First of all, shame on my followers and the greater audience of the world wide web – yesterday’s post about the mint julep was my third highest traffic day since the start of the year. So since everyone is in that kind of mood, here’s a little more on tasty adult beverages, and a secret spot to find a rare breed of them.
Most everyone has heard of Burgundy, France, or Napa Valley, California, or Chianti, Italy. But Hudson Valley Wine Country probably doesn’t ring a bell. However, it is not a shabby place for viticulture (this coming from the girl who almost refused to leave Napa Valley after living there for five months). I know it’s a stretch to compare the few wineries of this part of New York with the fine wine regions of the country, but bear with me for two more paragraphs.
The Dutchess County Wine Trail, one of a few in the Hudson River region, is a quick hop and a skip from Manhattan (accessible by train, then car), and is a picturesque and friendly place to sip cool climate wines like Chardonnay. On the East side of the Hudson River, the two wineries are about ten miles apart (not close neighbors like Napa estates), but the drive takes you through rolling hills and the small charming hamlets of this part of the Hudson Valley.
Clinton Vineyards*, the likely first stop, specializes in a hybrid varietal grape Seyval Blanc, and down the road Millbrook Vineyards and Winery crafts a very approachable Chardonnay, among other wines including an Italian-inspired Tocai Friulano and a Cabernet Franc. To emphasize the quality of these winemaker’s efforts, Millbrook’s Tocai Friulano and Clinton’s sparkling Natural, are both on the wine list at the Culinary Institute restaurant where I am currently working.
As for the experience, the vineyards are perfectly pruned and the people perfectly welcoming and knowledgeable. They take their wine just as serious as anyone else in the industry, and it shows in the quality of their releases year after year. So if you are ever in this neck of the New York woods exploring the Vanderbilt Mansion or the Catskill Mountains, the Dutchess County and Shawangunk Wine Trails are worth a visit. If you like mint juleps, you’re bound to love the wines.
*Clinton Vineyards has no association to the famous former first family. However, Chelsea Clinton did marry in the Hudson Valley and the Clinton’s favor the area, so there is plenty of signed memorabilia from them in the tasting room.
Look a little longer…