Is the Hudson Valley THE NEW BURGUNDY?
by Carlo DeVito, Hudson Valley Wine Country President
Filled with artisanal creameries, organic farms, and more than 40 wineries, the Hudson Valley produces soft approachable reds, bright whites, vibrant ciders, and delicious fruit wines. You don’t have to visit Burgundy for one of the best culinary experiences of a life time.
You may say, “Whoa! No one is ever going to mistake the Taconic Parkway for the charming back roads of France’s Burgundy. No one on the Hudson River has a charming barque and a rakishly tilted baret. Where’s the baguette?” However, few regions can boast such an absolutely gorgeous valley. Few regions can boast as many wonderful little wineries, as many creameries, and CSAs as the Hudson Valley. And we not only have hundreds of exceptional restaurants, but the Culinary Institute of America to boot. The Valley is a food and wine mecca like nowhere else in New York state or the east coast. Truly, it is unique in America.
On any given Saturday and Sunday, from above Albany down through to New York City, there are farmers’ markets and green markets packed with the fresh, vibrant quality artisanal foods of the Hudson Valley. Every market is choked with artisanal cheeses (made from local goat, sheep, and cow’s milk), hand baked breads, natural honey and maple syrup, fresh bottled milk, free range eggs, hand-ground organic cornmeal and polenta, and fresh whole meats from sustainable farms.
There seems to be an identity forming as well. The wines of the Hudson Valley mimic the Burgundian and Santa Barbara traditions, creating medium-bodied, fresh, fruit-forward reds, with vibrant ruby color, chockablock with minerality, high acidity, medium tannins, and lower alcohol. The whites are similar—offering steely, minerally, refreshing Seyval Blancs, Chardonnays, and Rieslings, as well as smoother, creamier styles of those made in the barrel-fermented style.
Burgundy is also the home of cassis, and French farmhouse ciders.
It should be noted that the Hudson Valley also excels here as well. The valley has a rich tradition of supplying the region, especially New York City, with fresh fruits, apples, and grapes especially for centuries. It should then come as no surprise that quality fruit wines are also to be found here. From exceptionally fruity to dry ciders and apple wines, there are a wide variety of styles. The most popular fruit wine found throughout the valley is cassis, the rich, deep, dark, tart dessert wine made from Hudson Valley black currants.
All these wines pair beautifully with the rich, fresh artisanal cheeses of the region, creating a tradition of fine wine and wonderful cheeses. Whether you like fresh goat cheese or aged, a creamy camembert, a tangy tomme, aged cheddar, or any one of another different styles, these cheeses par wonderfully with many Hudson Valley wines. Try a bright, refreshing Seyval Blanc with fresh goat cheese, or a Chardonnay or Riesling. Try a piece of aged cheddar with a delicious medium-bodied red like Pinot Noir or a Baco Noir or Cabernet Franc. Or how about some cheddar with the number of fresh, farmhouse style apple ciders available throughout the region?
There are a number of examples of Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling. The Seyval Blancs range from minerally, steely whites with citrus endings, and have much in common with Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Several Seyval Blancs are also aged slightly in oak, giving them the creamier feeling of a more elegant style of white wine making. The Chardonnays are again minerally in nature, with rich green apple, and touches of pear and melon. And the Rieslings are floral in nature, with aromas of honeysuckle, melon, and tropical fruits.
But more than all this, the best wines, especially the reds, seem more and more to be from the Burgundian tradition. Soft, approachable food reds like Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, and Gamay Noir seem to have impressed people in the region as well as outside it. The region produces light-to-medium bodied wines, with fresh fruit, balanced acidity, and low tannins. Cherry is the predominant flavor in many of these wines, whether a bright sour to a dark black cherry, these wines bring forth wonderful flavors that make them excellent companions for food, especially regional delicacies.
All these wines, made from Hudson Valley fruit, start to paint a picture of red wines in the Burgundian tradition, or maybe even something like the cool climate reds of Santa Barbara. In these wines, the Valley seems to be finding its true identity. And these excellent wines are of great value, winning awards from around the US and the world, as well as achieving critical acclaim in prestigious newspapers and magazines.
If one needs to examine the successes of the Valley, look no further than the little rock walls and hedgerows of the Hudson Valley. Have a nice wedge of Hudson Red or a little button of Coach Fresh Chevre or a square of Old Chatham Sheepherding Camembert, some fresh hardy bread from Our Daily Bread in Chatham, an apple from any one of the Valley’s apple farms like Baldwin, Applewood, Golden Harvest, or Goold’s Orchards, and a bottle of soft red wine to see why the future of the Hudson Valley lies somewhere near the Cote-d’Or and Santa Barbara.
There are many great fruit wines in the Hudson Valley. Among all the fruit wines, Cassis, the French name for wine made from black currants, is king. Cassis is a black currant sweet wine that takes its name from a town in France of the same name. In that country, the wine is officially known as Crème de Cassis.
Apples have also been a big cash crop of the Hudson Valley since the days before the first steamboat. The Hudson River has seen more than two centuries of apples making their way down river into New York City and up to Albany. There are many good, fresh, sparkling hard ciders and apple wines available in the Hudson Valley.
There are other fruit wines as well, numerous and excellent dessert wines, especially those made with peach, strawberry, and raspberry. These rich berry wines stand up particularly well and compliment chocolate desserts with great flourish. The best peach wines are unique dessert wines that go extremely well with crème brullée and other lighter styled desserts. All pair extremely well with a cheese plate after a savory dinner.
The Hudson Valley also boasts three of the most prestigious distilleries in the state. Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery was the first licensed distillery in the Hudson Valley since World War II. Warwick Valley has made eau de vies for some time, and have separated out their line of distilled products and fruit-based cordials, naming them American Fruits. Tuthilltown Spirits was founded in Gardiner, New York. Tuthilltown was an immediate hit, working with local farmers and making small batch whiskies, rye, and bourbon. Also a big hit in the valley and metropolitan area is Harvest Spirits, making a very popular apple vodka, and a flavorful applejack.
The Hudson Valley has some of the most exciting, delicious, and diverse wines of any region in the US. And the quality of the wines being made are better than ever. And the Hudson Valley as a culinary destination—with its numerous CSAs, organic meats, artisanal bakers and cheese makers, and a rising cadre of chefs who are blending these things together—has never been more exciting
For more information:
Hudson Valley Wine Country: hudsonvalleywinecountry.org
Dutchess Wine Trail:dutchesswinetrail.com
Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail:hudsonberkshireexperience.com
Shawangunk Wine Trail:shawangunkwinetrail.com