The Hudson Valley has been called the Napa Valley of the East, but maybe it should be the other way around. In 2010 Whitecliff Vineyard Riesling, grown in Gardiner, won Best White in Show at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. That means that all 45 judges awarded it a gold medal in a blind tasting, equaling a double-gold distinction. Each double-gold was tasted once more, and the Riesling was judged best of the best. In case you don’t know how loud to crow, that wine beat out 1,300 competitors.
It’s high time for the Hudson Valley to be taken seriously as a world-class wine producer. It has got great soil and a climate among the most challenging for growing wine grapes, true; but when it’s good, it’s very, very good. The region supplied almost all of the Northeastern states’ table and wine grapes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before switching to apple production on account of Prohibition, said Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery owner Yancey Stanforth-Migliore. “Winemaking is really a return to our roots,” she said. “There are world-class wines made in the Hudson Valley, and that’s been one of our motivations from the very beginning: to get the region taken seriously. It took years of people getting enthusiastic about local food before that began to rub off on wine.”
Oenophiles, here’s your chance: Whitecliff Vineyard hosts this year’s Bounty of the Hudson wine and food festival on Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28. It’s the only wine event that I know of that exclusively features Hudson Valley wineries: no Finger Lakes, no Long Island and certainly no Napa Valley. The event is sponsored by the Shawangunk Wine Trail, a volunteer organization promoting the region’s fine wines. Fourteen member wineries and at least six guest wineries will attend, offering tastes, pours and wines for sale by the bottle or case. This year’s event will be the largest to date, including local restaurants, farms and entertainment.
Each year the event moves to a different winery and takes on a different flavor. “The host always puts a little bit of their taste and interests into the event,” said Stanforth-Migliore, “and two of my greatest interests are farm-to-table food and agriculture.” The farm-to-table food component will come courtesy of Culinary Institute graduate chef Shawn Hubbell, who will serve small-plate dishes, each spotlighting a different Gardiner farm.
“The farmers end up determining the menu more than anything,” said Hubbell. “I’ll call a farmer up and they’ll say, ‘This is really nice this week, I’m really proud of it,’ and that ends up being the absolute best produce, made with care. Everything I use is as local as possible: simple, straightforward, really great flavors – just add salt, olive oil, acid.”
Meats will be provided by Brookside, Brykill, Full Moon and Kiernan Farms, veggies by Meadow View Farm and fruits from Hurd’s Family Farm. Each farm’s products will be available for purchase at the event. Several restaurants will round out the repast. John Novi will bring some New American flair via the DePuy Canal House; and fresh, clean food from Rock da Pasta, 2 Taste Food & Wine Bar will also be sourced from local farms.
Find a spot to picnic looking out over acres of hayfield toward the long cliff at Millbrook Mountain, which dominates a signature section of the Shawangunk Ridge, and take in some live music: The Michael Hollis Jazz Quintet performs on Saturday, and the Bernstein Bard Quintet on Sunday. “I think it’s the perfect summer experience of the best of the Hudson Valley,” said Stanforth-Migliore.
Shawangunk Wine Trail wineries include Adair Vineyards of New Paltz; Applewood Winery of Warwick; Baldwin Vineyard of Pine Bush; Benmarl Winery of Marlboro; Brimstone Hill Vineyard of Pine Bush; Brotherhood, America’s Oldest Winery, of Washingtonville; Clearview Vineyard of Warwick; Demarest Hill Winery of Warwick; Glorie Farm Winery of Marlboro; Palaia Winery of Highland Mills; Robibero Winery of New Paltz; Stoutridge Vineyards of Marlboro; Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery of Warwick; and Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery of Gardiner. Learn more at www.shawangunkwinetrail.com.
Shawangunk Wine Trail’s Bounty of the Hudson, Saturday/Sunday, July 27/28, 12 noon-5 p.m., Whitecliff Vineyard, 331 McKinstry Road, Gardiner; www.gunkswine.com. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s dinehudsonvalley.com or HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.