Wednesday, November 5, 2014

TasteCamp: The Hudson River Region AVA

Benmarl Winery & Vineyard
Millbrook Vineyards
View from Glorie Farm Winery


Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery








Although my first posts concerning TasteCamp focused on cider and spirits, the Hudson Valley wine industry was the primary focal point of the trip. During the weekend, I probably tasted close to 75 New York wines, with about half  Hudson River Region (HRR) designated. Leading up to the weekend, I gained a better knowledge and appreciation of the Hudson Valley by participating in a #WineStudio series focusing on the region. For instance, the Hudson Valley is home to the oldest continually operating winery in the U.S. (Brotherhood America's Oldest Winery) as well as the oldest continually used vineyard, now part of  Benmarl Winery & Vineyard. Wine making did not return to the Hudson in a commercial sense, post prohibition, until the Farm Winery Bill was passed in 1976. The drivers of that project were John Dyson - the State Commissioner of Agriculture - and owner of Millbrook Vineyards & Winery and John Miller of Benmarl. By utilizing estate grown grapes (amended two years later to allow any NY grapes), New York wineries received lower taxes, the ability to sell directly to consumers, and to self-distribute. And as importantly, it encouraged the retention and growth of vineyards. Thus, the New York wine industry owes its current renaissance to two pioneers in the Hudson.

In most cold climate regions, French-Hybrids usually dominate and in the HRR, Seyval is a leading white grape. Before this weekend I think the only Seyval I tasted that left an impression was from Linden Vineyards. In most other cases they were just average nondescript wines. However, I tasted several tasty Hudson Valley Seyvals - starting with Clinton Vineyards - who not only, only produce wine from Seyval, but they also produce champagne methodoise versions. These were quite nice, citrus and effervescent. Hudson-Chatham Winery and Glorie Farm Winery both featured Seyval that were dry, light, fruit forward, with a lemon-citrus and acidic finish. And the Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery White Awosting is a very tasty blend of Vignoles and Seyval Blanc. Another benefit of these Seyval wines are their low price points, $15 on average.

But, let's talk Hudson River Region vinifera. Starting with whites, I tasted several nice Rieslings over the weekend, with most produced from fruit sourced from the Finger Lakes. The exception was Tousey Winery, where we were provided a vertical tasting of their 2011 to 2013 Estate Grown Hudson River Rieslings. These wines were fantastic, each different, but showcasing the stone fruits and acidity inherent and American Riesling. Owners Kimberly and Ben Peacock have an interesting story as well, agreeing to take over operations while visiting from Europe. It also helps that Peter Bell, of Fox Run Vineyards, is a consultant. Millbrook Vineyards & Winery also produces a HRR Riesling in their Dry Riesling Proprietor's Special Reserve -- another solid wine. Millbrook also produces a very respectable chardonnay, as well as one of my favorites of the weekend - the 2013 Proprietor’s Special Reserve Tocai Friulano. Simply delicious. And talking about trendsetters; Millbrook has been growing Tocai Friulano since 1985.

Moving to red wines, the Hudson River Region appears to be a bright sport for Cabernet Franc and Baco Noir. Once again Millbrook Vineyards & Winery provided our party with a solid offering in their Proprietor’s Special Reserve Cabernet Franc. This was followed by the Glorie Farm Winery estate Cabernet Franc - which quickly became a TasteCamp favorite. And count Tousey Winery as another winery producing a solid cab franc. While driving around the Marlboro area the day after TasteCamp, I stumbled upon newly opened Brunel and Rafael Winery. Check out their Hudson River Region Cabernet Franc. My favorite goes to Benmarl's 2012 Ridge Road Estate Cabernet Franc. This is the bomb. One of the best wines of the weekend.

Our host for TasteCamp was the proprietor of Hudson-Chatham Winery, Carlo Devito. Carlo planned the entire weekend, which included a lunch tasting of area wines and ciders at his winery - all this in the middle of harvest. While his winemaker Stephen Casscles & crew crushed grapes, Carlo also opened his entire portfolio for us to sample. And this included several Baco Noirs, Carlo's most famous wines. There are not many producers of this hybrid anymore, but Hudson-Chatham specializes in Baco Noir as we sampled four vineyard designate wines. The estate vineyard at Hudson-Chatham,  North Creek Vineyard, has four year old vines growing in Block 3 - hence the Block 3 North Creek Vineyard Baco Noir. The also produce theCasscles Middle Hope Baco Noir  from a vineyard Casscles planted while in high school. What foresight. My favorite two were from Mason Place Vineyard, the  Field Stone Baco - Old Stones & Old Vines - Mason Place Vineyard and the Old Vines Mason Place Vineyard. This last wine is outstanding, the grapes harvested from 60 year old vines.

There were also several other reds to praise, in particular, the Hudson-Chatham Winery Chelois, Clearview Vineyard Noiret, and Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery Reserve Gamay Noir. First, who in the U.S. even produces a Chelois outside of Hudson-Chatham. Second, its a killer wine.  The Clearview Noiret was easily the best I've ever tasted from this Cornell bred grape. And the Whitecliff Gamay Noir was simply spectacular.

There are many other wines I know I am omitting, but I'm trying to be brief. Tastecamp was a great education and experience. Looking forward to returning soon, hopefully a tour of the southern Shawangunk Wine Trail. Cheers.
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