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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Victory View Vineyard - One of the Shining Stars of the Upper Hudson Valley

Here's the first thing you need to know about Victory View Vineyard - it's easily one of the best quality wine producers in the Upper Hudson Valley. The other thing you need to know is they work with cold, winter hardy, Minnesota grape varieties. They also may be one of the better wineries making wines with that kind of fruit today. And the last thing you need to know is - after drinking it - you'll want more.
Victory View Vineyard is a family owned and operated, small farm in rural Washington County, New York. It is owned by Gerry and Mary Barnhart in Schaghtichoke, NY. They produce 'estate' bottled wine only! They grow all their own grapes sustainably on their farm. Our wines are made from French-American hybrid grapes and Minnesota varieties as well, which thrive on their sloping site with a southern exposure.

Gerry is a dynamo. He is one of the moving forces behind the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail, where he was reelected President of the growing association in January of 2014. As I aid, Gerry and Mary are very serious about what they are doing.

I finally got to meet Gerry at the Taste of Upstate New York just this past spring. He and I had corresponded over the years, but we had never met. They are a relatively new winery, and I was only able to try three wines. I understand they have a fourth now, and their list will continue to grow.

According to Gerry and Mary, "the name for this wine came to us after long hours of picking rocks and numerous tiller repairs caused by hard work in our stony ground. We honor those who came before us and built the miles of stone walls on our farm, all by hand."
For those of you unfamiliar with La Crosse, it is a modern hybrid cultivar of wine grape, mostly grown in North America. It produces grapes suitable for making fruity white wines similar to Riesling or as a base for blended wines. The grapes also make a good seeded table grape for eating. It has the benefits of early ripening and when hardened properly in the fall it is winter hardy to at least -25° F. As such it best suited to growing in more northern climates. La Crosse was produced and patented by famed Minnesota hybridizer Elmer Swenson around 1970. It is a hybrid of Seyval crossed to a cross of Minnesota 78 by Seibel 1000 (aka Rosette).
This wine was made in stainless steel, and then aged in oak. It's has the feel of a light, oaked Italian white. A complex nose of green apple and tropical fruits. The mouthfeel is slightly lighter than oak, but it ha a creamy finish reminiscent of an oaked chardonnay. A very interesting, and very nice wine.

First, a bit of history (I am an absolute sucker for dogs and history). According to Gerry and Mary, "We named our La Crescent wine Charlotte to honor the history of our area. After splitting from Albany County in 1772, our area was named Charlotte County in honor of King George III’s eldest daughter. The County was renamed Washington County in 1784 to honor the service of General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. The name Charlotte calls to mind the Baroness Fredericka Charlotte Riedesel. The Baroness, and her three daughters, traveled with her husband, General Friedreich Riedesel, commander of the German troops in General John Burgoyne’s army of invasion that was defeated during the battles of Saratoga. The red-haired Baroness was described as being, "full in figure and possessing no small share of beauty." She was adored by the German troops and was credited for being "an angel of comfort" who "restored order to chaos" for her work caring for wounded soldiers and the women and children in Burgoyne’s defeated army."
Charlotte is an off-dry, Germanic style wine from our 'estate' grown LaCrescent grapes. La Crescent, a Minnesota, cold-climate variety, combines St. Pepin and an Elmer Swenson (famous Minnesota grape hybridizer) selection from V. riparia x Muscat Hamburg. With this hardy heritage, trunks have survived a frigid -34°F when well cared for in good vineyard sites. It's moderately disease resistant and it can be very productive at harvest. LaCrescent is making more and more inroads in wine everyday.
Victory View Charlotte 2012 has a big frontal attack of pink grapefruit, melon, and hints of dried apricot. Those flavors come across on the palate as well as a few other tropical fruits. Off-dry, with a nice bit of bouncy acidity makes this a bright, refreshing, mouthwatering white. A lovely wine!!! And easy favorite!

Maréchal Foch was named after the French marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), who played an important role in the negotiation of the armistice terms during the closing of the First World War. It was developed in Alsace, France by grape hybridizer Eugene Kuhlmann. Some believe it to be a cross of Goldriesling (itself an intra-specific cross of Riesling and Courtiller Musqué) with a Vitis riparia - Vitis rupestris cross. Others contend that its pedigree is uncertain and may contain the grape variety Oberlin 595. It ripens early, is cold-hardy, is resistant to fungal diseases, and can produce a flavorful wine
Like many French-American hybrids, Marechal Foch has a bad rap. Mishandled for years by beginning eastern wineries, there were a great many that made awful, foxy varietals that scared away several generations of American wine consumers. But now, with the immense amount of knowledge out there, about vineyard practices, winemaking, and cellaring techniques, French-American hybrids, in the hands of a growing few, have made a real strong case for reconsideration. A real hint I that the wine was developed in Alsace the home of light bodied reds. Instead of trying to make inky wines with these grapes, I've always thought it better to make a lighter style wine that would carry all the fruit and by only limited wine/skin interaction carry fewer of the negative flavor profiles sometimes developed through extended fermentations.
Thrown into this conversation my be Victory View Layfayette 2012. A stew of strawberries, cherries, and plums comes across the nose with hint of vanilla and spice. And as promised, their were light hints of leather and tobacco. Nice acidity kept the fruit vibrant in the mouth, and the medium tannins kept this medium-bodied dry red in balance. A lovely, drinkable red, made for the dinning room table. A lovely wine. Very impressive. Brought home several bottles of this!
Again Gerry and Mary invoke a little history lesson here, writing, "Our Lafayette is named to pay respect to Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, the French general who became one of George Washington’s most trusted lieutenants and a hero of the American Revolution. While Lafayette was not present for the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, his efforts along with the Colonial Army’s success at Saratoga were pivotal in bringing France into the Revolution as allies of the fledgling United States."
How can you not like these people?!!!
I love their passion for history, their passion for estate fruit, and their passion for making quality wines. Victory View Vineyard is on of the shining stars of the Northern Hudson Valley and a credit to the Hudson Valley as a whole.

Nine Pin Cider Releases New Ginger Cider! (NY)

Nine Pin Cider Works, New York’s first farm cidery, has released Nine Pin Ginger. Ginger will be the second style of cider sold at retail by the bottle.
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Coming Soon! Clermont Vineyards in Germantown, NY!

It seems Columbia County will get yet another farm beverage based business this year, when Clermont Vineyards opens in the next two months. That will be 7 in the county! And the Hudson Valley is in for quite a shock. Because Clermont will be among the largest and most beautiful tasting rooms in the entire valley. Located at 9G and Route 6, in Germantown, NY, Clermont will be at the other end of Route from Tousey Winery and Hudson Valley Distillers.

I stopped by the other day while roaming the bottom of the county. Everyone is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the insides and the grounds. And it's a Saturday! It was insane. But that is what's like when you are trying to open a new business, especially one as regulated at the wine, beers, spirits, and cider business.

The deck to the left in the photo pictured above is 20 and 40 feet, and looks out over the gorgeous vineyard below. The view is breath taking.


Tony Trigo, and his brother-in-law, are well known within the wine community. Tony has been a fixture at all Hudson Valley wine dinners, grape sessions, and everything else the other wine makers have been attending for the last five or six years. He is an excellent grower. It was the birth of his first grand child that derailed this wiley veteran grape grower from opening his vineyard. He was so taken with his first grand child, he stopped building for almost a whole year. He is a doting grand-father of three now, even going so far as to build an in-house swing set for when his children visit.

Tonyis a former engineer with the Port Authority and pays painstaking attention to every detail. Most of the work in the renovation of two large barns has been done by himself, his brother-in-law, friends and family, and a small cadre of workers. He has general contracted the entire thing himself. And it is state of the art and fantastic.

A very exciting step forward for the county, for the immediate region, and for the Hudson Valley.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Harvest Spirits and Hudson-Chatham Winery Named in Best of Columbia County

Columbia county is home to more than six farm beverage businesses, so it's big news when anyone wins a Best of Award! Congrats to Derek and Ashley of Harvest Spirits and Carlo and Dominique of Hudson-Chatham Winery and their respective staffs!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hudson Valley Winemakers Tastings - Improving Quality Valley One Bottle at a Time

Somewhere on the back roads, somewhere in the night, groups of winemakers are hunkered down, scribbling notes, making comments, and slighting one another's wines. Something that happens in the progress of every quality wine movement is happening in the Hudson Valley. These are the Hudson Valley Winemaker's Tastings.
Michael and Yancey Migliore of Whitecliff Vineyards
So, what is the purpose of these blind tastings? Winemakers, believe it or not, have better things to do on a Tuesday or Wednesday night than to hang out with each other. The point is for the Hudson Valley winemakers to husband their own quality level. The goal is to improve the quality of wine in the Hudson Valley. Have a stuck wine? Bring it! Off aromas? Bring it! VA? Bring it! An amazing wine? Yes, absolutely, bring it! Their goal is to help each other. To help bring up the bottom 10% of the wines in the valley an to improve the ones at the top!
Bruce Tripp of Tousey and HV Experiment Station and Mike Migliore
Kevin Zraly says that the most important aspects of the quality wine revolution of the last thirty or forty years is that winemakers are talking to each other. For many years, the vignerons of Bordeaux and Burgundy would not compare notes - not only with one another but with each other's regions. Today, you can't stop industry people from talking, and sharing information. There are symposiums and panel discussions and lectures almost any week out of the year. And now they are talking like never before in the Hudson Valley.  

Sue Miller of Brookview Station
Winemaker tasting panels are nothing new. They've been hosting them in California for a long time. Long Island was among the first on the east coast, and then serious panels started to happen in the Finger Lakes. Now the Hudson Valley. They are a necessary step in the evolution of creating a quality winemaking region.
While it looks like it's a lot of fun, indeed, if you are a winemaker, you have to have a thick skin and a sense of humor. To all winemakers, each wine is like one of their children. While you might criticize your own in private, let someone else say something about your child, and off you go like a mother bear protecting her cubs. In the last four tastings, I've seen winemakers criticize their own wines, and praise others.
Matt Specarelli of Benmarl and Brad Martz of Whitecliff
The point of the tastings isn't to criticize each other, but to share information. How did you make that wine? What was the pH when you made it? What yeast did you use? What temperature was it at? The goal is to help each other make better wine. Have a good wine? Share it. Share what you did and why? Is there a way to improve a really good wine for future? Are you using certain blends we should all be trying? It is not a police action as much as it is a coffee clutch - with wine.
The tastings are 100% blind. That winemakers can speak freely and honestly abut their thoughts about each wine. It is not for the feint of heart. But also, it is meant to be instructive - and it is. And they've been indispensable for those who have availed themselves of them. No press has been allowed, nor will be. These are closed door sessions where winemakers can freely exchange ideas and information. They are not pretty. No one dresses up. They come from the fields or the cellars. They use tasting room glasses. Sheets of white papers for their notes.
Each wine is marked on a scale of 1-4. 4 is good. 1 is bad. Give a score of 1 or 1.5, and you'd better be able to defend it. You've just insulted someone's wine. Give a score of 3.5 or 4, you better be able to explain it. No favoritism is shown. No "yuck" is allowed. You better be able to talk fruit, structure, nose, palate, and finish. At the end of each flight, the scores are totaled up and announced. A lot of bruised egos. And some nice surprise. 

Of course, the scores aren't the goal. The goal is to make sure there is structure and balance and that the wines taste good. The meetings aren't meant to be critical as they are instructive...informational. When you hear a comment about a wine, or a possible solution to a problem, winemakers are storing that knowledge. When you hear the techniques others are using to make great wine, you take that information and store it. A good blend? What did you use? What were the percentages? Is the fruit estate? Where did it come from?  Etc.
 Bruce Tripp explaining the scoring while Ed Miller of Brookview Station listens.
And of course interesting facts are learned. Someone told the crowd they used a wild yeast fermentation...had been for the last two years, but hadn't mentioned it in their marketing. Another told about Hungarian oak and some trials in their cellar. There were wide ranging discussions about American and French oaks, and a multitude of variations. Discussions on many wine making techniques, and opinions on when to bottle different wines.

The tastings have been eye opening. They have been arranged by theme. The first one I was able to attend was the sparkling and cider flights. There was a first round of sparkling wines, and then a second round of ciders. The sparkling wines were a revelation. I didn't know such sparkling wines were being made by a small host of winemakers.

One of the shockers was Brimstone Hill Domaine Bourmont Brut a non-vintage sparkling wine made by Brimstone Hill using the classic French Methode Champenoise. A lovely, dry sparkling wine.

Another shocker was Benmarl's Sparkling wine for case club members only. Quite lovely! And their Stainless steel Chardonnay was lovely too! We had a final flight of Chardonnays and Seyval Blancs. In any night the panels, usually well attended, will draw eight to twelve winemakers, and the panels will review anywhere from 10-18 wines in three to four flights, depending on how the groupings work out. 

The cider tasting was also a lot of fun. Notes of apple and spice and pear and other flavors jumped out of the glasses. Tim Dressel's Kettleborough cider was one of the ones tasted. Always a favorite. 


Ed and Sue Miller of Brookview Station brought along several ciders, including a straight cider, cranberry cider, and one they are working on for the upcoming holidays at end of year. Amazing stuff!

The next tasting was hybrid reds. Winemakers gathered to taste varietals and blends. The first round was Baco Noirs. And then there was a flight of other varietals. And then there were blends. Discussions abounded on fruit quality, ripeness, texture and structure. 

Jonathan Hull of Applewood, Frank Gessel of Clearview; and Dick Eldrige of Brimstone Hill

Murders Row of Hudson Valley: Brad Martz (Whitecliff); Bruce Tripp (Tousey and HV Experiment); Doug Glorie (Glorie) Michael Migliore (Whitecliff)' Frank Gressle (Clearview); Jonathan Hull (Applewood); Dick Eldrige (Brimstone Hill); and Richard Edlridge (Brimstone Hill)


The ring leader of this new wave of blind tastings is Bruce Tripp, long a fixture in Hudson Valley winemaking circles. The valley is far flung. It is as diverse as it is widely ranged. It stretches from Albany all the way down to Orange and Sullivan counties. Some wineries travel as much as 1.5 hours to come to the tastings. But Bruce is the amiable nudge that sends out countless emails reminding everyone to attend and what the focus of the night will be. Together with Michael Migliore they have fashioned a great service to the winemakers and to the drinking public. The gathering place is usually Benmarl, whose large tasting room overlooking the Hudson River can accommodate the enological throng as well as being the most mid-point of the region. It was Bruce who made Tousey's first big hit wine, their Crème de Cassis, and put Tousey on the map. He now spends a lot of his time tending the Hudson Valley Experimental station and filters tons of information to the valley's winemakers. The winemakers like him because he not only can grow the grapes, but his experimental wines can show winemakers and fruit growers what the grapes are capable of in the region.

Yancey Migliore (Whitecliff), Bruce Tripp, Michael Migliore, Doug Glorie (foreground) and Matt Spacarelli (background with hat, Benmarl).

Most recently, the group met to taste vinifera varietals and blends. CIA's Steven Kolpan recently called on the Hudson Valley to grow more Cab Franc and stake a claim for the vinifera in the Hudson Valley. Steven was dead on. Cabernet Franc seems to be the most widely grown grape in the Hudson Valley these days, not in acreage, but in the sheer number of vineyards that now boast even a small amount. But plantings are increasing. The entire first flight of the vinifera tasting this year was Cabernet Franc, and that was only with a portion of the region's wineries in attendance. 

The ratings and the tastings are taken vary seriously. And varietal wine characteristics are discussed and debated in earnest. Discussions can be very heated. Disagreements might end unhappily. People can be offended. But not in this flight. The wines were spectacular. Whitecliff's was very nice. And the real shocker was the Glorie Farm Winery Cab Franc 2013, which was absolutely beautiful! Big dark fruit, but without the high alcohol of some of the globe's hot house wines. 
Who let the guy from the left coast in? Washington state tenured wine professor John Huddleson, who keeps a vineyard in the Hudson Valley, returns each summer, proving that you can go home again. The Hudson Valley's loss was Washington's gain. His book on wine faults is one of the best in the industry. It was good to have some of his thoughts during the tasting...allowing an outsider's point of view (lol). Here he is tasting the red vinifera blends in the second flight. Among the blends was a really nice surprise - Whitecliff's 100% Hudson River Region Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. Very nice! 

The tastings can be daunting. They start at 6pm and can last until 930 or 10pm. Some go quickly, and other require more conversation. But one thing for sure is, that winemakers have been encouraged. The quality of the wines in the region are improving greatly, not just by the winemaker's point of view, but by wine journalists as well. Writers like Steven Kolpan, Lenn Thompson, Debbie Gioquindo, Christopher E. Matthews, and Wendy Crispell are all singing the praises of the wave of quality winemaking happening in the valley. And the tastings are adding to that...and confirming it. But the goal is to constantly keep improving. Constantly be learning. fun, amazing, hard work. 
The final results are what counts - great wines being made in the Hudson Valley. More and more every year. Come on up and try some!