Hudson Valley Distilleries
2007 was a Milestone year in New York. That was the year that the New York State Farm distillery law was passed. Prior to this it took a substantial amount of money to open up a distillery in New York State. However, the New York Farm Distillery law, enabled small distilleries to open up all across New York State for the first time since Prohibition.
The Hudson Valley was one of the very first communities to benefit from this. Ralph Erenzo co-founded Tuthilltown Distillery in Gardiner NY, near New Paltz and at the same time Brian MacKenzie founded Finger Lakes Distilling and Long Island Spirits opened in the North Fork. The party had started!
New York State now ranks second among states with the most distilleries. New York has well over 120 distilleries and counting. California and Washington State also benefit from similar legislation.
Here in the Hudson Valley we have a very vibrant distillery scene from Westchester County, Warwick, New Paltz and up to Albany. We are making everything from vodka, gin, whiskey and liqueurs made from local ingredients. We also make rum and other spirits from non-local ingredients. Some of these items are not being sampled or for sale in tasting rooms since they don't qualify as made with local ingredients.
As far as the local NY ingredients used there are several options for the base alcohol. Grain will make vodka, gin and whiskey. Apples will make vodka, gin, applejacks and brandies. Harvest Spirits pioneered this maket early on in 2008. Corn will produce vodka, gin and be the major part of Bourbon. Grapes will make brandy. Now grapes are used more for wine. But in the beginning of distilling history in the US, grapes were planted before grains for spirits. And we even have some distilleries doing their own malting like Hillrock in Ancram. We'd be happy to give you a whiskey tour - leave the driving to us!
The Hudson Valley even has its own whiskey trail. With so many options it is broken down by regions, Northern Hudson Valley, western Hudson Valley in Catskills, Central Hudson Valley and Southern Hudson Valley.
With so many options it's hard to say what is the best Hudson Valley distillery. It's really up to you. First you need to decide what type of spirits you like. You will experience a vast variety of spirits and distillery types. For more of the barn feel we like Coppersea Distilling at the bass of the Mohonk Preserve. For the most variety of spirits head to Stout Ridge in Marlboro. There are literally 45 different spirits at any give time with new ones always being produced. Black Dirt in Orange County has a great social scene. For you apple based spirits visit Harvest Spirits which makes Core Vodka.
You will also find breweries and wineries that are distilling now as well under one roof. We like Arrowood Farm for this. As I write this their first batch of Bourbon is still barrel aging. I like their vodka and gin so much that I use it at my restaurant, Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville.
With a very active distilling community it is possible to mix a distillery into your wine or beer outing. And if you're all about the spirits then you've got just as many options as wineries. Wherever you go make sure you check their website first for hours and policies, especially when it comes to groups.
It's no secret that the Hudson Valley is booming with wineries, distilleries, and breweries. Maybe that's because the Hudson Valley is the oldest wine region in the United States. Or maybe it's because of our proximity to New York City. And of course, it could be the quality of the wine being produced in this upstate region of New York state.
And now we are hearing more and more about the producers in the Catskills. If you did a quick Google search for wineries in the Catskills you'd be a little confused. A lot of the search results will yield Hudson Valley wineries. And then the more you search the more confusing it gets. I guess the real question is where are the Catskills in relationship to the Hudson Valley? And are some of the Catskills located in the Hudson Valley? Being a lifelong resident of this area I consider there to be an overlap. However, in my area I see the Shawangunk Mountains as the meeting point. As I refer to the Catskills it'll be everything west of the Shawangunk mountain range.
In a historical sense of the Catskills you would think of the long legacy of kosher hotels and resorts. And the most popular wine being served for decades was Manischewitz. I'm gonna talk about the new Catskills!
This map of the Catskills will narrow our options down a bit. Places like Eminence Road, Bear Pond winery, Middleburg Winery, Blue Sky Farm and Winery and the Vineyard at Wyndham. And we can't forget Basahkill Winery located on the base of the western side of the gunks in Sullivan County. All of these wineries are spread out a bit compared to the Shawangunk Wine Trail in the Hudson Valley.
Some of these wineries grow their own grapes and/or others rely 100% on the bounty of New York State grape growers. And then some grow their own estate Grapes and Source from regions like the Finger Lakes and Long Island.
Bear Pond Winery being the northern most winery in this region is located in Oneonta. They are located on the Cooperstown beverage Trail. Here you will find wineries, breweries and cideries. This trail includes the famous Ommegang Brewery and has a total of eight stops in that area. Don't forget the Baseball Hall of Fame while you are there. And for luxury accomadations look at the The Otesaga Resort Hotel right on the lake.
In the north eastern part of the Catskills you have Middleburg Winery, Located in Middleburg New York. They make about 20 wines here but include New York State varietals and hybrids as well as Riesling and Cabernet Franc.
Don and Tonda Dunbar Found this property in 2014 and planted 400 grapevines as a retirement project. And in 2017 they added an additional 800 vines. All of their wines are made from their estate grown grapes only. So be patient if they're out of your favorite wine. The tasting room is open from Friday to Monday. Their website also says you're welcome to visit by appointment only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
While you're there check out the Schoharie County beverage Trail. There's around a half a dozen stops including our favorite vodka producer, 1857.
The Russ Family started Blue Sky Farm in the late 90s. They have since added a winery. But not your traditional winery. They added the word winery to their name after a few years in business. They were a “you” pick blueberry farm. After a surplus of blueberries one year the Russ family start experimenting making blueberry wine. Yes, blueberry wine! It was such a huge success that they had to expand the farm. Now you can find their blueberry wine in many retail liquor stores in the Catskills. They make four different styles of wine from dry to sweet. There once again are 100% blueberries.
Next stop is the Vineyard at Wyndham. This winery is located on 4 acres overlooking Wyndham Mountain. And this is about a 30 minute drive from the Kingston, New York I87 Thurway exit. This part of the Catskills is very popular for skiing. However, this winery is definitely making their mark as a destination here. Each winery seems to have their own theme or twist. Here you will find that they make their own wine as well as sourcing Some of the best rated wines throughout New York from the Finger Lakes to the North Fork of Long Island. This tasting room is set up to enjoy flights of their house wine or you can enjoy other great New York wines like Dr Frank, Sparkling Point, Paumonok, Hermann J. Wiemer, Silver Thread, and others.
This winery currently operates only on reservations. To keep with a New York theme they do offer local cheese and charcuterie. Grab a bottle, some cheese and enjoy the view.
Andrew Scott and Jennifer Clark started the home wine making hobby in 1996 in New Jersey. Both of them were commuting to Manhattan as most people do in Metro NY area. However, the home wine-making passion kept growing. And in 2007 they moved the hobby to a barn in upstate NY. And this Long Eddy location quickly obtained a New York State winery license. And in 2008 was their kick off vintage of Eminence Road.
Eminence Road sources all the grapes from well-known vineyards in the Finger Lakes. They've created a style of sustainable, natural, unfiltered and natural yeast wines. They currently make about a dozen different wines in very small batches. Each wine average is between 25 and 100 cases. This winery does not have a tasting room and does not accept visitors. The good news is their wines are available throughout the state at fine Wine shops and restaurants.
Paul Deninno purchased a plot of land on the Bashakill Preserve in hope of opening a boat launch. Paul had also just gotten back from Napa. And in hopes of leaving his day job he was throwing around some ideas. And Bashakill Winery was born in 2005. Paul's passion for wine quickly turned into award winning vintages! He grows grapes on his property which is a microclimate and he sources grapes from trusted growers in the Finger Lakes and Long Island wine country.
Bashakill Winery instantly became a fun spot to hang out at. Paul would have bottling parties that were a huge hit. His outdoor pizza oven's attracted people. And he incorporated live music into the mix.
Paul's wife Samara now runs the kitchen and produces amazing casual food. It's probable some of the best food you can find at a winery.
Paul also started brewing beer a few years ago. Pending upon the time of the year you will find his beer or other local craft beers on draft. His Lavender infused wine is a huge hit and his Cabernet Franc is consistently amazing every vintage.
Go to their website for their tasting room hours. They are closed during the winter and get very busy in season. It is guaranteed to be a great time! They are also very close to the Shawangunk wine trail we can find another dozen wineries or so.
As I mentioned in the beginning the Catskills are a hotspot for all kinds of beverage producers. That's just a rundown of the current wineries. Enjoy your time in the Catskills! And remember, if you need transportation to the wineries, give us a call!
Did you know that the oldest wine region in the United States is the Hudson River region? Yes, that's correct. Almost 300 years ago Huguenots settled in the Hudson Valley. And they brought their wine culture with them. Ben Marl Winery holds the claim of the oldest vineyard and Brotherhood Winery as the oldest winery. Currently, there are around 70 plus wineries in the Hudson River Region. The region starts just North of NYC and goes to the Albany area. It also crosses state lines in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It's just a small area. And it peaks into New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Now one may ask what can you expect from all of these wineries? To be specific, what grapes are growing here. And I would say where do I start. The Hudson River Region has no designated grape rules like Tuscany, Bordeaux, or Rioja. Those are old-world wine regions that have limitations on the grapes they are allowed to grow by the governing body. The US doesn't have strict regulations. It's really up to the winemaker what grapes they can grow and use. Of course, there is lots of logical thought as to what grows best in our environment. But sometimes you don't know until you plant a row of Tempranillo if it's going to do ok. And it may take 7 years to actually drink the wine from when the vine was planted.
Now Cornell University can assist in this process. They have made many hybrid grape varietals that fare better in NY's cold Winters.
Before Cornell came along, wineries grew the native grape varietals like Concord, Niagara, and Catawba. These are juice grapes and sometimes wine grapes. This is what Manischewitz would use.
There are three main species of grapes in New York, The native varietals, the European, and the hybrid. Native varietals are Concord, Niagara, and Catawba. These are primarily juice grapes. However, companies like Manischewitz use them for wine. Next for the European varietals, you have grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, etc... And then the hybrids that are designed for our climate like Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch, and so on...
It's super easy to recognize a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, etc... However some of those grapes mentioned above you probably never heard of. And you may never hear them. But you might have consumed them in wine. Some wine-makers use them just to blend.
These wine grape varietals can get technical. Why don't I just mention some of my favorite Hudson Valley wines.
Millbrook makes a great Friulano. They are the only ones that I know of that make this. They grow it themselves. It is a varietal that is famous in Italy. Their Pinot Noir is a must try as well.
Whitecliff Vineyards is known to use Gamay. This is the famous group that makes Beaujolais. Their Merlot and Malbec blend is also a must try.
Bashakill Winery makes a wine called Lavender White. It's Cayuga infused with local Lavender. Other infused wines include Maganninis Mirtillo, Seyval Blanc and Cranberry Juice.
When it comes to Cabernet Franc you can't go wrong in the Hudson Valley. Many wineries make a great version of this. However, Glorie Farm Winery’s Cabernet Franc has pulled some impressive awards at the Annual Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival. I should know, I'm one of the judges that gave it an anonymous high score.
If you like French inspired wines, specifically Bordeaux then you have some options. Several wineries will make this. Clearview Vineyard makes Monet, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Even Petite Verdot is made here by Robibero. The grapes are grown in Long Island.
I remember Pinot Grigio from Warwick Winery that I liked a few years ago. It had a little bit of skin contact that gave it a slight pink complexion.
Stoutridge is making some great natural wines. I was impressed with their Cayuga. It was verified bone dry and was 12 years old on release. I didn't know what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised.
Don't worry there probably is a style out there for you from sweet to dry. Speaking of sweet, Riesling, Vidal blanc or Vignoles will fit that bill.
As this wine region keeps growing and evolving I'm sure more grape varietals will be used. And of course, I know I have missed very many varietals in this post. I know I'll be on the lookout for more!
I Know the Best Hudson Valley Wine
As a restaurant owner and wine lover I often get asked what is the best Hudson Valley Winery. To be honest with you, That's a tough question. There are lots of factors that go into deserving the title of best. And let's face it, it's totally subjective. But while we're on the topic let's jump in...
The Hudson Valley region of New York State is home to around 70 wineries. Our claim to fame is that we have the country's oldest vineyard and oldest winery Right here in the Hudson Valley. Ben Marl in Marlboro holds the title of the oldest vineyard. A vineyard is the land that grows the grapes. Then, Brotherhood Winery holds the title of the oldest winery. And yes a winery is the place that actually crushes, ferments, ages, and bottles wine. Brotherhood is located in Washingtonville, New York. You can actually visit both of these wineries on the same day. They are just 20 minutes from each other in the mid-Hudson Valley near Newburgh.
If it was Prohibition and you were asking the same question, what's the best Hudson Valley Winery? The answer would be simple. It would be Brotherhood. Because they were the only winery operating during prohibition. The Catholic Church was exempt from prohibition laws. Which led Brotherhood winery to have the Catholic church contract during this time.
Let's face it you don't go to church for high-quality wine. Let's look at the current winery situation in the Hudson valley nearly 100 years later. Currently, the Hudson Valley grows around 35 different grape varietals. This automatically gives us 35 different wines being produced locally. But each wine will be expressed differently by the winemaker. Many factors can determine the expression of the grape varietal. This could be when the grape was harvested, the length of fermentation, the amount of skin contact, the yeast, and the aging process of the wine. The aging process can include the amount of time spent in stainless steel, oak barrels (if used at all), the age of the oak barrels, and/or bottle aging. And don't forget many grapes can make white, rose and red wine. A great example of this is Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir grape can be used to make a white sparkling wine, a rose wine, and of course the common red version. That's 3 totally different wines from one grape before we start considering the winemaker's personal touches.
I think you know what I'm getting at here. You probably haven't tasted all the wine offerings from the Hudson Valley. I would say that I haven't either.
The bigger question is who's to dictate our personal choices in wine? This is where picking the best Hudson Valley Wine gets fun. To name one wine as the best in the Hudson Valley is impossible. Sure a particular wine can get an award, a great rating from Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, or Robert Parker. Or Maybe Gary Vaynerchuck threw a great rating out there once on his famous Wine Library TV show.
It all comes down to how you like it. But let's talk more about the moment of enjoyment.
The true enjoyment of wine comes from the cumulation of appreciation at that moment. It's possible to have the same wine twice and have two totally different opinions on it.
This can be due to many factors, the glass itself. Certain shaped glasses open or hide aromas. The temperature of the wine. Who you are with. The food you are eating or not eating with the wine totally turns the tides. And even the location of the consumption.
Let's focus on the location. After all, we are in the picturesque Hudson Valley.
My recommendation to get the best out of the wine tasting experience is to visit the winery. Almost every winery in the Hudson has some sort of official tasting room. Because the majority of the wineries are small family run operations you'll have a chance to meet either the owner or the winemaker. And in many cases that would be the same person. Now add to that the view. Picture yourself sitting on a vineyard with a great view of the Shawangunk mountains or overlooking the Hudson River. It can be a spring day where the buds are breaking on the vines. Or it could be an early fall day with the grapes sitting on the vine with full ripeness waiting for the harvest. Tasting wine in this environment will give you a different appreciation for the wine. And these are memories that you will hold onto every time you take a sip of that wine no matter where you're drinking it. Even if you stumbled across that same bottle in the famous Napa Valley wine region, Tuscany or a beach bar in Florida it will evoke a memory.
Finding the best Hudson Valley may take a bit of work. But most people are up for the challenge of winery and vineyard tours to sample wine. Our car service can help you tour the Hudson Valley vineyards!
Now here is where it gets fun! More and more wineries have food menus and some a full restaurant like Magnanini Winery. Lots of wineries like Bashakill Winery, Palaia and Robibero have live entertainment like music. Ben Marl has great views of the Hudson River and Whitecliff looks up at Minnewaska State Park & Mohonk Preserve. Clearview Vineyard will take you to the top of the mountain in the Black Dirt area of Orange County. Many have great festivals like Millbrook Winery. Check out Glorie Farm Winery far more than wine. They are a full out farm.
How about if your group isn't into wine. Yes, let's not hold that against them. Places like Applewood have wine and cider. Stoutridge will have natural wine and dozens of spirits. And don't forget the famous fruit wines from Baldwin.
Basically the search for the best Hudson Valley Wine is a lot of fun. It will take you on a journey from Westchester County to Albany on both sides of the Hudson River. It will take you two beautiful farm houses, barns, a garage, inconspicuous buildings of all sorts, warehouses and wherever else a winemaker is living out their passion. And if you want a crash course on Hudson Valley wine tasting then make sure you make it to the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival. This is a 20 plus year old festival in Rhinebeck NY. You can taste all the wine you could handle in a weekend and buy bottles to take home.
And the best part is you get to repeat this process every year! Every year is a different vintage! Cheers and here’s to finding your best Hudson Valley Wine!