One of the best known dessert winemakers in the Hudson
Valley is David Pazdar. David is a very nice man. You have to say that when you
start off writing about David. Because his small brand is so focused, and so
driven to fun and excess, one needs to rein in the expectations he might
otherwise be the Harlequin Romance line of wines of the Hudson Valley. His wine names
would easily earn him the honor, if it was solely based on the names of his
wines, with such titillating titles as Rendezvous, Hot Sin, Forbidden Nights,
and Secret Lovers.
David’s winery is unique. He’s a one man show, that is if
you don’t count his perky wife, his adorable daughters, and his father-in-law
Tom ( a quiet, friendly sort, who is always found with the NY Post or NY Daily
News in hand, following the Yankees). But seriously, David’s winery is small
and focused. David excels at making popular dessert wines. Extremely adept at
making Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and other well-known varietals
under his “House” label, David has instead focused on a wide range of small
production, high quality dessert wines. His flavor combinations are among the
most unique in the American wine business. Chocolate wine, wines made with
chili peppers, honey and ginger, banana, and mango and pineapple are among the
unique flavors offered.
Don’t wrinkle your nose, wine snobs. David is cutting edge.
With limited capital and manpower, David, a former
industrial quality control executive (formerly of Pepsi), decided that while
numerous wineries were busy slamming their heads against one another fighting
over the limited supply of local wine lovers with offerings of Chardonnay,
Merlot, and Pinot Noir, that he instead would create a small list of dessert
wines, since the bigger wineries had eschewed them. This was the niche David
decided he would fill.
The Pazdar Winery was started in 1995 by David and Tracy
Pazdar to give consumers innovative and highly creative wines for their palates
as well as top quality varietals. The "house" label comes from the
original intended name for the winery "Chateau de la Forme Brise'™" A
name that was created back when David was still in college. It translates as
the House of the Broken Mold. They average 2-3 new wines each year. Wines are
fermented in small barrels, the largest being 60 gallons. These are generally
made from traditional grapes. The wines are very good.
In addition to using top quality grapes and other fruits
from around New York, they use the finest spices from around the world. Some of
the peaches in their fortified peach wine came from their tree. Many of the
spices they grow themselves on their property. In 2007 they planted their first
grape vines. Their first scheduled estate wines were planned for 2012-2013.
Through-out the year, David and Tracy gather ideas. Some
come from their customers, others from reading, and others from divine inspiration.
After the wines are fermenting and the farmers markets are over for the season;
the fun begins. During the winter, David takes those ideas and turns them into
reality. Using his skills and the taste palate of his wife Tracy (his chief
taster) as well as others, he develops the new wines. This takes numerous
trials, many times over a hundred. A new wine can take anywhere from a few
weeks to over 5 years to come to fruition depending on its complexity.
They produced the first chocolate wine in the world (Eden’s
Pleasure™). They were the first to win a 1st Place Scovie (an international
gourmet food) award (Hot Sin®). They now have won more "Scovies" than
any other winery in the world. Other wines winning awards have included
Summer’s Ecstasy™ (a sweet peppermint wine) and some of their fruit ports.
The winery has been featured in numerous publications
including the Times Herald Record, Wethersfield Post, Chile Pepper Magazine,
and several newspapers in Westchester County.
David is the ultimate garagiste, and a road warrior. The
winery has no tastingroom. He makes his wine in the basement and garage of
their suburban house (which he recently doubled in size through new
construction). There is no zoning in his residential neighborhood for such a
business, so David has to sell his wares on the road. David packs his car to
the brim, with little room to spare. He always drives a fuel efficient station
wagon or sport utility vehicle, because he spends so much time driving far and
wide. A Subaru Forrester was his office of necessity for many, many years. He
recently bought a new car, a very exciting moment for him. Packed to the gills,
he and Tom (with newspaper), sandwiches and thermos in hand, venture forth with
the sun just rising, onto the New York State thruway headed somewhere.
David is one of the most ubiquitous winery owners in the
Hudson Valley, possibly the state. You are as likely to meet him anywhere from
Albany down to Westchester. You can sample his wares at several farmers markets
up and down the valley. Or you can taste his wines at any one of a dozen or so
festivals and pouring events. But there is nowhere David won’t go with his
small specialized road show. Whether it’s the Empire State Plaza Farmer’s
Market or the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, David will be there to meet you in
his polo short, khaki shorts, and wire rimmed glasses. From Buffalo to
Westchester, David has poured in as many towns as some of the biggest wineries
in the state. And he’s always popular.
Knowing what David looks like and seeing him are two
different things, because getting near enough to his stand to actually meet him
is the hardest part. With his assortment of oddly titled wines, and odd flavor
combinations, his is always among the busiest stands at any show, market, or
festival. In fact many wineries will ask David at the end of day or at the end
of an event if he was up or down, because he is so exacting. At the height of
any show, regardless of where it is, David’s booth is always packed.
Firstly, he has an absolutely loyal following. At the Finger
Lakes people will make sure he is among their five or six first stops. He is a
destination at the event for them. The come to order early to make sure they
don’t get shut out. David’s wines are small production. A busy fair, and you
are guaranteed to get shut out of your favorite wine. And these people want
their wine. They know which wine it is they want, and they buy it.
Secondly, David’s labels and marketing. On the traditional
side, wines are by color or style, i.e. reds, whites, sparkling, etc. Not with
David. His wines are listed by more ethereal categories, like Chocolate,
Romance and Adventure Wines, Chivalrous Wines, Garden of Eden, and so forth.
They are also unusual in that the art on the labels is hand
drawn, such as Ravishing Sunrise, with two lovers entwined on a beach, or some
other sexy bottle like Hot Sin with a big lipstick kiss on it.
But in the end they come for the taste. David has excelled
at funky wines, but they always taste good. Try his lemoncello, it’s fantastic.
Try the hot pepper wine. Incredible. Try the cherry chocolate wine. The concept
almost makes one’s head spin, but it’s a winner…it tastes great and it sells
Another example is the original Dragon’s Fury a wine made
with chili peppers. It’s one of his best sellers. Fans will tell you that his
chili pepper wine is the ultimate compliment to pizza. And the more exotic the
pizza combination? The better the pairing! People bottle bottles. Not just one
either. And they come back time and time again. So much so, that there are now
four different labels in the line, each of which are popular in their own
right. That’s success.
Some wine snobs scoff at David. But David has been doing this for two-and-a-half decades now. He is a
full time winemaker. And his success is a testament to his hard work and the
quality of his wines. Many a wine festival has come and gone, and winemakers
compare receipts, and sometimes shake their heads. David smiles, packs up his
meager leftovers, and piles back into his overstuffed car, and rumbles on his
way to the next stop. David rarely has a bad show. If you’re lucky, you get to
meet him, and taste his wines…but you’ll have to stand in line!