The 2009 Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest almost slipped right past me. I wouldnâ€™t have seen the billboards advertising it if I hadnâ€™t gone to Rhinebeck the week before. Somehow this huge event wasnâ€™t being as aggressively promoted as years past. Even the website returned 404 errors when I went to buy tickets. It was very strange.
However, the Sunday after Labor Day I showed up at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds to see a steady crowd of people filing into the Wine Festival! Not only that, but most of the booths I visited were sold out of at least one, more often two or three varieties of their wines. Somehow people found out about the HVW&FF and were tasting and purchasing one heck of a lot of wine! Amazing!
Since itâ€™s too late for you to attend this year, and itâ€™s too early to promote next yearâ€™s event, Iâ€™ll give you the highlights and best wines along with where you can buy them. You donâ€™t have to wait until next year to buy some good wine.
First up â€“ wine racks. It just makes sense that if youâ€™re going to be buying wine you need a place to store it. WINERACKS.COM had a booth at the Fest and is one of the sponsors. They have an impressive collection of wine storage systems. More importantly, they are manufacturers of quality wine racks, custom wine cellars and commercial wine and liquor displays. Their website also offers a large selection of small wine racks and wine related accessories for every size cellar and budget. The natural grains and rich colors of the furniture-quality wine racks would look great in any wine-lovers home. Check them out.
Two years ago I attended the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest and wrote about Ice Wine. Last year I covered the award-winning Rieslings the Finger Lakes are renowned for.Â So, after a conversation with sommelier Christian Lacombe, of Lake Placid Lodge, in which he said that the Finger Lakes didn't generally produce red wines to match the quality of their award-winning whites, I decided to find some good reds for him to try. It was easier than I thought, but I had to wander into the Hudson Valley for the best one!
Knapp Winery offers three, my favorite being Pasta Red Reserve ($12) a robust mouthful aged in oak. As the name implies â€“ it is designed to be served with hearty pasta dishes.
Cascata Winery has a 2007 Silver Medal winner in Red Bouquet ($13) a dry smoothly fruity (no oak) food wine.
Thousand Islands Winery developed a rich, velvety Merlot ($16.49) dry and earthy to the tongue, perfect with red meat.
Atwater Estate Vineyards has a 2007 Pinot Noir with a smooth velvety mouth that pairs well with strong (even gamey) dinners. ($15)
Swedish Hill Vineyard has some Cabernet Francs that are oak aged, fruity and award winning in the $16-$17 range, and a dry, food-friendly Viking Red that is an excellent value at $9.
Reds To Keep / Special Occasions
Iâ€™m split here between the Finger Lakes and the Hudson River Valley wineries. Each of the booths I visited offered a higher end red that could be considered more for special occasions, or meant to be cellared for a few years while they grow into a beautiful smooth drink. The grape variety, acidity, and overall skill of the winemaker will determine the taste as much as the vintage will. Your individual tastes are most important in determining which ones you will like. A visit to the vineyardâ€™s tasting room (or next yearâ€™s Hudson Valley Food & Wine Fest) is highly encouraged. That being said, these are the wines I want in my cellar:
Keuka Spring Vineyards has some special occasion, award-winning reds I liked. Their Lemberger, and their Millerâ€™s Cove Red are both higher end and highly drinkable now and over the next few years, in the $20 range.
McGregor Vineyard has an everyday Highlands Red semi-dry food wine for under $10 a bottle, but they specialize in fine red wines with at least four to buy now for that special event this year (or next,) and two you can plan further ahead for. It hurt to taste their 2006 Black Russian Red because I knew it would be so much better in five years or more. ($28-$50)Â
Millbrook Vineyards has an eminently drinkable Hunt Country Red,($15.75) but hits the superlatives with their Cabernet Franc Block 3 East. It is in such limited production that they didnâ€™t open it for tasting. Everything Iâ€™ve been told and that Iâ€™ve read convinces me I need to own a bottle or two. At about $35 a pop I know I cannot afford more than that. If your pockets are deeper than mine, you should definitely consider buying more. Then, I hear that their neighbor, Oak Summit Vineyard produces an award winning Pinot Noir you simply have to taste to believe.
Knapp Winery offers an impressive selection of fruit and grape mixed wines, combining cherry, loganberry, peach and strawberry juices with Seyval grapes to produce fruit-juicy light wines appealing to those who like sweeter drinks. They also offer a delicious Limoncello: lemons combined with grappa in a potent, and refreshing mix. This is a bottle to leave in your freezer, like vodka, to serve ice cold. ($25) They make a lime version, too.
Clinton Vineyards beside some highly serviceable champagne-style sparkling wines in the $25-$35 range, offers a full line of 100% fruit wines including raspberry, peach, blackberry, rhubarb & strawberry, wild black raspberry, and black currant. For a first course, dessert and/or to mix with champagne, these fruity and very sweet wines are versatile and delicious at $25-$35 a half bottle (375ml).
Atwater Estate Vineyards offers dessert wine and iced wines. ($20) See my ice wine article to learn more about these wines.
Virtually every New York winery makes sweet wines, and the Finger Lakes Region is world famous for their Rieslings, both sweet and dry. In addition they almost all have a decent red, so â€“ besides the wineries listed above â€“ I suggest attending local tastings, regional food festivals such as the Hudson Valley Food & Wine Fest, and following wine trails to taste the wines at the winery. Youâ€™ll meet a great bunch of people, taste some really good wines (along with the not-so-good) and have a great time doing it.
Richard Frisbie, FOOD Correspondent:
RICHARD FRISBIE is published twice a month to Gather Essentials: Food. It is a food junkie's take on growing, raising, preparing and - above all else - eating food. Together we?ll explore the trends, addictions, equipment and regional specialties that make up the sometimes mundane and sometimes sublime cooking and dining experience. You can keep up with my other postings and Gather activity by joining my Gather network -- I look forward to hearing from you.
You can read all of my articlesÂ http://rfrisbie.gather.com/ or find them with those of the other Food Correspondents, plus celebrity chef content and plenty of other Foodies atÂ http://foodtalk.gather.com
BIO - Richard Frisbie writes culinary travel articles, is a columnist for his local newspapers, and is a regular contributor to the many Hudson Valley, Catskill Mountain and other regional New York publications. Online, he writes frequent articles for EDGE Publications, GoNomad and Travel Lady, as well as Gather.
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