Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the Hudson Valley the New Burgundy?

(Today, my guest writer is none other than Carlo DeVito, co-owner of the Hudson-Chatham Winery. I write this in full disclosure, because some of the viewpoints included here are from my viewpoints as a news source, but also as a participant in the wine industry as a maker and purveyor. I truly try to keep these two roles as separate as possible, but in this instance they are so married together, so inter-connected, that the separation of these strings of thought cannot be un-wound in my small mind. I beg your indulgence.)

Now before you tell me whoa! No one is ever going to mistake the Taconic Parkway for the charming back roads of Burgundy. No one on the Hudson River has a charming barque and a rakishly tilted baret. Where’s the baguette?

However, few regions can boast such an absolutely gorgeous valley. Few regions can boast as many wonderful little wineries, as many creameries and CSAs, as the Hudson Valley. And we not only have hundreds of exceptional restaurants, but the CIA to boot. The Valley is a food and wine mecca like nowhere else in New York state or the east coast.

But more than this, the best wines, especially the reds, seem, more and more, to be from the Burgundian tradition. Recently, the New York Cork Report chose the following wines for their Best Wines of the Year from the Hudson Valley.

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2009 Baco Noir Reserve
Millbrook Winery 2008 Block Five East Pinot Noir
Oak Summit Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir

Add to these, some of the other better wines these fine gentlemen missed, such as:

Benmarl Baco Noir
Whitecliff Gamay Noir
Brimstone Hill Vin de Rouge
Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir Old Vine
Brotherhood Pinot Noir
Warwick Valley Black Dirt
Millbrook Pinot Noir

All these wines, made from Hudson Valley fruit, start to paint a picture of red wines of a Burgundian tradition. It seems to me that currently the Valley seems to be finding its true identity. And these wines are excellent wines and of great value. I have talked to several growers, and I can tell you that myself and others are leaning towards plantings of Gamay Noir, more Baco Noir, and more Pinot Noir.

I am not suggesting that these are the only good red wines in the Valley. I like almost everything Cereghino-Smith makes, but they are an anomaly, in that they are not growers (that doesn’t mean I hold anything against them, I love their wines). I like Millbrook’s Cabernet Franc. I like a lot of other reds. But if one is looking to find out what the terroir of the Valley is, it is to make soft, approachable reds. These are eventually the reds I believe that will help forge the identity of the valley as separate and distinct.

Personally, I always dreamed of making a big Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot. A Robert Parker fruitbomb par excellence. But in order to make the best red wine the land itself will give you, you have to bend your back a little, or you will miss it.

From the time since Stuyvesant ruled the sate with all the powers of a supreme ruler, people in the Hudson Valley have struggled to make Bordeaux styled wines. And some of the best wines in the Valley right now are made with grapes from the Finger Lakes or Long Island. Nothing wrong with that. I drink a lot of them.

But people outside the Valley, who are asking for Hudson Valley fruit in the bottle, are talking about our most approachable reds. These seem to be the ones breaking through. People are doing a double take and saying, “Wow!”

If one needs to examine the successes of the Valley one needs to look no further than the little rock walls and hedgerows of the Hudson Valley. Have a nice wedge of Hudson Red or a little button of Coach Fresh Chevre or a square of Old Chatham Sheepherding Camembert, some fresh hardy bread from Our Daily Bred in Chatham, an apple from any one of the Valley’s apple farms like Golden Harvest or Goold’s Orchards, and a bottle of soft red wines above and see why the future of the Hudson Valley lies somewhere near the Cote-d’Or.