benmarl’s Mark Miller gets all the accolades, garnering Farm Winery License No. 1 for all his outstanding work in helping to establish the new law which made it easier for farmers to enter into the wine game.
Then came a wave of intrepid winemakers, young men and women who decided to follow their dreams. It was people like Richard Eldrige and his wife Valerie at Brimstone Hill; people like Pat and Jack Baldwin of Baldwin Vineyards; George Westmoreland at Cascade Mountain; George W. Naumburg, Jr., M.D. and his wife Michelle at the late North Salem Vineyards, and many others (apologies if I left anyone out). These people were the pioneers. These people are the shoulders every current Hudson Valley winemaker now stands on. They deserve not only our praise but our thanks and undying gratitude. The burgeoning industry we now enjoy would not have been possible if it were not for this first new wave of winemakers.
As the valley matures, and starts to reap the rewards it so richly deserves, I think it important to make sure we take the time to acknowledge them and laud their spirit of enterprise, determination, and achievement. We know them now, older statesmen in a sea of new wineries. But they too started out as a young generation of idealistic people, who wore jeans and sneakers, and worked the earth back in the day. They’ve seen more vintages than I have tasted. They’ve worked more rows of vines and fruits than I can count.
The remarkable thing is, many are still at it! Thankfully, Pat and Jack Baldwin are still pressing their fruit and turning out wonderful wines. Theirs is quite a story.
“Committed wine aficionados, Jack and Pat Baldwin started a gourmet dinner and wine tasting group and one of the most active Les Amis du Vin chapters in New Jersey. After moving to New York, they boiught a 200 year old house on the banks of the Shawangunk River in the Catskills and converted the outbuildings into a winery,” wrote famed wine writer Anthony Dias Blue. Jack is a former pharmaceutical executive. He and Pat fell in love with wine after a trip to France in 1974.
Located 85 miles northwest of NYC in the beautiful Hudson River Region, Baldwin Vineyards is situated on a 35 acre vineyard with a pasture like setting. In 1982, The Baldwins purchased the farm which had been the Hardenburgh Estate since 1786, including a stone home and 18,000 square feet of out buildings situated on 37 acres of prime alluvial farmland.
The first vineyard was planted in May, 1982, and a second vineyard the next year, bringing total vine acreage up to 10 acres. In the Fall of 1982, the first vintage was vinified using grapes purchased locally, and the winery opened in July 1983 with five wines, three of which were awarded medals at the New York State Wine Competition. By 1985, both were working full time to create a micro winery which offers a wide array of different styles of wine for the discerning palate.
“…they originally grew most of their own grapes (all but 15 percent) and ran their own winery. Although a much smaller establishment, their fruit wines put them on the map. In an Interview with Patricia Baldwin, she explained that in 1988 her husband was the first person to make fruit wine without including grapes in the drink. Strawberry was his first fruit wine, and now they make Black Raspberry, Blueberry, Apple, and Cherry all from their respective fruits alone. In 2006 and 2007 their fruit wines even got international recognition,” wrote Colleen Ryan, in a white paper entitled, “Wineries, the Hudson Valley’s best kept secret.”
Starting with their Strawberry Wine in 1985 (Best fruit wine at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2006 and 2007); they added Apple, Blueberry, Cherry and Black Raspberry wines which have gathered many more awards. The Black Raspberry Wine, alone, has won eight Gold Medals in various wine competitions, in addition to many other awards.
The Baldwin's philosophy on fruit wines, which began a trend throughout the entire Northeast, was to vinify fruit wines as premium varietal wines, rather than the old tradition of adding water and other less expensive fruit juices to bring down the cost. Instead of making the fruit wines dry, as was the tradition, the Baldwins finished their fruit wines so they tasted like the fruit they started from.
Baldwin also produces Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Brut Champagne, Port and other dozen wines. Their wines have been reviewed favorably in Wine Spectator and the New York Times, with their famed strawberry wine gaining much of the recognition.
Baldwin hosts a Strawberry, Chocolate & Wine Festival, serving their famous strawberry and chocolate desserts along with a wine tasting of their fifteen different wines. There are sixteen Festivals scheduled for 2011. Visit their website www.baldwinvineyards.com for dates and times.
This coming weekend, Jack and Pat are back! They are opening their tastingroom doors for their 31st year! Congratulations to them. And to us…after all, we get to drink the fruits of their labor!