Sunday 20 May 2018

Hudson Valley, home of America's oldest winery and vineyard.

Wikipedia: "The Hudson River Region AVA is an American Viticultural Area around the Hudson River in eastern New York. The region is home to the oldest continuously operating winery in North America, the Brotherhood Winery, established in 1839. The oldest continuously cultivated vineyard in North America is also located in the Hudson River Region AVA, and is today operated by Benmarl Winery."

the Hudson River, deep and wide...

Not a lot of people know that. Not a lot of people know they make wine in the Hudson Valley even. In fact the Hudson could be said to be the Cinderella of New York State's winegrowing areas.The Finger Lakes is probably the most highly rated these days with Long Island not far behind. So of course we made a bee-line for the Hudson Valley on this last visit to NYC.

sometimes seems more like a lake

There are other reasons why this area comes third. In spite of there being at least two Wine Trails, the Shawangunk and the Dutchess, wineries are rather few ad far between at least in comparison to some European wine trails where vineyards are hugga-mugga with eachother in proper 'Weinstrassen.' 

or a fjord

Also, although as Wikipedia says Hudson Valley wineries benefit from their proximity to the river in mitigating winter cold and summer heat, none of them is actually on the Hudson until you get up to Hudson City, far away from the main estates.

Our day's side-trip only took us to Beacon and Poughkeepsie and the areas around but we were able to take a look at both Brotherhood and Benmarl as well as perhaps the most interesting of all, Whitecliff where they grow the 'Slotovino varieties' of Traminette and Noiret - recent hybrids developed by Bruce Reisch and others at Cornell University at Geneva, NY. They also grow the classics: Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Gamay, Chardonnay etc. and the old hybrids Cayuga, DeChaunac, Vidal Blanc and  Seyval Blanc. 

Whitecliff is a 'Legacy Member/Grower' of something called ''Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition.' Indeed we saw a lot of Cab Franc on our day trip.

We also visited the original headquarters of Kedem (they are now in New Jersey) - an interesting if industrial operation - as well as the imposing Millbrook and passing by wineries such as Stoutridge, Clinton, Glorie and the wonderfully named 'Weed Orchards and Winery.'

So here are our notes on the individual estates.


The derivation of the name Kedem is from the Hebrew Chadaish Yameinu k’Kedem — “renew our days as before” - a fitting sentiment for a family which had been in the wine trade for over 100 years. One of their scions became supplier to Kaiser Franz Josef, receiving the honour of Freiherr or Baron in 1875. Baron Herzog is the name of one of the most important lines of the present Kedem company.

The family are to this day observant Orthodox Jews and all the wines and grape juice they produce are kosher.

The story of how they survived the second world war, hidden by sympathisers is extraordinary enough but their subsequent success in the USA following immigration in 1948 under Yonah Herzog (who first joined and then bought a wine business in New York, Royal Wines) is the stuff of legends.

The original facility in Marlboro, Hudson Valley was not enough to supply the operation and other facilities in California and Bayonne, New Jersey (an enormous bottling plant and distribution centre) soon followed.

The wines produced by Kedem under different labels are numerous to say the least and some of them are very fine indeed. We tasted an excellent New York Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc at the tasting room 

and we have mentioned with pleasure the 'Jeunesse' Black Muscat previously in this blog. Kedem are also important importers of wine to the US. 

shelves in the Kedem tasting room were stacked with wines they import as well as their own production.

Many recognisable names from all over the world are available there thanks to their initiative.


Some of the wineries we saw on this day's excursion were closed when we arrived or there was sadly no time to do anything but register their existance in a drive-by. Stoutridge was one of these but Google pointed to interesting differences with most other operations. For a start they are a distillery as well as winery and their varieties (90% bought in from local growers) are interesting

Pinot Blanc
Seyval Blanc
Cabernet Franc
Pinot Noir

among others.


If Brotherhood is the oldest winery in continuous production in the US, Benmarl is the oldest vineyard in America. The winery also holds New York Farm Winery license no.1, Benmarl proudly states.

Due to road re-surfacing directly in front of the entrance to Benmarl, we weren't able to enter during visiting hours on this occasion but we were able to take a peek at the winery buildings and vineyard.

Again the choice of varieties is interesting. Baco Noir and Cabernet Franc are grown on the estate itself and Riesling is sourced from Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York and their Merlot from the the North Fork of Long Island, uniting all three major NY wine areas.

Actual tasting of Benmarl wines will have to wait for our next visit but we heard from Brotherhood no less that their Baco Noir was very good. Brotherhood no longer produce Baco Noir. Maybe these two statements are not unrelated.

Benmarl wines also include the following grapes. It is not clear how many are grown on the estate and how many brought in;

Sauvignon Blanc
Seyval Blanc 
Cabernet Sauvignon
De Chaunac

All these vineyards are in Marlboro, a name well known to classical music lovers. For 68 years, Marlboro Music has held its summer festivals at Marlboro College—a progressive liberal arts college.  Aimard, Ax, Berman, Bronfman, Browning, Canino, Cliburn, Goode, Horszowski, Lang Lang, List, Perahia, Schiff, Serkin (P and R) and Uchida have participated and those are just a few of the pianists. Names from a golden age such as Adolf Busch and Pablo Casals are also found in their back programmes. Performances by the Marlboro Festival Orchestra conducted by Casals are some of the greatest in the history of recorded sound.


The Glorie 1913 barn sits on Zion Hill
 Driving along the Shawangunk Wine Trail we passed another estate called Glorie which seems to be prominent. As well as many of the varieties already mentioned Glorie grow Chambourcin and Marquette. They make wines from their own grapes and also from many fruits grown on the farm.

 Along the road are what look like small private plots of vines. Perhaps these belong to growres who sell grapes to the local wineries or maybe they are just for private consumption like in the old country?

 It constantly amazed us that only 70 miles from Manhattan was this quiet rural region, sometimes with rally old wooden farm buildings and very old-fashioned farms straight out of William Steig's childrens' classic 'Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride.'


 We just loved the Weed Orchards and Winery sign.


 On to the oldest winery in the US, Brotherhood at Washingtonville. The sign says it was founded in 1839 but also that in 1885 Brotherhood began operation.

Brotherhood is still an important operation. We first discovered it at the London International Wine Fair in 2013. Since then Marks and Spencer no less have stocked a white and a red from this winery. It is safe to say the first time a British supermarket has had a New York wine on sale.

 The older buildings are certainly older than what you find on other estates.

Brotherhood's tasting room

 also impressive.

Brotherhood's wines look competitive. As well as the usual suspects there are fruit wines, honey wine, Sangria, spice wine and Low Calorie wines, something we've never seen before.


We've already mentioned that Whitecliff was for us at least perhaps the most interesting winery growing as they do Traminette and the elusive Noiret, both Cornell varieties.

Michael Migliore
 By good luck we were able to meet Michael Migliore who with his wife Yancey Stanforth-Migliore created the winery 'from the ground up' over 30 years ago. Michael is the most genial vigneron it is possible to meet. He wasn't expecting to have to man the tasting room and wasn't over-familiar with the credit card machine, taking frequent advice from a colleague on his cellphone which was charming. There's nothing he doesn't know about growing grapes and making wine in the Hudson valley though. 

We bought the Whitecliff Traminette of course 

and the Red Trail blend which includes 50% Noiret with De Chaunac, Frontenac and Merlot making up the other half.

vines outside the Whitecliff winery

The Migliores have bought another vineyard on the Hudson up near Hudson City.

house (rear left) and 'chaix' at Whitecliff
 Whitecliff is very much worth the journey to the aptly named village of Gardiner.


Our route then took us to the Dutchess Wine Trail where we tried unsuccessfully to vistit the Clinton winery (it is open only at the weekend).

There is of course also a Trump winery but comparisons are not possible because the Clinton estate is named after the village of Clinton not the political dynasty.


From there to Milbrook was not far but there our phone gave out so pictures from now on are from stock.

The winery is imposing, the vineyard beautifully kept.

 the owner is an amazing person called John S. Dyson. Mr. Dyson has held numerous important positions including New York Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets and deputy mayor of New York to Rudi Giuliani. He is Chairman of Millbrook Capital Management. As well as the Millbrook winery in the Hudson Valley he owns vineyards in California and Tuscany. 

As well as all this, as New York's Commissioner of Commerce, he and a colleague invented the I (heart) NY logo for a tourism advertising campaign!

It is no wonder that Millbrook has made the first wine from Friulano grapes in the USA. The story goes that Mr. Dyson discovered Friulano while in Italy one day and liked it so much he obtained cuttings from whch he now produces his Friulano Proprietor's Special Reserve wine. 

What you call a can-do guy.

Saturday 12 May 2018

You saw it here first

Frieze NY, 2018
'If you live long enough, you'll see everything' may be a truism but on a recent trip to New York, several strands heralded in this Blog seemed to come together.

the 2018 Frieze tent on Randall's Island

Take the amazing wine list at Foul Witch by Blanca at the Frieze New York 2018. Foul Witch was a pop-up restaurant at the fair and Blanca is the two-Michelin star tasting restaurant co-founded by chef Carlo Mirarchi.

The name of the Sommelier was Hugh Crickbourne. Whether he was responsible for the whole list we don't know but whoever it was has offered in a short space the following interesting items you don't find on most other wine lists;

Czech wines (from Bohemia and Moravia)
Orange wines including a Qvevri wine from Georgia
A Trollinger (aka. Schiava/Vernatch) rose
A fortified wine (under the heading 'Sherry') from Zalema of the Condado de Huelva, Andalucia
A North Fork Long Island Cab. Franc 'sans soufre'
An Arbois Poulsard.

Indeed, every wine on the list had clearly been painstakingly chosen and the reasoning behind each one was easy to see.

Next, mirabile dictu, Glinavos's Paleokairisio (or Paleokerisio as transliterated here) the brown sparkling wine from Debina and Vlahiko we have been banging on about for years. It had been seen at Frankly Wines with its Greek label on a previous trip but here it was, properly presented for the US market.

It always went down well as a beverage but no professional could see the point of it. When it should be drunk and with what. Its cidery notes were also not appreciated but here it was at the ever adventurous Flatiron Wines of New York. The girl at the till assured us it was a popular item. Not yet as popular as Mateus Rose but finally on its way.

left to right (not counting the bottle on the far left) Viuva Gomes Reserva Tinto, Arenae Malvasia Colares and Viuva Gomes Ramisco

Just to put the icing on the cake, a whole tray of Colares - red and white - also at Flatiron.