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Hudson Berkshire Wine Fest Recap

June 3, 2013

FUSSYlittleNOTE: Today we’re doing something different. Below is a guest post from my friend, former cupcake co-judge and fellow Fighting Quaker Innae Park. When I couldn’t attend the inaugural Hudson-Berkshire Wine & Food Fest, she bravely stepped up and volunteered. Here is her report. It even includes pictures. 

Cloudy, cold, windy and rainy. All adjectives you would normally shudder at when describing Memorial Day weekend – but it just so happened that this holiday coincided with an indoor wine and food festival. That’s right, indoor.

The first ever Hudson Berkshire Wine and Food Festival was held at the Columbia County fairgrounds in Chatham, with 16 food vendors, 9 exhibitors, 12 wineries, four distilleries and two breweries taking part.

This may not seem all that bizarre to you, but until last fall, craft breweries, distilleries, and even wineries weren’t able to sell their product at certain events where they provided tastings. Since Governor Cuomo announced regulatory changes at the state’s first Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit, that’s changed. And inevitably, my wallet is much emptier.

Enough about me. Back to the beverages!

photo 1

I began at Hillrock Estate Distillery, located in Ancram. They boast of the world’s first Solera Aged Bourbon. If that means nothing to you, you’re not alone. Here’s what I learned: Imagine a pyramid of barrels, with the youngest bourbon on top, the most aged spirit filling the bottom rows. As whiskey is drawn at the appropriate time from the oldest rows, the newer whiskey flows downward in the pyramid. As head of operations Tim Welly explained to me, “The young spirits are taught by the older spirits” as they combine.

Who knew? Life lessons from whiskey.

So what does pseudo-ageless bourbon taste like? Warm and a smidge spicy. Very rounded, and you get a touch of sherry since the whiskey is finished in old sherry casks.

For the many other unique things Hillrock is doing, check out

Harvest Spirits of Valatie was next, a core member of the Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail.

photo 2

More firsts for me! I sampled their applejack, pear brandy and rare pear brandy. Their spirits are made from their farm’s very own fruits. Don’t be fooled: they pack a punch and would never be seen in the presence of wine coolers. My favorite was the Rare Pear Brandy: nice and oaky, subtly sweet. There is a sharper taste of pear from the Hudson Valley pear brandy – but it will cut across your tongue.

photo 3Then off to Dutch’s Spirits, where I got my first smackin’ of their Sugar Wash Moonshine.

It was citrusy yet sharp enough to get the blood flowing. The lingering sweetness had me exhaling deeply and enjoying the smoothness that remained. Their Peach Brandy was also a hit with me, soft and spicy, with a hint of smokiness.

Then I stopped by the two breweries: Chatham Brewing, also of the Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail, and Barrington Brewery. Both should expect a visit from me in the near future, especially since Barrington has a brewpub. Let me just say this: there is love in those beers. Clarity, viscosity, spices, sweetness, complexity, everything but umami found in these carefully crafted bottles. You should visit.

Did I mention I also bought this cheese that made me want to melt into a puddle? A camembert made from cow’s and sheep’s milk. Then there were tasty eats from the Local Flavor Café, mead from Helderberg Meadworks, chocolate pizzas created by a former truck driver with a sweet tooth, and tamales. Hello, food!


I am going to be bold and say this: Let it rain next Memorial Day weekend, if it means the opportunity to hit up the second annual Hudson-Berkshire Food and Wine Festival. You won’t be disappointed.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2013 11:09 am

    We loved it too! It was a little crowded mid-day Sunday which was too bad considering all the buildings available they could have used a larger space, or used more of the other building where the demos were. We had trouble finding the demonstrations at first, and I wish I had been able to make it to the cheese-making/beer-brewing one, but having a mix of beer,wine and distillers at this event was great. We brought home some of the rare pear brandy and the Peach Jack, which was my favorite. We also got a chocolate bacon pizza- that guy was so much fun! I agree Barrington brews were great. Unfortunately the Chatham brew I tried was definitely “off.” We bought a bottle of the Helderberg Mead it was awesome. We also got some “Doc’s Draft” dry cider and a huge box of chocolate covered strawberries for $5. There were some nice “cassis” I wish I had bought. A lot of the wines were not spectacular. A few that were nice just seemed expensive considering the reasonable prices of the mead, sprits etc. What a great event with tons of samples to try!

  2. June 3, 2013 1:10 pm

    I really like that a local news anchor is into food. The Solera Bourbon sound interesting.

  3. June 6, 2013 7:50 am

    This was not far from where I ran my 10K on Sunday, but I was unsure how alert I would be for something like this. Indeed, I took a 3 hour nap when I got home. :)

    C would have loved that bourbon, though …

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