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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014



This is a special week in the Fall In Love With Hudson Valley Wine campaign. Firstly, this is the kick off of The Hard Cider Experience at Applewood Farm the home of Naked Flock Ciders!

In some corners of the region, the apple is thought of as the grape of the Hudson Valley. When Applewood Winery first opened in 1994 their first mission was to have some fun and make a superior Hard Apple Cider.  The winery has a 40 acre apple orchard and is one of the oldest continuously farms in the Valley. Jonathan Hull and his wife had tasted many commercial hard ciders where the main ingredient was water.  Add some concentrate from China or wherever, some high proof fire water and VOILA! They called it Hard Cider and churned it out like widgets off an assembly line. John and Marcia wanted to share a real Cider with the world.  The Hudson Valley Hard Cider Experience is a fun way to do it.
At the Hard Cider Experience people can enjoy authentic Hard Ciders and Apple wines paired with samples f fine Farm-to-Table cuisine and live entertainment.

And of course there's Restaurant Week sponsored by The Valley Table magazine. Enjoy locally grown and locally prepared, farm fresh, farm-to-table dishes in restaurants up-and-down the Hudson Valley, and with them ask for a glass of Hudson Valley wine, sparkling wine, cider, or spirits.

Nov 1 & 2 – The Hard Cider Experience 12-5 pm. Food and cider pairing. Special blends. Includes live music. APPLEWOOD WINERY

Nov 3-6 – 2014 Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

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The Passionate Foodie Loves Hillrock Estate

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
TasteCamp At Hudson Valley: Hillrock Estate Distillery
The Passionate Foodie
by Richard Auffrey
"Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough."
--Mark Twain

Bourbon from the Hudson Valley of New York? Doesn't Bourbon only come from Kentucky?

Though some people believe that Bourbon can only be produced in Kentucky, that is actually incorrect. About 95% of all Bourbon is made in Kentucky but you'll also find Bourbon legally made across the country, in places including Indiana, Utah, Wisconsin and New York. In 1964, Congress passed a resolution, stating bourbon was a "distinctive product of the U.S." granting the term legal protection. This is akin to the protection granted to wine terms like Champagne, Sherry and Port, so that Bourbon can only be legally produced within the U.S.

What legally constitutes a bourbon? According to the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, 27 C.F.R. 5.22(b)(1)(i), there are several basic, legal requirements for a spirit to be declared a "bourbon." First, it must be produced from a fermented mash of at least 51% corn. Second, it must be distilled at not more than 160 proof. Third, the final product cannot be more than 125 proof. Fourth, it must be aged in charred, new oak containers. There is no restriction that it must be produced in Kentucky.

While attending TasteCamp in the Hudson Valley, I sampled a Solera-Aged Bourbon which thoroughly impressed me. Besides the Bourbon, I sampled two other whiskies, a Peated Single Malt and a Rye, and they too were impressive. The story and philosophy behind these whiskies is fascinating and compelling, an intriguing tale of "field to glass" and terroir. Tradition is respected and emulated in a number of respects. This is not a simple craft distillery but one seriously dedicated to producing a special type of whiskey. And there is clear passion at work. This is a distillery that all whiskey lovers need to know.

We toured the Hillrock Estate Distillery, located in Ancram, New York, and our host was Jeff Baker (pictured above), the owner of the estate. He was personable and earnest, leading us through the malt house and distillery, telling us the history of the estate as well as explaining their production process. It was a fascinating insight into this craft distillery, and my respect for their operation increased through the tour.

Back in the 1820s, New York produced about two-thirds of the country's barley and rye, and the Hudson Valley was home to many such farms. Because of all this grain, over 1000 distilleries opened, creating a variety of spirits, though Prohibition would close their doors. Nowadays, we are seeing a craft distillery revival across the country, and a number of new distilleries have opened in the Hudson Valley region. It is still only the tiniest fraction of what once existed there, but it continues to grow and evolve.

In 1995, Jeff purchased the land which would become the Hillrock estate, and now encompasses over 250 tillable acres. Initially, he began the region's first, pasture-raised, sustainable beef operation. He restored a 1806 Georgian house on the property that once had been owned by a Revolutionary War Captain who was also a grain farmer and Freemason. Eventually, he decided he wanted to produce whiskey, so he constructed a distillery, malt house, granary and barrel house, locating all of them at the center of the estate, About four years ago, they started making whiskey.

It is important to Jeff that they try to produce "field to glass" whiskey, which is reflective of the terroir of their estate. As such, they grow all of their own grains organically, including winter rye, barley and corn. As about 90% of U.S. corn is GMO, Jeff has ensured that they grow sufficient non-GMO corn for their purposes. That is an important factor to numerous people. Harvesting is conducted from individual fields and the amount of the yield takes second place to the quality of the yield.

As they began to produce whiskey from their grains, they soon learned that their whiskies possessed distinctive notes of clove and cinnamon, indicative of the terroir of their estate. This is exactly what Jeff hoped for, that their products would be reflective of the land, water and climate of their estate. He didn't know what flavor profile that might entail until their whiskey production begun. As such, you should detect clove and cinnamon in all of their whiskies.

Most people are familiar with hearing about terroir and wine, and may also have heard the term used with certain foods too, such as cheese and tomatoes. However, some spirits can evidence terroir and I've written before about this issue. It has been said that terroir is an opportunity and the choices that are made in the production process can obscure and eliminate terroir. Not all spirits show terroir, but Hillrock is making positive choices intended to lead to their whiskies reflecting the terroir of their estate.
For their peated whiskey, Jeff has been importing Scotch peat but he has been actively seeking a local source. Unfortunately, what he has found so far have been part of protected wetlands, so inaccessible to him, but his search continues. Finding local peat sources is an issue for other whiskey distilleries in the U.S. too. I recently wrote about the Westland Distillery in Washington who were able to purchase a 60 acre peat bog though they haven't yet produced any whiskies using this peat. If Hillrock can find a local source of peat, they can enhance the terroir of their whiskey.

Another important element contributing to the terroir of their whiskey is their malting process, where they release some of the starch in their grains through a partial germination. What makes Hillrock more unique is that they have their own "one man malt house," and they may be the only distillery in the U.S. to have one. Most distilleries and brewers across the world purchase malt from commercial malters rather than make their own. Even only a few Scotch distilleries make their own malt. It is a labor intensive process, so many have found it much easier to sinply buy their malt elsewhere.

However, creating your own malt will contribute to the sense of terroir of your product. As I already mentioned, choices made in the production process have the ability to obscure terroir. The more you produce on your own, the more terroir can be reflected in the final product. It is clear that the malt they produce at Hillrock will be very different from whatever malt they could buy from a commercial malter. Few whiskey distilleries are willing to go so far, to have their own malt house, so it is indicative of a serious dedication.

In the floor malting process, barley is soaked in water and then spread out over the floor to start germination. It will remain on the floor for about two to three days and must be raked, to stir and aerate the barley, every six to eight hours for about thirty minutes. While we were viewing the malt house, two men were raking the barley. Jeff mentioned to us that all of the barley we saw would eventually be used to produce about $60,000 of whiskey.

After two to three days, the grain will be sent through a hatch in the floor and down into a kiln (pictured above). The grain will then be smoked and toasted over the course of about three days, and we got to taste some of the barley, which had a nutty and smoky taste.

There is no such thing as a bad whisky. Some whiskies just happen to be better than others.
--William Faulkner

Hillrock uses a variety of different oak barrels for whiskey maturation, including some small barrel aging, and Jeff noted that barrels may be their greatest expense. Interestingly, they are storing away about 80% of their production for extended aging. That is a significant investment, which hopefully will pay off sometime in the future, as well as a sign of confidence. They could easily sell much more whiskey now, recouping more of their investment, but instead they have chosen to think long term. Fortunately, they have the resources to store and age all of those barrels and I am eager to return to Hillrock in the future to sample those longer aged whiskies.

Their production level is low, and they only produce about one 30-gallon barrel per day, making about 60,000 bottles (5,000 cases) annually. This is a minuscule amount, especially compared to a major company like Makers Mark, which shipped 1.4 Billion cases last year. Even the annual production of the rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon whiskey is still 7000 to 8000 cases. Currently, most of the Hillrock production is sold within the Northeast region, though they hope to one day expand to the West Coast and even Europe.

The logo of the distillery has the phrase "aqua vitae" which means "water of life," referring to whiskey. The term "whisky" originated from an ancient Gaelic term, "uisge beatha," which also means "water of life."

The two dogs, Australian sheep dogs, on the logo are Jeff's dogs. Pictured above is Storm is on the left and Shadow on the right. They accompanied us into the malt house.

We spent a little time in the distilling room, learning about the process, and getting to see some of the equipment in operation.

This 250 gallon copper pot still was built by by Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Kentucky. Everything is still shiny and new-looking.

At the end of our tour, it was time for some whiskey tasting. Dave Pickerell (pictured above) is their Master Distiller, and he previously spent 14 years working at Maker's Mark. Dave also runs Oak View Consulting, assisting a number of other distilleries, such as Whiskey Pig and George Washington's Distillery. He is nationally recognized as a whiskey expert, and his services are sought out by many distilleries. He will also be in Boston in a couple weeks to present a Rye seminar at Thirst Boston. While we were at Hillrock, Dave led our tasting of three of their whiskies, and he was jovial and personable, an excellent person to spread whiskey passion. And I loved his hat!

We began the tasting with the Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey ($80), which is produced from a mashbill of 51% corn and 49% rye, and has a 46.3% ABV. This may be the only Solera Aged Bourbon produced in the country, a process that is most well known for making Sherry. The Solera system is a method of fractional blending which includes a number of different levels of barrels. On a regular basis, a portion of alcohol is removed from the barrel at the bottom level, and that alcohol will be bottled. The lower barrel is then refilled from the barrel above it, and that barrel is refilled from the barrel above it. The top barrel is filled with new alcohol once some of it is removed.

There are four tiers in Hillrock's Bourbon Solera, which they started about eight years ago. The first tier is their "nursery," which uses new charred oak barrels. The next two tiers are 53 gallon barrels, which are set in place, and never move. In the final tier, the bourbon spends about 36 days in a 20 year old Oloroso Sherry barrel. Once they bottle the Bourbon, it currently has an average age of six years. Over time, the average age of the Solera Bourbon will increase. Though the Bourbon would technically qualify as a Straight Bourbon, they have chosen not to label it as such.    

From my first sniff of this Bourbon, I was mesmerized. It possessed such an alluring nose, a complex blend of smells, and you would be tempted to simply sit with a glass and enjoy the aromas without even tasting it. However, the taste won't disappoint either, providing a complex melange of flavors, including caramel, vanilla, nuttiness, butterscotch, toffee, and plenty of spicy notes (due to all that rye), There seemed to be be mere wisps of clove and cinnamon, mostly noticeable on the lengthy finish. This was a well balanced Bourbon, impressive in its complexity and quality. and I knew I needed to purchase a bottle. Highly recommended.  

The Single Malt Whiskey ($100) is a peated whiskey made in a Speyside style, meaning it is intended to be a lighter whiskey. Interestingly, Dave usually makes bold whiskies and this may be the softest one he has ever produced, but he still really enjoys it. This whiskey spent about 8 hours with the peat, though Dave mentioned they have produced another whiskey, a "smokebomb," which spent 18-20 hours with peat. No caramel color is added to this whiskey, and all of its beautiful color is natural. I found this whiskey to be smoky and intense, with strong spicy notes, a pleasant nuttiness, some citrus notes, and more noticeable clove and cinnamon flavors. Complex and intriguing, this was an excellent peated whiskey, perfect for the fall and winter. I had to buy a bottle of this whiskey too, and it is also highly recommended.

The Double Cask Rye Whiskey ($90) is produced from 100% rye, and aged into two different types of barrels. Initially is it matured in a charred #3 barrel and then ages further in a new, American oak #4 charred barrel. The idea behind this maturation is to provide some caramel and vanilla elements to balance out the strong spiciness from all that rye. On the palate, there is still an intense spiciness, though very appealing, and balanced well with additional flavors of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, dried fruit, clove and cinnamon (which are even more prominent in this whiskey). Another winner from Hillrock.

If you travel to the Hudson Valley region, you definitely should take some time to visit Hillrock Distillery. And if you can't make it to the distillery, and are able to find their whiskies at a local retailer, then splurge. There are high quality whiskies, evocative of the terroir of the estate, and you won't be disappointed. I'm eagerly looking forward to watch the evolution of Hillrock, to see what their longer aged whiskies taste like in the future.

How well I remember my first encounter with The Devil's Brew. I happened to stumble across a case of bourbon -- and went right on stumbling for several days thereafter.”
--W.C. Fields
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The Passionate Foodie Loves Hudson Valley Spirits

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
TasteCamp At Hudson Valley: Spirits
The Passionate Foodie
by Richard Auffrey
After our TasteCamp tour and tasting at the Hillrock Estate Distillery, there was also a small tasting of spirits from a number of other Hudson Valley distilleries. Due to time constraints, I wasn't able to taste samples from all of the attending distilleries. I'm going to highlight some of the products I tasted, though know that there are numerous other worthy spirits being produced in the Hudson Valley. As the craft distillery movement grows, you'll likely see more and more distilleries open in this region.

I should note that those with a Farm Distillery License in New York must use at least 71% New York ingredients in their spirits, making them very much a local product. Other states with similar farm or craft distillery licenses also may require a significant portion of the ingredients come from the home state, though the percentage varies. For example,Washington only requires 51% of the ingredients to be from within the state.

Golden Harvest Farms is a third generation farm, located in Valatie, New York, that has 200 acres of apple orchards and grows a variety of other fruits and vegetables too. They started Harvest Spirits to produce a variety of local spirits using their excess fruit. Spirits were a product that they could create that had a lengthy shelf life, unlike cider or donuts. They are still a small operation, producing about seven different spirits that total about 1500 cases annually. Overall, they are making some intriguing fruit-based spirits, with clean, natural flavors.

Their Core Vodka is made from apples! They distill hard cider three times, using about 60 pounds of apple per 750ml bottle, and do not add any sugar or other additives. It definitely tasted like apple vodka, with a clean, natural and dry taste. It was intriguing, and I could see using it in cocktails. It would be much better than some artificially flavored apple vodka. They also make a Black Raspberry Vodka, which is their most expensive spirit at $35 because fresh blackberries are so expensive. The raspberries are macerated in their Core Vodka and then redistilled with a bit of raspberry juice added. The raspberry flavor stood out strongly, with more subtle apple notes beneath.

The Cornelius Applejack, maybe the first made in New York, is produced from distilling their hard cider, pressed in an antique apple press, twice in small batches. Applejack was a popular drink during the Colonial period, with a much stronger alcohol content than hard cider. The Cornelius tries to replicate this historic spirit, and it has an alcohol content of 40%, was aged for 2 years in 50 gallon ex-bourbon casks and then finished in 15 gallon quarter casks. Accompanying its dominant apple taste, there are notes of vanilla, caramel, and mild spice, with a smooth, lengthy finish. Very tasty and intriguing.

The Cornelius Peach Flavored Brandy is a kind of "Peach Jack," produced from peaches soaked in their Applejack. After a time, it is strained and aged in the barrel for about three years. I enjoyed the rich peach flavor with the apple accents, complemented by some vanilla and spices hints, especially on the finish. The Rare Pear Brandy, made from Bosc & Bartlett pears, is distilled twice and aged for 2 years in charred American oak. It was dry and floral, with strong peach flavors, spicy accents and a smooth taste.

The Cornelius Cherry Flavored Brandy is a kind of "Cherry Jack," produced from Bing cherries in their Applejack. After a time, it is strained and aged for a year in quarter casks. The cherry flavors were clean and sweet, and the apple notes were more prominent than in the Peach Brandy. There were some subtle spice notes along with a vanilla streak.

The Millbrook Distillery saw its origins when the Coughlin family purchased the Rolling Hills Farm in Stanfordville, New York. Together, Paul Coughlin and Gerald Valenti founded the distillery, using the corn and grains from the farm as well as natural spring water to produce whiskey. Their first product is the Dutchess Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey (about $40), which is made with a mashbill with 21%-25% rye. It had a pleasant bourbon taste, plenty of caramel, vanilla, spice and hints of citrus, with a nice sweetness to it. A smooth, easy drinking bourbon. In the near future, the distillery will also release a Barrel Strength Whiskey and a Founder's Rye Whiskey.

One of the newest distilleries in the Hudson Valley is Denning's Point Distillery, owned by Karl Johnson who opened an urban facility in Beacon, New York. They use Hudson Valley grains, and malt from the Finger Lakes region, to produce their spirits. Their Viskill Vodka is made from 100% wheat, and has a light, clean and smooth taste with a small bite on the finish. The Beacon Whiskey, made from a 100% corn mashbill, was sweet, with some caramel and vanilla notes. Their initial products show some potential, so I am intrigued to see how this new distillery develops.

The Harvest Homestead Farm, a 400 acre farm located a mile from the town center of Pine Plains, New York, has been in the family of Alex Adams for about 80 years. On the farm, a secret distillery was found, which once was a bootlegging operation for the infamous Dutch Schultz. The distillery operation had been shut down in 1932 when it was raided by federal agents. Six years ago,Alex Adams and his friend Ariel Schlein decided to start their own distillery, though a legal one, and founded Dutch's Spirits.

The Sugar Wash Moonshine was inspired by the "white lightning" once produced by Dutch Schultz. It is a 100% Cane Neutral Spirit produced in small batches from pure Demerara sugar. It is a silky smooth spirit with a mild sweetness, and subtle flavor of herbs, vanilla and butterscotch. An interesting spirit, and they also served some in a cocktail with apple cider and bitters, and that really worked well. I could see this spirit being a nice addition to your home bar. Their Peach Brandy, made from peaches from the Finger Lakes, is made in a traditional 19th century style. It is aged in toasted American oak, and presents a pleasant brandy taste, with dominant peach flavors enhanced with some spice and caramel notes.
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The Passionate Foodie Loves Hudson Valley Cider

TasteCamp At Hudson Valley: Cider
The Passionate Foodie
by Richard Auffrey
Thursday, October 30, 2014
"In early eighteenth-century New England, the most popular alcoholic drink, in terms of volume, was locally produced cider. Throughout much of this period, cider served as a currency. It was used to pay salaries and product prices could be quoted in barrels of cider."
--Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately

When Europeans settled in America, apples were one of the first crops they introduced to the country. It is believed that the first cultivated apple trees were planted in the region which would eventually become Boston, as early as 1623. Apple trees spread through the colonies and by 1647, apples were grafted onto wild native rootstocks. A significant proportion of those apples ended up being made into hard cider. By 1775, about 10% of the farms in New England owned and operated their own cider mills.

Until Prohibition, the Hudson Valley region was the unofficial headquarters for hard apple cider. However, Prohibition wrought significant changes to the orchards of the Hudson. As cider apples are usually very sour and not great for eating, many farmers chose to replant their orchards with eating apples. Once Prohibition ended, not much changed and recently, from 2002 to 2007, the number of apple orchards in the Hudson decreased by about 25%. However, change is in the air once again and this time the change is beneficial for hard cider.

As you may know, the state fruit of New York is the apple, and it is also the second largest producer of apples in the country, with Washington occupying first place. Michigan, Pennsylvania and California take the next three spots. New York though grows more varieties of apples than any other state.

In the last few years, the Hudson Valley region has seen a resurgence of apple cideries. In 2001, there were only about five cideries in the region and that number has now grown to 23. This was helped by a new law, passed in 2013, that allowed farms to operate cideries, offering them tax breaks and other economic benefits. With the growing popularity of hard cider across the country, Hudson is poised to benefit from this growing trend.

During TasteCamp, we had the opportunity to sample hard ciders from numerous cideries, and overall I was pleased with what I tasted. They generally were produced from New York apples, not juice, and most tended to be more dry than sweet. There was also some intriguing experimentation being done by some of the cideries, a willingness to expand what cider could be.

The first Hudson Valley hard cider I tasted during Taste Camp was the Dry Hard Cider (750ml/$11.99) from Bad Seed Cider, located in Highland, New York. Founded in 2011, the cidery was started by Albert, a 6th generation apple farmer, and Devin, a brewer and fermenter. Their apples are from Wilklows Orchards, a 60 acre estate located close to the cidery. For their cider, they use 100% fresh pressed apples, with a Winesap apple as the base and a mix of other varieties added into the base. It is made in small batches and is unfiltered. The Dry Hard Cider, with a 6.3% ABV, is very dry, with dominant apple flavors, and a light effervescence. It is refreshing and tasty, the type of dry cider I prefer. They also make a Belgian Abbey Cider and Bourbon Barrel Reserve, though I didn't get a chance to taste them.

The origins of this cider are a bit vague, and online searches have uncovered some different information. The Peconic Bat Winery, located on Long Island, created The Standard Cider Company to produce their True Believer Hard Cider brand. I've seen reports that they have sourced their apples from Long Island, the Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley. It seems the latest info may be that they are now sourcing from the Hudson, creating their True Believer from a blend of five eating apples, including Cameo, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji and Granny Smith. They do not apparently use any cider apples.

The True Believer, with a 7% ABV, is lightly sweet with fruity apple flavors, a medium effervescence, and some spice notes, especially on the finish. It lacks the tartness you often find in cider made with cider apples. The True Companion, also with a 7% ABV, is made with natural ginger, and that ginger aroma and taste is very strong, with fruity apple notes beneath the ginger. If you love ginger, this cider would appeal to you.

The Applewood Winery was founded in 1993, but siince the 1950s,the farm had substantial apple orchards, and they now produce both wine and hard cider. They make three different types of hard cider, under the Naked Flock label, including the Original, Draft and Pumpkin. About 2.74 pounds of apples go into every bottle of their cider. I only tasted their Draft, which is made to be a drier style, with Belgian Trappist Ale yeast and organic Maple syrup. The cider was generally dry and crisp, with only a hint of sweetness, and a rich apple taste and a fuller body. There was also a few spicy accents in the cider, almost fleeting flavors. An interesting and satisfying taste.

Some of the most interesting ciders were produced by Aaron Burr Cider, located in Wurtsboro, New York. Their small farm dates back to the 19th century and Aaron Burr was once the executor of their land, which is part of the reason for their name. They grow only cider apples, and use only foraged fruit, making them very different from the other cideries. They also wanted to replicate the ciders from the past, what they were like when cider was the most dominant drink of the region, and that is another reason they chose a name from the past for their brand.. In 2013, they produced about 9 different ciders, and most of them will age well, generally from 2-5 years.

The 2013 Homestead Cider: Neversink Highlands is produced from unsprayed wild and abandoned apples and crab apples from various east Sullivan County locations. It has a 7.6% ABV, and is very dry and crisp, with an intriguing and complex blend of flavors, from tart apple to some earthy notes. It possesses plenty of effervescence, and has a lengthy finish adding some dark spice notes. Highly recommended.

The 2013 Homestead Cider: Shawagunk Ridge is produced from unsprayed wild apples from various Bloomingburg/ Otisville area homesteads. It has a 7.6% ABV, and is semi-dry with nice acidity,and once again, a complex blend of flavors including tart apple but also some minerality.,On the finish, there were some pleasing herbal notes. This is a very good cider but I personally preferred the Neversink flavor profile.

The 2013 Homestead Perry is made from true perry pears from unsprayed wild trees along the upper Neversink River, Dry, with mild tannins and restrained pear flavors, this was a more elegant cider with a mild effervescence. On the finish, there were some floral and honey notes. An interesting taste, and I was glad to see at least one Perry during TasteCamp.

The most unusual cider was probably the 2013 Appinette, which is a blend of 70% apples (Idared, Russets and Spy) and 30% Traminette grapes. On the nose, it had Muscat aromas and it tasted to me like an apple-flavored, sparkling Gewurztraminer. Though that sounds strange, I actually found it interesting and likable. It straddles the line between cider and wine, but if you want to taste something different, though still tasty, give this a try.

The Hudson-Chatham Winery makes Olde Orchard Sparkling Apple Wine, which cannot be labeled as a hard cider as it has a 10.7% ABV. However, it drinks like a cider, with a very dry and crisp taste, tart apple flavors, a mild effervescence, and some subtle herbal notes. A very pleasing taste, it pairs well with food and would be a refreshing drink on a summer day.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vermont Wine Press Raves About the Hudson Valley

Hudson River Schooled - TasteCamp 2014
Vermont Wine Press
by Todd Trzaskos
October 28, 2014

Foliage was just passing peak here at home when I traveled a couple of hours south for TasteCamp 2014, and though I may have been a little bit reticent to leave and miss out on the last of our leaves, the reward for the short drive was an amazing and beautiful passage through a neighboring wine country. It was a vintage autumn show of color this year and if you felt the need to extend your ogling adventure, the Hudson Valley was a ripe portrait of accommodating hues and views. It was also a welcoming place that generously received our motley band of beverage and eats geeks, showing us the inside of a scene, the secret of which, is quickly getting out.
The reference material says that the paintings of the Hudson River School are founded on the themes of exploration, discovery and settlement.  They portray the relationship of human habitation in the natural world in in a way that strikes a romantic balance between the rugged and the sublime. Overlooked or looked down upon during its early period, the quality of the works have ultimately withstood the scrutiny of connoisseurs over time.
It looked pretty much like this all weekend in the Hudson Valley. Thomas Cole would have been delighted.

I think that the libations of the Hudson Valley have experienced a similar arc and where at one time they may have been viewed askance or seen as rough around the edges, they are now getting the appreciation their craftsmanship truly deserves. Over the course of less than seventy-two hours, we certainly explored much more ground than we expected, met with many happy discoveries, settled on the fact that this place was for real, and we tasted more than a few things that touched upon the sublime.
Our first stop was a Millbrook Winery, located nearly equidistant between New York City and Albany.  Consistently named the Best Winery in the Hudson Valley…as Carlo DeVito said, “they do it right.”  Well appointed facilities that retain rustic charm, attention to detail in the vineyards, and high-class wine making set the stage for very positive tasting room and event space experiences.  Their Tocai Friulano is one of a kind and a real pleasure to drink. I should have bought more…
Tocai Friuliano in the Hudson Valley? è tru fratello...ed è veramente buono. Soft and tropical with a silky delicious factor.

Millbrook treated us to a tour, a tasting of their wines and the Seyval Blancs of Clinton Vineyards, as well as a lovely buffet lunch in their fantastic old barn space..
Phylis Feder - Clinton Vineyards and a spectrum of Seyval Blanc - still, sparkling and dessert. She favors a dash of Clinton's raspberry dessert wine in the Sparkling Naturel. A Hudson Kir Imperial?

We followed up our first stop with a visit to Ribibero in New Paltz who are the new kids on the block. Tiffany Ribibero and her husband Ryan Selby stepped up to the plate when the winery renting the property owned by Harry Ribibero vacated to a new location. The family dream of running a winery themselves took shape and they recruited well known Hudson Valley wine maker Kristop Brown to join the team, and things have been expanding since.
Ribibero Family Winery- Quite the variety for a little winery. The "87 North" white blend is a crowd-pleaser and their biggest seller. The Arctic Riesling was exotic round and tropical with acidity mellowed by barrel time.

Cabernet Franc is rocking the Hudson Valley. It may not yet be the “official” red grape of the region, but it seems pretty clear that this particular vitis vinifera likes it there. It buds a bit later than Cabernet Sauvignon, which can be a safety play against spring frost, and it manages to hang well into the autumn giving producers every last heating degree day they can manage to gain before the leaves fall.  We tasted quite a range of expressions across the various wineries and one could do an entire Hudson Valley tour just to log the comparatives.
Ribibero Cabernet Franc - Dark blue fruits, herbal angles and an air of anise.

Glorie Farm - Cabernet Franc - sensitively made wine, fresh and delicate red berry flavors, and a veil of wood spice. Light-medium body weight with soft power.

Brotherhood Winery had just celebrated their 175th Anniversary the night before we arrived. They are the longest continuously operating winery in the country and one of New York State’s largest producers.
Sparkling Chardonnay that tastes this fun for $10-11...would fuel a lot of holiday parties, if you can find it.

Wrap-up at Whitecliff
Whitecliff crafts delicious wines on ground within view of shawangunk rock faces...northernmost ridge of the Appalachian mountain chain - quartz pebbles and sandstone cemented by silica exposed by the last glaciation.

We finished our first day with a stunning view and a hearty, congenial home made chili dinner at Whitecliff Winery, while tasting their Gamay and their equally lovely although more muscular Cabernet Franc.
Whitecliff Vineyards Gamay was a crowd favorite and we've already opened the one I brought home. Vigorous fresh splash of reds fruits - cherry, strawberry, raspberry - serious salivary reaction, and a long light follow-through. Screams for crispy fatty roast beast or earthy harvest veggies. I still have a Cabernet Franc in the cellar.

Our itinerary offered us a fairly respectable bedtime with enough shut-eye to leave a span for a solid breakfast at the Saugerties Diner. This would be a necessity because we had a big day ahead of us and the first stop would be a doozie.
Day 2

Hillrock Distillery is a self-contained farm-to-glass establishment that is purpose built with the singular notion that whiskey can convey a sense-of-place. Our whole party may have experienced a mass hallucination ( it’s possible…the rye, bourbon and whiskey were that good ), but I’d say we all tasted something extremely unique that day…”the writing of clove and cinnamon” in pure distillate, as expressed by the hills surrounding the malt house.
This impressive still at Hillrock is reported to have taken 1000 labor hours to manufacture.

I’m going to leave the details of the Hillrock visit to the real aficionados, so I suggest that you read Evan Dawson’s New York Cork Report Article - “Terroir in Whiskey?” and Todd Godbout’s “Discovering Hudson valley Spirits Part 1″.
Ashley Hartka - Harvest Spirits - sampling us on some fruit infused vodkas including a super tasty and fleshy peach.

As promised there was quite an array of fine distillates for the sampling, but knowing it would be a long day, I visited just a few producers, one of which was the super bright couple at Harvest Spirits who I’d met earlier this year while visiting Carlo. Their handiwork inhabits a nondescript warehouse building within a rambling orchard farm complex in Valatie, NY.  A humble steel exterior camouflages the oak capsuled treasures within. Derek Grout & Ashley Hartka make and offer Apple Jack, aged grappas, fruit infused brandies and a gorgeous pear eau-du-vie.
Top notch stuff and very reasonably priced with the Cornelius Apple Jack retailing at about $35-40 for a 750ml and the other more esoteric sips like the pear brandy costing less for the 375ml. Be forewarned, the batches are small, so check it while you can and follow up fast if you find something you like.  This is impressive artisan distilling in action, and I recommend getting some if you are in the area.
Here’s a quick bit of video taken back in the spring. I need more of the pear brandy and must go back.

Lunch Break and Hudson Valley Producers tasting at Hudson-Chatham Winery.
Dominique DeVito arranged a delicious lunch spread for the group to enjoy while tasting ciders and fruit wines from the Hudson Valley.

I was very glad to see Gerry Barnhart from Victory View Vineyards representing for the Upper Hudson Valley. His cold hardy Marquette is a serious full bodied Grenache-like wine that packs more power than many of the traditional vinifera reds grown two to three hours south of him. The VV Marechal Foch also turned some heads.
I was very glad to see Gerry Barnhart from Victory View Vineyards representing for the Upper Hudson Valley, north of Albany. His cold hardy Marquette is a serious full bodied Grenache-like wine that packs more power than many of the traditional vinifera reds grown two to three hours south of him in the NY banana belt . The Victory View Marechal Foch also turned some heads.

There were a number of fine ciders to taste that were built for modern markets but the farmstead wild foraged pours from Aaron Burr stood out as links to the drinks of our colonial heritage. Ethereal fruit notes upon earthen and skin bitter backbones remind me a lot of the Fable Farm Fermentory ciders back home in Barnard, VT.

Fruit wines should not be overlooked as lesser beverages. They shine as aperitif, desserts, and as mixilogy components. I was enchanted by the Clinton Embrace and immediately understood Pylis Feder's affection for this raspeberry dessert wine.

Who knew so many black currants were grown in the Hudson Valley?

I have a liking for Cassis and enjoyed tasting through this spread immensely. My business partner spent an extended period in Burgundy and brought back a number of liqueurs and cremes de cassis that when mixed with marc or grappa were exquisite. Glorie’s Black Currant wine had the classic green herbaceous notes that I know from my own bushes at home. The Hudson-Chatham Paperbirch Cassis was nicely balanced and tilted towards its purple tannins. American Fruits Black Currant Cordial was juicy and tart and I imagined it would do something quite  interesting in a Currant Cosmopolitan.
Kimberly Peacock pouring purple liquid worthy of royalty. Superior bright expression of the black currant fruit.

The Tousey Creme de Cassis knocked my freaking chausettes off. It surpassed any of the imports I’ve enjoyed. The secret? Four different varieties of black currants and honey from Ray Tousey’s own bees. Yet one more example of how my horizons were expanded quite broadly, in the Hudson Valley.

While some of our TasteCamp crew availed themselves of the rented bus to visit and ransack a local establishment for their stock of locally produced beverages, the rest of us loitered around the Hudson-Chatham Winery and enjoyed a sampling of the establishment’s soon-to-be-released selections of their famous Baco Noir. Carlo DeVito and his winemaker Stephen Casscles have something going on with these wines. Red wines that are light in weight, intense in flavor, and eminently friendly with cuisine of all kinds. Yes the amazing “Old Vines” version come from the Finger Lakes, but the local expressions are maybe a bit less concentrated but equally intriguing.  It’s an affirmationof the opportunity of the Hudson valley that they can grow both cool climate vinifera and cold hardy hybrids. They may be producing the best of both worlds.
Yes! More Hudson Valley Riesling PLEASE! Ben Peacock stunned us with a flight of dry and semi-dry estate grown wines. Broad, energetic and friendly expressions of Riesling that were absolutley unique. Not as slicing as Finger Lakes versions, these forced me to recognize a new bar on the Riesling spectrum. Do the NYC somms know about this yet?

TasteCamp is a whirlwind, for sure. It’s not meant to be comprehensive but it is most certainly informative and eye opening. Why more groups don’t meet like this, I’m not sure. I do agree with Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie’s “Rant” because I think the format is a great one. It does take a significant amount of volunteer organizational effort to accomplish some semblance of success, and we attendees understand and appreciate that very much. I’d say that this year, the win for all was resounding, and that many of us will be back in the Hudson Valley, sooner than later, to take another pass at this historical region which is knocking on modernity’s door.
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