Yes, it’s November, and this is the season our thoughts gravitate to ski slopes and holiday travel to the homes of family and friends.
But not this year. As I write this column, the leaves are still on the trees; many are still green. We haven’t had a hard frost; thoughts of an Indian Summer faded weeks ago. Perhaps this is why I haven’t undertaken, or even planned, my perennial fall trip to several Hudson Valley wineries. We are fortunate to have in our backyard a number of world-class wineries, replete with tasting programs and fall activities to invigorate the most adventurous of us.
I encourage you to take advantage of these remaining days of mild temperatures and still-changing foliage to embark on a weekend drive up the Taconic Parkway or the New York State Thruway to enjoy a day at one of our local wineries, taking in the beauty and bounty of the Hudson Valley.
About an hour from northern Westchester is where the rolling hills of New York meet the lush vineyards of California’s Napa Valley. There are several prominent wineries in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties that will sate your appetite for an escape from life’s everyday obstacles with a relaxing and rewarding experience on a personalized level. At these wineries you can inhale the scents of wet and colorful leaves as well as the musty odor of fermenting grapes. The staffs are professional and are ready to assist you in discovering the exceptional wines produced in our backyard.
I recommend these wineries for a leisurely Saturday or Sunday afternoon drive, beginning with a quick stop at your favorite gourmet deli for picnic provisions. A few of my favorites along the Taconic: Millbrook Vineyards and Winery in Millbrook, Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners and Cascade Mountain Winery in Amenia. Call or check online for directions and hours.
Cross the span of the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to the Harriman exit of the Thruway to any of the 15 wineries along the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Notable wineries to visit include Benmarl Winery, Glorie Farm Winery and Warwick Valley Winery. Stoutridge Vineyard in Marlboro has recently expanded its production to exceptional artisanal spirits.
While there are excellent representations of familiar grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, the local hybrids are the stars. Varieties such as Seyval Blanc, Baco Noir, Traminette, Marquette and Chambourcin produce unique aroma and taste profiles that are popular in tasting rooms across the region.
Here’s a taste of two of these fine wineries.
Millbrook Winery, off the Millbrook exit of the Taconic, offers an area with several picnic tables in the midst of maturing grapevines and a small pond. Purchase a bottle of the signature Cabernet Franc or Tocai Friulano wines at the retail shop and you’ll be transported to an idyllic day deep in Napa Valley. The Cabernet Franc is reflective of the climate and geography of the area: ripe, redolent with red fruits and a lush finish. The Tokai has a fresh, almost tropical fragrance that is a perfect white wine for quaffing on a sun-filled autumn day on the hillsides of the winery.
At Benmarl Winery, grapes have been grown since the 1700s on this 37-acre estate overlooking the Hudson River. Relax in the European-style courtyard and view the sweeping vistas from the mountain-top location. Popular wines include the Baco Noir and the Seyval Blanc. The Baco Noir is a medium bodied red wine and has a spicy feel with a pleasing finish. The Seyval Blanc, according to the winery description, is “bursting with aromas of ripe apricot, white flower and hints of wet stones and grass leading into crisp, lingering flavors of green apple and lemon before finishing with a bright, balanced acidity.”
We are blessed in Westchester to be logistically located to enjoy the bounty of the Hudson Valley. A late season trip to local wineries is an intoxicating adventure to appreciate the wonders of nature at her best.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.