Chase down your passion like it’s the last bus of the night. ~ Terri Guillemets
When I finally confirmed my attendance at the 2015 Wine Bloggers’ Conference in the Finger Lakes, I realized that I should seize the opportunity to connect or reconnect with people and their brands that are rising or shining stars in the New York wine world. I love connecting with those who are not afraid to follow their passion. They possess a fearlessness and enthusiasm that catapults them into a fantastic journey of doing what they love.
I explored options. One winery had intrigued me for a while and that was Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, New York, which is about 240 miles from Corning, the conference destination. I had connected with the co-owner, Carlo DeVito, via Facebook and had been following his journey for about eight months. All reviews I had read were positive.
Carlo DeVito exemplifies passion. He’s quite the Renaissance man – publisher, editor/writer, blogger, and vintner – so I wasn’t sure he would be available to host me. I reached out to him and asked if he would be there and he said yes. I created a travel itinerary that included visiting Hudson-Chatham first, then driving to the conference. I wondered if my extra effort and expense to go out of my way would be worth it. It was and then some. The day-long visit turned out to be one of my top wine and travel experiences to date. Carlo DeVito is everything he is appears to be online – friendly, welcoming, enthusiastic, and hard working – the consummate host. The wines? Outstanding. We spent the day tasting and touring at Hudson-Chatham’s two locations and sharing our respective stories while out and about in his aptly named X-Wing Fighter, a Sebring convertible with stories of its own to tell.
Hudson-Chatham Winery was founded in 2006, when Carlo and Dominique DeVito purchased a circa 1780 farmhouse and the surrounding property in Columbia County, New York. In a very short time, they opened Columbia County’s first winery and have since been pioneers and catalysts for the development of the area’s local craft beverage industry. They recently opened a new tasting room across the Hudson River in Tannersville, New York, so that the wines would have a new audience of enthusiasts. Hudson-Chatham is growing, yet the winery is staying true to its philosophies of history, terroir, dirt, rocks, fruit, and wine. The wines are exemplary examples of what can be done when its producers are driven by their passion for quality and success.
During my visit, I tasted many wines, many of which are made from less commonly known, hybrid grapes, like Baco Noir, Chelois, Léon Millot, and Seyval Blanc. For those who have not had the experience of tasting these grape varieties, Hudson-Chatham should be your first experience. The wines are terroir-driven, meticulously produced, not overly extracted, exquisitely balanced, lower in alcohol, and at a price point that is consumer friendly.
Hudson-Chatham also has another brand, Paperbirch, a line of port- and sherry-style wines, grappa, and gin, all made from their grapes, which are equally delicious and fun to taste. I wish I had brought my Wine Check on this trip, so that I could have taken wines home with me to California. I did manage to bring home a bottle of Chelois, which I will taste and review at a later date. It was one of my favorite wines of the day.
So that others could experience the wines more intimately, Carlo sent four of the wines with me to the conference. One I gave away to be poured at the Wines of New York tasting one evening. The other three I shared with other writers at an impromptu, pop-up tasting in my hotel room. The wines were all well received. After that evening’s festivities, instead of going to after parties, I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. revisiting these three wines. I almost couldn’t stop tasting them. Below are my impressions. As always, your palate may vary.
2014 Baco Noir Old Vines, Masson Place Vineyards, Pulteney Farm, ABV 12%, $20.95
Baco Noir is a hybrid of the French variety, Folle Blanche, and an unknown variety of North American Vitis riparia. The grapes for this wine come from vines that are over 60 years old, which typically means fewer, but more concentrated, berries. The wine is unfiltered and unfined, lending rusticity to the wine. Reminiscent of a Cru Beaujolais, the palate is dominated by tart cherry, plum, spice, earth, soft tannins, and a supple mouthfeel, thanks to aging in neutral French oak. The Folle Blanche influence is very apparent in this sample, as it demonstrates racy acidity.
2013 Baco Noir Reserve, Casscles Vineyards, Hudson River Region, ABV 11.5%, $24.95
The grapes for this wine come from the winemaker Stephen Casscles’ home vineyard, from vines that are over 20 years old. Also unfiltered and unfined and aged nine months in neutral French oak, this Baco Noir is medium-bodied, rich, and robust. It exhibits characteristics similar to cool-climate Syrah: aromatic, with a dark fruit flavor profile, more prominent spice and oak influence, and well-integrated, fine tannins. Yet, it maintains mouthwatering, tart cherry acidity. A lovely example of Baco Noir.
2013 Field Stone Baco Noir Old Stones & Old Vines, Masson Place Vineyards, Pulteney Farm, ABV 12%, $29.95
Carlo told me the story of how this wine experiment came about and Dominique called this wine Carlo’s baby. Now I understand why. If ever a wine reflected someone’s personality, it would be this one. Although the grapes for this wine are from the same vineyard as the previous old vines Baco Noir, this wine has more complexity and intrigue. It’s aged nine months in neutral French oak, then another four to six months with local wood and farm stones. I immediately realized I was tasting a wine that is highly reflective of its New York terroir. Spice, wood, and gravelly minerality have a commanding influence over juicy, black fruit flavors. It’s edgy and innovative, which makes it very exciting to taste.
As I was finishing my tasting, the night before flying home to California, I found myself a little melancholy at the thought of leaving New York. I had been looking forward to this trip for over a year. I did not anticipate discovering Hudson-Chatham Winery. I am happy that I threw caution to the wind and decided to make the detour. My only regret is that it was only one day. However, it was one unforgettable day and tasting experience. If you have the chance to visit and taste at Hudson-Chatham Winery, do not hesitate to say yes.
Do it with passion or not at all. ~ Rosa Nochette Carey