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!