A lifetime ago, when I was a community college professor who knew nothing about wine, I was contemplating a move to New York. I interviewed for a job at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. I stayed overnight there and thought it was such a great little city. I jumped at the opportunity to return for a day to visit Hudson-Chatham Winery’s new tasting room in Troy’s historic downtown area near the Hudson River.
In August 2015, before I was an American Winery Guide correspondent, I spent a day visiting Hudson-Chatham Winery, Columbia County, New York’s first winery. It was a fantastic experience, and I wrote about that day on my website. A month later, I began writing for AWG. It was only a matter of time before I revisited Hudson-Chatham, this time, the Tannersville location.
It seems appropriate to close out the writing year with an end-of-year post. At this moment, I don’t have a plan of how this is going to evolve, so please bear with me and stay along for the ride.
First and foremost, thank you to those of you who have been reading, especially those of you who may have been around the four and a half years this website has been in existence. Thank you to the various wineries and wine public relations businesses who have sent me samples for consideration. This endeavor is still purely a hobby and I do not earn any money to do this. However, I do believe that this website was one of a few catalysts that led to me living and working in Napa, so this is why I continue to write.
The readership of my website has increased exponentially in 2015. I believe there are a few reasons for this, such as being featured as a top 100 wine blog on a couple of websites such as Wine Turtle and Exel Wines. My writing has also been featured in wine writing challenges and on other websites such as American Winery Guide, Grape Collective, The Drunken Cyclist, Snooth, and Wine Turtle, which has brought new readers to this site. I also won the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #18 (#MWWC18) with this post. I am forever grateful for this fortuity.
I am especially thankful for the opportunity to write winery reviews for American Winery Guide. I have published seven reviews the past four months. While I love tasting and drinking wine, from the very start of this endeavor, I have been called Travel or Traveling Wine Chick, with travel coming first. Travel experiences are my niche. I love sharing my impressions of a winery and/or its winemaker(s), and if a wine tasting review fits, I add it. In 2016, you will see more travel, winery/wine experiences, and follow-your-passion stories in my writing.
The other day, WordPress sent me my end-of-year statistics for this blog and I was a bit surprised at the staying power of some of the posts. Three of the most viewed posts this year were written in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The top five viewed posts are:
- Biltmore Estate Winery (September 2013)
- Getting the skinny on Skinny Vine (November 2012)
- #MWWC18: Crisis (July 2015)
- Wine and a Movie: Under the Tuscan Sun Paired With Wines of Tuscany (December 2014)
- Choice: Va La Vineyards (September 2015)
Themes of travel, winery, and personal experiences dominate four of these posts. As to the Skinny Vine post, I am not sure why that’s still popular, as I was such a beginner three years ago. It is cool to see how far I’ve come, though.
The top referrals to my website came from Facebook, Twitter, Wine Turtle, The Drunken Cyclist, and The Fermented Fruit. The latter two websites are written by two of my dearest wine writing colleagues and these connections warm my heart. It would also seem that the next time that I see them, I owe them at least a drink.
These were difficult to choose, but below are my favorite experiences and/or writing of the year published on this website, American Winery Guide, and Snooth, in sort of alphabetical order. Most touched me on a very personal level. When I reread these, I feel as if I am reliving the joy and pleasure I felt during the visits and tastings. If you haven’t read them, please do. Better yet, please visit these producers and/or taste their wines.
- Choice: Va La Vineyards
- Drinking Blissfully
- Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery
- Holiday Wine Value Picks Under Fifteen Bucks
- Hudson-Chatham Winery
- Kemmeter Wines
- Penns Woods Winery
- Summer Fall Transition Wines Under $20
- The Magic of Jordan Winery
- The 2015 Vintage Prediction Round-Up
I hope that as we move into 2016, I can count on your support as I transition into a new phase of my writing and wine business career. I am excited about new, unannounced opportunities. Stay tuned.
Wishing you a Happy New Year!
In August 2015, I had the good fortune of visiting Hudson-Chatham Winery, Columbia County New York’s first winery, founded in 2006 by Carlo and Dominique DeVito. I told their story and reviewed three of their Baco Noirs. I also brought another one of their wines back to California, the 2013 Chelois, Casscles Vineyards ($24.95 at the winery). I tasted this wine twice during my daylong visit and it captivated my palate and my heart. Carlo was so kind as to give me a bottle. I made a promise to review it. I was not sure when I would taste it again, but I knew it was worthy of a great showing.
As the holidays approached, I did not initially have plans for Thanksgiving. Such is the life of being single and living across the country away from family. I could not travel because I was not sure if I had any time off except for that one day. A cook and food writer friend, known as the The Sassy Kitchen, soon to be Tasting My Way, invited me to her place for Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to bring an all-American lineup of wines from California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. I selected wines for the duration: pre-dinner, appetizers, salad, dinner, and after dinner. All were special to me and hailed from producers I had recently visited and loved. I was a little nervous about the East Coast wines, since I live and work in Napa Valley, which is so California-centric. Furthermore, chelois is also a lesser-known hybrid grape and many people tend to shy away from such varieties. I still do not understand that perspective, but that is perhaps a topic for a future post.
When I was making my wine choices, I pulled the 2013 Chelois out of storage, which took me back to that day at Hudson-Chatham Winery. I had taken two photos of that wine, which were still on my phone. I remembered how much I enjoyed it and my visit and thought, “This is the one.” I know this sounds crazy, but I believe this wine chose me, too. It certainly seemed meant to be, as it was the wine of the evening, pairing perfectly with everything served during the main course, which included turkey, gravy, two kinds of stuffing, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, au gratin potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, green beans, and carrots.
Chelois is an Albert Seibel hybrid, Seibel 10878, which is a cross of Seibel 5163 and 5593. According to the Hudson-Chatham winery website, its heritage is about 50% Vitis vinifera and includes Dattier, Aramon, Alicante Bouschet, Black Hamburg, Grenache, Piquepoul, and others. The grapes for this wine come from winemaker Steven Casscles’ own vineyards, Casscles Vineyards, in Athens, New York. I asked Carlo if he could shed light on the 2013 vintage. He shared with me the production process. The grapes were handpicked and the wine handmade from start to finish. The grapes were harvested at 22 brix. A 100-year-old press was used, and during pressing, Carlo said the juice tasted like fresh cherries. The wine was also unfiltered and unfined. It was then aged for 18 months in two-year-old French oak.
In the glass, the wine is a clear, pale, ruby red. On the nose and palate, it is beautiful, with delicate aromas and flavors that reflect its source. The Casscles Vineyards’ fruit and terroir reveal themselves as an exquisite interplay of earthiness and juicy, red berries, accompanied by a kiss of caramel from the gently used French cooperage. The combination of lower alcohol (12% ABV), soft tannins, and vibrant acidity is why this chelois complements a variety of foods. Its elegance and subtlety allowed the Thanksgiving fare to shine, which is really what you want in a wine and food pairing.
During the course of the meal, none of us could stop raving about how well this wine worked. It was a dinner replete with oohs, ahs, and wows for both the chelois and the plentiful food. In fact, the deliriously great pairing caused me to exclaim, “Whoa!” in my best impression of The Drunken Cyclist. I was relieved and delighted that this seemingly unlikely wine from New York really was the one.
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