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A Refreshing Idea From a Local Winery

March 6, 2011

I’ve been hard on New York wine. My suspicion is that given the sweetness of much of the wine grown in the state and some of the grapes that seem to grow well in the area, New York could eventually be a world-class producer of brandy.

Given the state’s recent adoption of craft and farm distillery licenses, all that remains is finding someone who can do it well.

But there are some wines that stand out from the mass of fruit-infused, sweet and simple bottlings that rightly or wrongly have largely defined New York wine for the American consumer. And some of those wines are right in our back yard. Just last night I happened to stumble upon a blog written by the owner of the Hudson-Chatham winery in Ghent, NY (Google says it’s a 45 minute drive from Albany).

Carlo DeVito is growing grapes in the Hudson Valley and using them to make wine. Maybe not necessarily the wine he always dreamed of making, but the best wine he can coax from the land. And for that I salute him.

I really encourage you to read his entire blog post, but here is a bit in Carlo’s own words:

Personally, I always dreamed of making a big Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot. A Robert Parker fruitbomb par excellence. But in order to make the best red wine the land itself will give you, you have to bend your back a little, or you will miss it.

From the time since Stuyvesant ruled the state with all the powers of a supreme ruler, people in the Hudson Valley have struggled to make Bordeaux styled wines. And some of the best wines in the Valley right now are made with grapes from the Finger Lakes or Long Island. Nothing wrong with that. I drink a lot of them.

But people outside the Valley, who are asking for Hudson Valley fruit in the bottle, are talking about our most approachable reds. These seem to be the ones breaking through. People are doing a double take and saying, “Wow!”

These grapes that grow locally are not the ones most wine writers gush about. Despite their lack of cachet Baco Noir and Seyval Blanc are no slouches in the wine world. Given that I have an unnatural love for obscure grapes, I will share these varietal’s entries from the Wine Lovers Companion.

Baco Noir
A French-American hybrid developed by French hybridizer Maurice Baco by crossing the Folle Blanche with a native American vine. Baco Noir is grown in the eastern United States, primarily in New York State. It produces red wines that range from light, fruity styles that are reminiscent of Beaujolais’ Gamay to slightly heavier versions that are more suggestive of light Bordeaux style wines. Much of the modest Baco Noir acreage finds its way into blends.

Seyval Blanc
A French-American hybrid created by the French hybridizer Seyve-Villard by crossing two other hybrids—Seibel 5656 and Seibel 4982 (Rayon d’Or). Officially known as Seyre-Villard 5276, Seyval Blanc is widely grown in the eastern Unites States, England, and parts of northern France. Wines produced from this variety are high in acidity and therefore crisp and lean, with a hint of grapefruit in the flavor. This is particularly characteristic of the wines from the northern areas like Michigan and New York. Wines produced from the more southern areas such as Virginia and Maryland are somewhat softer and fuller. Some producers are aging their Seyval Blanc wines in oak barrels to soften and enrich the wine, as well as increase the bottle life.

Finding wines made from lesser-known varietals has always been a shortcut to getting a really interesting wine from a passionate winemaker. In general these tend to be passion projects: wines that are not necessarily being made for a large commercial audience, but that are being produced because the winemaker wants to drink them.

Looking at Lenn Thompson’s interview of Carlo DeVito, this does indeed prove to be the case with Hudson-Chatham’s Baco Noir. When asked back in December of 2008 about his favorite wine from the winery, this is what Carlo said:

I love our Baco Noir. We took such special care in preparing it. It was hand-grown, hand-cared for, and hand-picked on a single, small, private vineyard. We avoided pumping at all costs. We blended the best two of three lots, and it was the first reserve wine we have produced at the winery. We are very proud of it. I think in future years we will be able to create a truly great wine.

Not all New York wine grapes come from the Finger Lakes or Long Island. Some of it is grown within a short drive from Albany. And some of it would appear to be very promising indeed on its own terms. So be brave, try something that’s unfamiliar, and drink local.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2011 4:52 pm

    Wow Daniel. GREAT blog post- thank you so much for introducing your readers to this awesome “local” wine. LOVE IT! Sooo linking to this on our Facebook page. As a side note, I meant to link to your numerous local restaurant/seafood/better meats posts and at midnight last night- forgot. FAIL! I will link next week- those are important posts.

  2. March 6, 2011 4:57 pm

    Another good Hudson Valley winery is Magnanini. Their wines may be more typical of New York State wine, but tasty and “local” nonetheless. Their six course Italian feast isn’t half bad, either.

    Also curious, have you tried The Saratoga Winery yet? I believe they use mainly Finger Lakes grapes.

  3. March 6, 2011 6:01 pm

    Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners (south of Ghent) makes a wonderful Seyval Blanc, and on occasion a sparkling Seyval “methode champenoise”. Both are well worth a try. As always – great post.

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