The Hudson Valley wants to be Napa East. It’s now officially part of the Regional Economic Development Council’s master plan, though local vintners have been working diligently toward making that dream come true for a few decades now. But the big tourist draw isn’t just wineries anymore: These days craft breweries, cideries and distilleries have been popping up all over the map, spurred by recent loosening of New York State beverage licensing laws that had been gathering dust and choking off liquid commerce since Prohibition days.
Only a few years ago, Ralph Erenzo of Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner was trekking up to Albany repeatedly to lobby the State Legislature to relegalize the small-scale farm-based distilleries that had once brought prosperity to rural areas of the state; nowadays the Andrew Cuomo administration gets dollar signs in its eyes every time it contemplates the burgeoning success of such operations. There’s even an annual state-sponsored craft beverage summit.
Fourth-generation farmers and young entrepreneurs alike are jumping on the bandwagon, giving daytrippers and weekenders from the Tri-State Metropolitan Area plenty of new reasons to pay the mid-Hudson a visit and leave some greenbacks behind. And alcoholic beverage producers old and new are joining forces to market themselves as collective destinations, with auxiliary businesses forming to offer such services as shuttle tours to obviate the need for a designated driver.
So there’s no longer any need to shell out the jet fare for a trip to California. The only question remains: What’ll it be? A winery wander, a pub crawl, a distillery tour? Do you want to see where heirloom hard-cider apples or gourmet hop varieties are grown, gaze in awe at huge, shiny brewing vats, listen to the seductive drip-drip-drip of spirits being distilled in a contraption that looks like it belongs aboard Captain Nemo’s Nautilus? Check out some of your options on the websites below, and then name your poison:
Shawangunk Wine Trail
The well-organized old-timer on this list is the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which boasts among its 15 members the oldest vineyard in the country – at Benmarl Winery, in Marlboro – and “America’s Oldest Winery,” Brotherhood, in Washingtonville, which managed to stay in business through Prohibition times by concentrating on manufacturing sacramental wines. The trail stretches 80 miles from New Paltz in Ulster County to Warwick in Orange County’s Black Dirt country. But it’s not so much a north-south ribbon as a comma-shaped circuit with five separate clusters of oenophile destinations.
The northernmost quadrant is home to New Paltz’s Robibero Winery, on the site of the former Rivendell Winery at 714 Albany Post Road, and Adair Vineyards at 52 Allhusen Road, as well as Gardiner’s Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery at 331 McKinstry Road. To the west, tucked up against the flanks of the Shawangunk Ridge in Pine Bush, you can visit Baldwin Vineyards at 176 Hardenburgh Road and Brimstone Hill Vineyard at 61 Brimstone Hill Road. In Marlboro, overlooking the Hudson, you can find four stops close together: Benmarl Winery at 156 Highland Avenue, Brunel and Rafael Winery at 180 South Street, Glorie Farm Winery at 40 Mountain Road and Stoutridge Vineyard at 10 Ann Kaley Lane.
Moving southwards and crossing the county line, one encounters Brotherhood at 100 Brotherhood Plaza Drive in Washingtonville and Palaia Vineyards at 10 Sweet Clover Road in Highland Mills. Way down at the comma’s southwestern tail, close to the New Jersey border, lies Warwick, home to Applewood Winery at 82 Four Corners Road, Clearview Vineyard at 35 Clearview Lane, Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery at 81 Pine Island Turnpike and Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery at 114 Little York Road.
Each of these wineries has its own specialty varieties and blends; some grow all their own wine grapes while others import certain types from the Finger Lakes or Long Island. A couple produce hard cider as well. Some are open year-round, others only April through New Year’s Day. The website is the place to find all the details, including hours of operation, discounted season and tasting passes, special tours and events like the Bounty of the Hudson food and wine festival each July and grapevine wreathmaking workshops in December.
Dutchess Wine Trail
The Dutchess Wine Trail is a relative newcomer on the scene, with only two members signed on so far: Renowned mainly for producing consistently excellent Chardonnays, the Millbrook Winery is located at 26 Wing Road in Millbrook. Clinton Vineyards, at 450 Schultzville Road in Clinton Corners, specializes in Seyval Blanc and sparkling wines.
Both of these wineries have won long lists of awards and like to host music events throughout the season. They can be easily incorporated into a tour of Dutchess County’s many historic and scenic tourist attractions. The trail website has links to both for more information.
The Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail
The Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail straddles the state line between New York and Massachusetts and incorporates both wineries and distilleries. In New York, members include Brookview Station Winery at Goold Orchards at 1297 Brookview Station Road in Castleton-on-Hudson; Harvest Spirits at Golden Harvest Farm at 3074 Route 9 in Valatie; Hudson-Chatham Winery at 1900 Route 66 in Ghent; Hillrock Estate Distillery at 408 Pooles Hill Road in Ancram; and in Clermont, Hudson Valley Distillers at Spirits Grove Farm at 1727 Route 9 and Clermont Vineyards & Winery at 241 County Route 6.
Heading east into Massachusetts, you’ll find Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards at 508 Canaan Road (Route 295) in Richmond and Berkshire Mountain Distillers at 356 South Main Street in Sheffield. All eight members collaborate to offer a Second Saturday $15 tasting pass, good for five stops, and to sponsor an annual Hudson/Berkshire Wine and Food Festival each May at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in Chatham. Check out the website for each member’s specialties, hours of operation and other details.
Hudson Valley Beer Trail
While beers and ales are no longer shunted aside as the Philistine, proletarian stepchildren of the beverage universe, the newly organized Hudson Valley Beer Trail is a big tent that also welcomes cideries and distilleries – basically, any alcoholic beverage producer that has been frozen out of the oenophiles’ club for far too long. Stretching from Westchester to Windham, it’s not a tour that can be covered in a day – even with transportation assistance from the Little Beer Bus.
Participating craft breweries at present include the Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. in Elmsford, Westtown Brew Works in Westtown, Newburgh Brewing Company in Newburgh, Keegan Ales in Kingston, 2 Way Brewing Company in Beacon, the Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, Blue Collar Brewery and Mill House Brewing Co. in Poughkeepsie, Cave Mountain Brewing Company in Windham and Hyde Park Brewing Company in Hyde Park.
On the hard-liquor end of the beverage spectrum, the Hudson Valley Beer Trail includes the Orange County Distillery in Goshen, Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery in Gardiner, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery in Warwick and Hudson Valley Distillers in Clermont. Cideries include Bad Seed Cider Company in Highland and Westtown Brew Works in Westtown, the latter of which raises its own hops; the Dutchess Hops Hops Farm in Lagrangeville is also a member. The boom in farm-based cideries in our area will doubtless add many names to this list in the near future.
For contact links, hours, limo and bus tours and party package info, check out the website.