Valley has long been pooh-poohed by wine sophisticates in the Big Apple, and
while the Finger Lakes and Long Island regions have gained renown in the last
decade with vinifera-based wines, the Hudson still has its strong suit in
French hybrids, while often making vinifera wines from grapes brought in from
those two other New York regions. However, the Hudson has also become a hotbed
of the farm-to-table locavore movement, and the rise in its prestige for food
sourcing for ambitious restaurants has shone a light on its now-respectable
wine region as well.
Richard Leahy is a wine writer and consultant who has been reporting on the wines of Virginia and Eastern North America since 1986. He became well-known in the Eastern wine industry as East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management, and is the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (2000), a regional editor for Kevin Zraly’s American Wine Guide. and assisted Steve DeLong on his recent Wine Tasting Notebook. Mr. Leahy is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, professional organization of leading wine journalists based in the U.K.
Richard was the Executive Director of the Virginia Wine Experience in London in May 2007. Richard coordinates the conference program for the Eastern Winery Exposition, a major wine industry trade show for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern wine industries that takes place in Lancaster, PA annually in early March. - C. DeVito, Editor
business in New England I stopped en route in the Hudson Valley to visit some
wineries. I had hoped to visit three or four but became pressed for time and
could only do a “quickie” tour visiting one heading east and one heading west.
However both wineries were well worth the visit as I expect more of this old
region is, home to the oldest continuously operating winery in the country
Chatham WineryIn fact, Wine Enthusiast magazine recently had an article on the
Hudson Valley which mentioned the wineries as well as the locavore movement,
and one of those wineries was Hudson Chatham Winery, located about 15 minutes
south of I-90 off the Taconic State Parkway south of the town of Chatham (1900
State Route 66, Ghent, NY 12075). While the winery makes perfectly fine
vinifera wines from Finger Lakes fruit, its own vineyard is exclusively planted
to French hybrids, a common situation in the Hudson Valley due to lack of the
cold climate-moderating effect that the deep Finger Lakes or the Long Island
Sound provide in those regions that allows them to plant cold-tender vinifera varieties.
I had heard
that baco noir was a strong suit in the Hudson Valley, but the grape does not
enjoy a good reputation. However, some baco specialists (such as Henry of
Pelham Winery in Ontario) claim that if baco noir is treated with respect in
the vineyard and winery, it will provide a fine red wine, and I have seen this
happen, so I was pleased to discover that Hudson Chatham has an old vine
reserve baco that reminded me of a fine Piedmontese red like dolcetto d’Alba or
possibly barbera. On this brief visit I realized that baco noir has real
potential for top quality in the Hudson Valley, and that local wineries are
realizing that potential.
Chatham baco noir estate old vines 2010 had an impressively dark violet color,
an autumnal nose of dried cherries/plums and a bit of smoke, and smooth dark
fruits on the palate with lively acid and spice in the finish.
I was also
impressed with the seyval blanc 2012 (Hudson Valley) was very good, with an
aromatic nose of grapefruit and melon. On the palate it was zesty with vibrant
racy citrus and loads of grapefruit; a great food wine for summer.
seyval block 1 2012 was barrel fermented in French oak. The nose was complex
butterscotch with hints of pineapple. On the palate there was loads of zesty
acidity but enough toned down by oak, with complexity and fine long minerality
in the finish, a stylish wine.
excellent French hybrid wine showed that looking down on hybrids without
tasting them first is grape racism. It was a nice surprise to taste a rare
varietal leon millot 2011 (Castle Vineyard), with a nicely purple hue, clean
earthiness on the nose, with smoky cherry notes, and on the palate, a fine
fruit/oak balance with solid red fruits and a smoky finish.
A fun Hudson
Chatham wine is their Hudson River Valley Red 2012 which is a hybrid red blend
with 20% carbonic maceration and some grapes ripasso (concentrated through drying).
The nose is smoky with smoky strawberry rhubarb hints. Palate is juicy with
forward fruit, not sweet but easy and gently fruity.
wines (with brought-in fruit) were also solid. A dry Riesling 2011 (Finger
Lakes) had racy slate/flint notes with lime accents on the nose, with a palate
of solid apple fruit with a grapefruit core. The wine drinks dry but is still
I was also
impressed with the cabernet franc 2011 (Long Island) for a tough year; it had a
light cherry nose, fragrant strawberry juice, light but clean and fresh.
I was even
more impressed with the merlot 2011 (Long Island) with 24 months in 2 year old
French oak. The nose is clean cherry with sage; on the palate it’s juicy and
fresh and forward but dry; stylish.
both versatile and consistent in quality. His cabernet sauvignon vintage port
2009 had classic cassis with smoky juiciness on the palate with fine tannins
and well-balanced acid.
best red was the Empire Reserve 2010 (Merlot from Long Island, Cabernet Franc
from Finger Lakes, and Baco Noir from the Hudson Valley). Bottled after 2 years
and aged 6 months in the bottle, the nose has lots of cherry and dark bass
notes of clean forest floor. The palate is closed but elegant, with a fresh
Italian feel; stylish and promising.
original and impressive thing I tasted at Hudson Chatham was a cider from a 100
year old orchard with heirloom varieties. The nose was fine and complex but
elegant. On the palate, it was vibrant with fine acid, fresh and crisp, but
resembling champagne more than most commercial ciders, with a lively bead and
tight fruit/acid balance.
departing Hudson Chatham I had to drive to Rhode Island but returning en route
to Pennsylvania I made a point of stopping in the Black Dirt fields of Warwick
Valley near the New Jersey state line to visit the winery named after the
Valley, which also produces Doc’s Cider.
(apple and pear) are a commercial success distributed in 22 states but I’m much
more impressed with the still wines, and most especially the distilled products
which are the best for quality/price ratio I’ve yet seen.
As at Hudson
Chatham, Baco Noir is the local varietal star. As a table wine, it makes Black
Dirt Red (NV) which is an unoaked, off-dry juicy quaffable and versatile wine.
The nose is lovely clean black cherry and roses. On the palate, it is juicy and
fruity with lots of zesty black cherry as good as any unoaked chambourcin.
successful baco product at Warwick Valley is Winston’s Harlequin Port made in a
ruby style and fortified with New York brandy. The nose has chambourcin-like
cherries, lots of spice and smoke, but clean. On the palate, the port is juicy,
rich and lively with black cherry, pepper, oak hints and a clean finish.
for the star of the Warwick Valley line, the distilled products.
Pear Liqueuer (18%) finished in oak. Nose: amazing pear and spice but no harsh
heat. Palate: smooth, some sugar, nice complex oak nuances in finish. Original,
Currant Cordial (18%) Nose: wow! Amazingly vibrant fresh currants. Palate:
juicy, zesty, bursting with lively fruit/acid balace, juicy and full but fresh
(40%). Nose: subtle and fine, no hot alcohol esters. Palate: incredibly smooth,
no coarse or burning texture, just smooth and fine all the way. Great value for
$15/3735 ml. Gold medal in a major competition this year.
For a winery
seemingly out on the edge of nowhere, Warwick Valley has a lot to offer, as
does the Hudson Valley as a whole.
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