Sweets for the sweet – and the dry

Whitecliff’s Yancey Stanforth-Migliore

Thirty years ago, the field at Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery in Gardiner was an empty one. Today that land is planted with more than 20 varieties of grapes, and supports one of the largest vineyards in the Hudson Valley.

Co-owners Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore don’t give tours of the Vineyard and Winery very often, but when they do, they conduct the tours themselves, so you get the scoop straight from the source. Yancey will conduct the last tour of the year this Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. The cost is $17, which includes the tour, a tasting and a souvenir glass. Reservations are encouraged.

They only conduct tours in October, says Yancey, because that’s when you can really see fermentation and winemaking going on. “The tour is not about looking at tanks and barrels,” she says. “It’s a personal tour by one of the principals who has planted the vines and swung the hammer to build the buildings. It addresses how our business has taken shape the way it has, why we grow what we grow and how we’ve gotten to be one of the wineries that’s helping to put the region on the map as a source of fine wines.”

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When they began making and selling wine in the Hudson Valley 13 years ago, she says, they faced a great deal of skepticism about the quality of wine produced in New York State, especially that from a small producer like themselves. Those preconceived attitudes are still present to some degree, says Yancey, and so she likes to point out that in 2010, at the International Wine Competition in San Francisco, Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery’s 2009 Riesling won Best in Show for white wines – an accomplishment put into perspective when considering that its Riesling beat out 1,300 white wines from 27 countries and 28 states to win that honor, judged in a blind taste test by 45 prominent judges. “People win awards all the time,” says Yancey, “but the show in San Francisco is one of the biggest and most distinguished competitions in the country. That award says that we are truly making world-class wines.”

On Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery will offer a Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting. They’ve done the event for several years now, says Yancey, but this year’s tastings will have a new twist: All the chocolates will be vegan. The inspiration came from her vegan son, she says, who works with them at the Winery now; but the tastings are meant for everyone. “First and foremost, it’s wonderful chocolate,” says Yancey. “It just happens to be vegan.”

Offerings from local chocolate-maker Lagusta’s Luscious will include bon-bons (truffles) in flavors like blueberry-and-black pepper, pomegranate, port wine and walnut, as well as some made with a red wine ganache filling utilizing Whitecliff Vineyard’s Ridgewine Red (a sweet red wine). Rescue Chocolates, another locally based vegan chocolatier, will contribute chocolates made with spicy pepper and a fig/cranberry/almond concoction, along with their Fakin’ Bacon chocolate (yes, with a smoky bacon flavor, albeit vegan). “And saltiness tends to be a really amazing combination with chocolate,” says Yancey.

“The whole concept of the event has always been to give people the opportunity to experiment with what combinations of flavors appeal to them,” she says. “If I’ve learned anything in 13 years of pouring wines for people, it’s that tastes are extremely personal.”

A variety of red wines will be offered to pair with the chocolates. “I’m not a big fan of laying down rules about what is right or wrong,” says Yancey. “We’ll give people a choice of different types of chocolates to choose between, and encourage everyone to try both dark and light. Then it’s just going back and forth, tasting between the different styles of wine and the different types of chocolates.”

Personally, she says, she has found that milk chocolate goes well combined with the fuller, dryer reds and dark chocolate pairs well with the lighter, fruitier reds. “It sounds a little counterintuitive,” says Yancey, “but that’s the fun of it.”

The vegan theme for the tastings has also inspired a plan to donate ten percent of profits from the weekend to the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. Tastings start at $10. No reservations are necessary.

Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery is located at 331 McKinstry Road in Gardiner. The last tour for the year with co-owner Yancey Stanforth-Migliore will take place on Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m. The cost is $17 for a tour, tasting and souvenir glass. Reservations are suggested. Red Wine and Chocolate tastings featuring vegan chocolates will take place on Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Tastings start at $10. For more information, call (845) 255-4613 or visit www.whitecliffwine.com.

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