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.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Brimstone Hill Vidal Blanc 2010 (NY)

I have a soft spot in my heart for Brimstone Hill winery. I think they are a wonderufl, old, winery here in the Hudson Valley. They're not new and hip and flashy. They're solid and steady and forward thinking. And I just like their wines, especially the Vin Rouge.

Brimstone Hill is among the older group of Hudson Valley vineyards and wineries. The actual vineyard dates back to 1969 when Richard and Valerie Eldridge planted some 20 varieties of “French hybrid” grapes on approximately a half acre of sloping land. The Eldridges were (and still are) dedicated oenophiles. This tradition really stems from Valerie’s background. She was French by origin, and she grew up in an extended French winemaking family from the Loire Valley.

In the 1970s the Eldridge vineyards expanded to about 3-4 acres of grapes. The decision to try a small winery was made in 1978-79, a time period when there was considerable interest in establishing smaller wineries throughout the Hudson Valley. There was (and still is) much to learn about appropriate grape varieties, wine types and wine-making techniques for this region. Initially, the French-American hybrid grape varietals seemed to be the most appropriate for better wines. As the 1980s progressed some of the traditional European vitis vinifera varieties showed considerable promise.

Then, as Cornell became better focused on higher quality wine grape varieties (remember Cornell has had a grape breeding program for generations), some of their interspecific hybrid varieties have blossomed in the Hudson Valley. Brimstone Hill has worked with all of these categorical groupings in a strong effort to make distinctive regional wines, which they are proud of.

As for size, their vineyards have expanded considerably; they now have about 10 acres producing and about 3-4 acres, which are not yet in production. Their operation continues to be somewhat experimental in nature. One of the pioneering ventures they are very proud of is the development of a sparkling wine, which is made in the tradition of the French champagnes. Their current production is between 7,500 and 10,000 bottles per year.

I love Dick Eldridge. He can be crumedgeonly...but get him talking about grapes, with a glass in his hand, and he's a fun guy.

And I really like Vidal Blanc. Vidal Blanc is an inter-specific hybrid variety of white wine grape, a cross of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d'Or (Seibel 4986). It manages to produce high sugar levels in cold climates while maintaining good acid levels.

Vidal Blanc was developed in the 1930s by French breeder Jean Louis Vidal; his primary goal in developing the variety was to produce vines suitable for the production of Cognac in the Charente region of France. However, due to its winter hardiness this grape variety is cultivated most extensively in Canada and in the north-eastern United States. It is somewhat resistant to powdery mildew.

The wine produced from Vidal Blanc is fruity, with grapefruit and pineapple notes. Due to its high acidity and fruitiness it is particularly suited to sweeter, dessert wines. In particular, because of the tough outer skin of the fruit, it is well adapted for the production of ice wine, especially in Ontario and the Great Lakes region of the United States.

Vidal is one of the most popularly planted white grapes in the northeast!

Brimstone Hill Vidal Blanc 2010 is a wonderful wine. It's off dry,with notes of apricot and honey, but also with citrus. And indeed, the sweetness is balanced by a good amount of acidity. The result is a wonderful wine, with a hint of sweetness, but with a ig dollop of of citrus which balances the wine beautifully.

A lovely wine. Congrats, Dick!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Robibero 87 South 2008 and 87 North 2010 - That's a Lot of Driving

So I am at the Bounty of the Hudson event, and I see Tiffany and Ryan Selby, just returned from their whirlwind honeymoon, and there they were, back in the thick of things, setting up their booth for the weekend wine fest. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The fest was one mad dash, and a lot of fun!!! But while scanning their table later on, while I came over to chat with them, I spied a new wine I hadn't seen. 87 North. I can only imagine, as a former New Jersey resident, that the inspiration for this name comes from the fact that from New York City, Long Island and New Jersey, you have to come up 87. And Tiffany and Ryan as well as all the Robiberos have spent long hours on that highway going back and forth from the island for years. I personally seem to know it all too well myself. Regardless, 87 is the big road that is the crooked spine (or the main artery) of the Hudson Valley.

Robibero 87 South is a dry red blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, The wine is a nice, deep red wine, with dark cherry, raspberry, and touch of plum to it. It's a dark garnet color, with hints of vanilla and leather on the nose. A nice amount of acidity and nice tannins make this an excellent food wine.

This is the sister wine to Robibero 87 North, which is their white blend of 50% Vidal Blanc and 50% Cayuga White. 87 North has lovely honeydew and grapefruit aromas and a clean crisp refreshing finish.

Buy one of each! They're a wonderful couple. Congrats to Tiffany and Ryan once again! Yes, on your wedding - may you spend many happy hours in the car together on the Route 87 of life....and congrats on the wines as well!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Applewood Winery of the Hudson Valley

Applewood Winery has long been a family business. On June 27, 1949, the farm was purchased from Earl Predmore by Dr. and Mrs. Donald B Hull of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Donald Hull was a prominent physician who traced his Quaker family roots deep into the Hudson Valley past. Applewood was a sizable orchard and a farm that pre-dated the American Revolution. The orchard was very successful featuring U-pick operations, as well as selling their fruit wholesale deep in the heart of apple country.

In the Autumn of 1993, David Hull’s youngest son, Jonathan, assisted by his wife, Michele, opened the Applewood Winery in a building along the farm lane. Since then Jonathan Hull has pioneered the planting of Vinifera grape varieties in this section of the Hudson Valley, as well as producing apple wine, and hard cider. The wine is fermented, bottled, and sold at the Winery. Today, Applewood remains a premium apple operation, but is also a phenomenal spot to come and sip wine.

The winery drive way lets you know what you're in for. First you breach the beautiful old New England styled stone wall. As you bounce up and down the farm lane past long rows of apple trees. And then you arrive at the winery building. It's an enchanting experience.

There's an ample and lovely tastingroom, out fitted with lots of bar space, and tons of fun things like Applewood's own jams and wine accessories. It's a fun looking place. There's also a lovely patio outside, as well as a pavilion for events like weddings and birthday parties, etc.

Jonathan and Michele Hull run Applewood Winery. He is operations, winemaking, farming, etc., and she runs the tastingroom, sales, and marketing. Jonathan and she joke that he's not allowed in the tasting room.

That's a shame for Jonathan, because inside they have a perky, funny, inviting group of sale staff, who believe wine is about having a good time. They joke with the customers and each other, and keep the mood in the room light and fun.

First wine I really liked was the Seyval/Chardonnay Reserve made from 60% Seyval and 40% Chardonnay. It was aged in American oak. It had the crisp acidity of the seyval but the more luxurious texture of the chardonnay. This was an incredibly delightful wine. Sophisticated, yet quaffable.

The Vidal was next and it was off-dry, clean, bright with a nice bouquet with plenty of fruit and floral notes. It was lovely.

The Traminette, it goes without saying, was the star of the whites. The off-dry Gerwurtzaminer-hybrid continues to show well in the valley. Big floral nose. Fresh, crisp with a citrusy acidity and a refreshing finish.

Merlot was my next favorite. Aged in French oak, the wine exhibited all the correct varietal attributes. Nice fruit up front, with solid acidity and nice tannins. A lovely dry red, it had cherries and raspberries, and a hint of fallen leaf and leather. A nice black pepper finish. Very nice!

I thought the Cabernet Franc was also good. Aged in French oak, this bright Cabernet Franc was more Loire than California, with bright fruit, zippy acidity, and solid tannins. Very nicely balanced with good flavor.

Of course, what is a visit to Applewood without a little apple!!!!!

First is one of my old favorites, Apple Dave's Stone Fence Hard Apple Cider. It smells like a big, bright, fresh apple, with the perfect amount of tartness and flavor, this apple cider is fantastic. Easily one of my favorites!

Sadly, there was a last glass, as is to be expected. Happily, though, it was Apple Frost, an ice-cider. Thick, sweet, and with just the right amount of acidity to balance it all out, this is fantastic wine with hints of honey, apricot, and of course, apple! Awesome!

Applewood's reputation has always been solid, but it's also growing. And one can see why. Great stuff to Jonathan and Michele.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Albany Times Union Features Wineries of the Upper Hudson Valley

Grape Expectations
It's not easy going, but Capital Region gains wineries
By Eric Anderson
Updated 3:41 p.m., Thursday, August 2, 2012

Joe Messina, owner of Amici Vineyards, stands for a portrait with a bottle of his Cabernet Franc Reserve Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Valley Falls, N.Y. (Dan Little/Special to the times Union)

How difficult is it to operate a vineyard in the Capital Region?

Very, says Joe Messina, who lost 85 percent of the grape crop at Amici Vineyard in Valley Falls during last summer's tropical storms.

"This year," he said last week, "is looking better. Thank god we had a storm last night. The drought is definitely having a serious amount of stress" on his vineyard.

Such is the life of Capital Region vintners.

Yet, new wineries are opening, some with their own vineyards, and while the Capital Region isn't yet wine country, it does have nearly a dozen active wineries, where you can find a range of reds and whites.

The newest is Capoccia Vineyards & Winery on Balltown Road in Niskayuna, where Justin Capoccia, one of the owner's sons, says they've planted an acre of land with 340 vines.

They produced about 7,500 bottles from last year's grape harvest, Justin said. It was he who first encouraged the rest of the family, which has long made its own wine, to do it commercially.

The Capoccias offer wines ranging from cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc to chardonnay.

While the Capital Region's wineries are relatively small, the industry in New York state last year had sales of nearly $4 billion, according to figures from the New York Farm Bureau.

Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman said the state has about 300 wineries, a number that's growing quickly.

"We had more new wineries in the past five years — 118 — than in the two decades prior," he said.

Johnston's Winery in Galway grows blueberries and raspberries that go into some of its wines, but depends on vineyards in the Finger Lakes and California for its grapes, said owner Kurt Johnston.

"It's too cold to grow the vinifera grapes," he said. "We can get to minus-30 degrees in the winter."

While Johnston produces about 2,000 gallons — or 10,000 bottles — of wine a year, he augments his business by selling equipment to people who make their own wines.

The Saratoga Winery & Tasting Room, on Route 29 west of Saratoga Springs, buys its grapes from vineyards in the Finger Lakes.

Demand has been growing about 25 percent each year, said Kelsey Whalen, the winery's manager, and the winery now produces about 2,000 cases annually.

With relatively small production, availability of Capital Region wines can be quite limited.

Some wines are available only from the winery, while others can be bought in local liquor stores or ordered at some local restaurants.

Recent legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo also allows the state's so-called farm wineries, farm distillers and farm brewers to sell each other's products. The "farm" refers to the raw materials, such as hops, grapes, berries, corn, or grain being grown within New York state.

"It's good for consumers," said Jim Tresize, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. "They can do one-stop shopping for New York products."

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Chronogram magazines Features Cesar Baeza of Brotherhood Winery

Local Notable: Cesar Baeza
by Erik Ofgang and photographs by David Morris Cunningham,
July 26, 2012
Chronogram magazine

Cesar Baeza of Brotherhood Winery.
When winemaster Cesar Baeza first took over the Brotherhood Winery, he says he felt like a missionary. “Sometimes the last thing people think about is local wines, but little by little we started coming in with quality wines and converting people,” says Baeza, who purchased the Washingtonville based winery with several partners in 1987.

Brotherhood Winery is the oldest winery in America and was opened in 1839. After almost 60 years in existence, the winery changed hands and was renamed the Brotherhood Winery. It was named after the Brotherhood of New Life—an experiment in utopian communal living in the Hudson Valley.

A native of Chile, Baeza has always had a passion for wine making. He attended the University of Chile, earning a degree in viticulture and enology. He was awarded a scholarship to pursue his Master’s degree in viticulture and enology at the University of Madrid. He also studied at the University of California, Davis and at California State University, Fresno. After graduating, he worked briefly at the Brotherhood Winery in the 1970s and then PepsiCo hired him for its research and technical service division in Valhalla. As part of his job, Baeza gave technical assistance to suppliers and company-owned wineries worldwide. PepsiCo owned brands included Yago, Stolichnaya, and Roland Thevenin of Burgundy.

In the late ’80s when Baeza heard the Brotherhood Winery was for sale, he decided to leave PepsiCo and purchase it.

“It’s the oldest winery in America. It has a lot of mystique, it has so much charm, so much history,” he says. He adds that he thought a vineyard in New York was an ideal location because one of the largest markets for wine in the world is New York City.

Since he has taken over, Baeza has steadily expanded Brotherhood Winery’s business. “New York has started giving us some respect which is something that we didn’t have many years ago,” he says. Beyond the wine, Brotherhood Winery has picturesque grounds and is home to a catering facility and restaurant called Vinum Cafe.

The winery’s specialties are Riesling, a white wine and Pinot Noir, a red wine. Both types of grapes grow very well in the Hudson Valley.

“Wine is fashion,” says Baeza. “The movie Sideways made Pinot Noir very trendy, very fashionable and luckily we were one of the top producers of Pinot Noir. So we were at the right place at the right time—for once, we were lucky.”

He adds Pinot Noir is “one of the wines that I love to make because it’s one of the most challenging wines, and New York happens to have the right climate for growing Pinot Noir and making one of the best Pinot Noirs in the country.”

Baeza says that the Hudson River plays an important role in grape growing in the Hudson Valley. “The river is very important for growing grapes because like the Rhine River in Germany (where the Riesling grape originated), the Hudson River also allows the temperature to be temperate, not to have the large variation between day and night, it’s not too cold not too warm. So it’s always a good thing to be next to the river for a winery.”

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