I come from a big Italian family in Trenton, NJ. They are
the Woody Allen version of the Sopranos, or like the never-ending family in My
Big Fat Greek Wedding. Lots of volume, arguments, singing, laughter, and
stories. And I am the quietest one! Some are tall, some are short. Some are
thin, some are large. It’s a cast of characters. You can laugh with us, or at
us. There’s always something going on!
Last week, Dominique and I were at the Bounty of the Hudson,
down at Whitecliff Vineyards. And there I was talking to Tiffany and Ryan Selby,
who are the real face of the Robibero Family Vineyards. Tiffany is fantastic.
She seems almost tireless. She is absolutely hardwired to the internet via
twitter and facebook. She is a social media maven, and a great promoter of her
winery. Tiffany and Ryan make a great team. She is effervescent and bubbling,
and he is rock solid. He is the brawn and tools that makes the machinery run.
She is a dreamer; he is a doer. And they are a handsome couple.
Tiffany was inviting me to stop by the winery on my way home
after the event. But my lovely wife was tired and begged off. She asked me that
we should go right home. I seriously tried to make her happy….seriously….but
life got in the way.
Coming out of Whitecliff, we got lost (listening to my
wife’s directions), and guess where we ended up? You guessed it. Right smack in
front of Robibero Family Vineyards!
“C’mon,” I said. “It’s fate. Let me just snap a couple of
pictures, and off we’ll go,” I bargained with her. She rolled her eyes and
exhaled. I had planned to take a few snaps, go in, buy a bottle of wine or two
and hit the road real fast. Honestly, I did.
“If you go in there and spend an hour talking to them, I’m
leaving you here. I’m tired and I don’t feel good! I will leave you,” my wife
snapped. I felt for her, I really did. Dom had been a trooper all day, and I
knew this was the final straw. But there was so much to do: talk to Kristop
Brown, their new winemaker; try the new whites from Kristop and Ryan; and see
the new vineyards Kristop and Ryan had been working on so hard. And of course,
the place was packed when we got there. The place was mobbed. People in the
tasting room, people on the deck overlooking the lush vineyard, people on the grounds.
It looked like they were having a big event.
Harry and Carole Robibero bought the property in 2003. In
2007 opportunity knocked unexpectedly when the current winery operating on the
premise gave notice that they were vacating to a new location. It was at that
point Harry, Carole and the Robibero family decided to follow their passion and
pursue their dream of opening a winery. It’s been a family run operation ever
since. Tiffany and Ryan do the lion’s share, but there’s a Robibero family
member or cousin lurking down every hallway. This is a family endeavor. In 2009 Robibero planted both Cabernet Franc
and Vidal Blanc out behind their tasting room. On this particular Saturday the
literal fruits of their labor could be seen exploding before them. Gorgeous!
Robbibero has always had a simple focus: “Our plan is to
make our winery a destination where people come to relax and enjoy our
property. We want our tastings to be educational and fun. The goal is all about
making sure people walk out our door with a smile on their face and create a
unique experience that will stay in their heads forever.” It seemed to me that
that Saturday, you could see their plan being executed perfectly. I snapped the
photos I had been planning to, and then jogged into the tasting room.
Who greeted me at the bar but Kristop Brown. Kristop is now
the winemaker at Robibero. He and Ryan have worked very hard to create a line
of wines to appeal to a larger audience while also producing fine wines. So
far, that plan has been beautifully executed as well. It had been a while since
I had seen Kristop, so I was thrilled. And I asked him to pour me his two most
Kristop Brown is considered one of the most technically
gifted winemakers in the Hudson Valley. Kristop's winemaking origins began at
Benmarl when he learned to make wine under the apprenticeship of Eric Miller
(former owner of Chaddsford), son of Benmarl
founder Mark Miller. He further expanded his knowledge when he ventured to the
West Coast to practice his craft in Walla Walla, Washington. In 2011 Kristop
returned to his roots of winemaking when he joined the team at Robibero. Kristop
is an excellent winemaker, and his efforts in the valley in the last 12-18
months are already affecting the quality of the wine being produced in the
region. The man is a fermentation machine! But more on that in another post!
Kristop poured me the Robibero 2012 Dry Riesling. It was beautiful!
Pear, green apple, and grapefruit exploded out of the glass, with some other
tropical fruits as well. A hint of honeysuckle. All three fruits came across on
the palate as well. Very minerally. The bright acidity helped to carry the
brightness of the fruit forward, which lingered for a long time. Dry as a bone.
Next was the Robibero 2012 Traminette. I have to admit for several
years I was not a big fan of Traminette, a Gewurtztraminer clone. I love
Gewurtz, but Traminette had left me cold. Traminette is popular in the valley
because it’s a little heartier, and more disease resistant, than
Gewurztraminer, so it’s happier here in the valley. Recently, I’ve tasted more
and more Traminettes and I have to admit now that it makes a good wine.
Winemakers have found the right touch with it, and the wines have improved
greatly. There are several outstanding ones in the valley. This one was lovely!
Like Gewurztraminer, this Robibero Traminette had a big floral nose with
topical hints to it as well. Lot’s of lychee fruit. Ripe pear. Mango? Melon?
Just an absolutely beautiful nose. And a light, fabulous finish with good
acidity and a nice, bright acidic/citrusy ending. Absolutely wonderful!
So with that, I say good-bye to Kristop, run to the wall,
grab two bottles, and race to the counter to buy my wines. I’m already beyond
my time limit with my patient and tired wife. I’ve gotta get my ass out of
here, or I am a dead man. I slam down the two bottles and reach for my wallet,
when I hear, “Carlo! How are you!” It’s Harry Robibero manning the cashier
station because the place is packed. He’s a tall, lean guy, with handsome good
looks. He's a successful businessman, who’s now enjoying his new venture. And one gets the sense that Harry will be successful here too. He's got the right people in the right jobs, it just needs a little time to come together. And one senses it's coming together. And they are serious about making great wine.
is a great guy. He’s just like a bunch of my uncles back home. In fact, that’s
the problem for me here at Robibero. They are a family business, but for me, it’s
like being home. We can start a conversation, and there’s not going to be any
downtime. We’re going to pick up where we left off. We speak the same language.
I love these guys.
So Harry and I are now gabbing and I congratulate him on a
crazy Saturday, and he looks around and shrugs. “It’s an average Saturday,” he
laughs. God bless. And so he decides to walk me out of the car, because of
course he wants me to stay, and I explain about my wife. So we’re gabbing, and
walking, and who should pull up but Tiffany and Ryan. And now Carole, Harry’s beautiful
wife, comes out to welcome home her daughter and son-in-law, and now we have a
good slice of the Ribibero clan walking me to my car.
I’m laughing. They’re laughing. And now, we’ve surrounded
the car, and Harry’s yelling at the window, to Dominique, “C’mon out!” We’re
all laughing. Dominique of course comes out. And next thing you know, she’s
laughing. We had a great time! So we ending up talking for quite a while right there in the parking
lot, and of course we agreed to get together. And who wouldn’t? I feel like I
just came from one of my own family get togethers. And isn’t that the whole
point of going to Robibero Family Winery? When you’re there, you’re one of the
family! You’ll want to come back too!