by Nancy Koziol
I was living in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. I was three years into the dumpster fire of my twenties and in more danger than I’ve ever been in my life. It wasn’t the attacks—the carnage and violence erupting in my city—that put me at risk. I was safely across the river. No, it was me who was responsible for the aforementioned inferno, but 9/11 that helped me start to put out the blaze.
Following the attacks, daffodil bulbs were planted all over the boroughs. They’d bloom at the start of the first spring post-9/11—honoring the victims and reminding survivors that hope still existed. Immediately upon hearing about this at some point in the dead of winter, I became obsessed with the website that had been set up to track them.
As a March baby and lover of spring, I’ve always had a deep connection to daffodils. Even in the darkest times, when my depression nearly pushed me over the edge, seeing a daffodil happily stretching toward the sun gave me a moment of peace.
On March 14, 2002, my 25th birthday, the website proclaimed that the first of the 9/11 daffodils had bloomed in Brooklyn. It had to be a sign: I could also bloom from wreckage. Throughout the day I remained open to more subtle clues from the Universe. A few days later I woke early and spent the day alone, walking and subwaying throughout Brooklyn visiting the spots where the yellow trumpets heralded hope. The yellow rebirth of the city forced me to face reality: I had to take my precarious situation seriously. It was time to leave a job with no future, get away from a toxic relationship, fix my floundering finances, and stop being a disaster. Standing at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Daffodil Hill, I accepted that I couldn’t stay and expect things to improve. I had to flee and reclaim myself and my life.
Forget Everything You Think About New York State Wine
After leaving the city I broke ties with New York. I didn’t visit much. When I did, I was gripped with anxiety and remorse over my past there. And like many others, I scoffed at New York wine. I’ve come back around to loving New York, though, and since about 2015 I’ve given New York wine another chance. And just like my own second chance proved that things change, I have consistently had my perceptions of New York wine changed.
New York Wine: Three Regions To Know
New York State is a reputable wine-growing region. It’s also an old one. The state is divided into distinctive AVAs or American Viticultural Areas.
The Hudson Valley
The first vineyards were planted in the Hudson River Valley in 1677. The AVA, which was named in 1982 is home to Brotherhood Winery, the oldest continuously operating winery in North America, established in 1839. The valley spans from Westchester county in the south to around Albany, NY in the North along both sides of the Hudson River with most vineyards planted within two miles of the Hudson. Hybrids and cool-climate varietals are found here.
The Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes AVA sits West of the northernmost portion of the Hudson River Valley. There are 11 long, skinny lakes that create exceptional micro-climates for growing vinifera, native, and hybrid grapes. While much of the area is cold, the deep, thin lakes moderate the temperature and make it perfect for small vineyards making exceptional wines from Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer – including some of the best examples of orange wine in America. Production began during the Civil War.
Long Island first brings to mind a certain medium, awesome accents and Billy Joel. It’s also one of New York’s youngest wine regions. If you think of the island as a fish with its head near Manhattan, travel all the way to the east and stay north when it splits. Vineyards popped up in the 60s, with commercial growing starting in the 70s. Its proximity to the Atlantic has encouraged winemakers to plant grapes that thrive in Bordeaux, like Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Sixteen Years Later, Daffodils Still Matter
Last spring I attended the Daffodil Celebration and Wine Weekend at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. In honor of the bloom of their nearly 700,000 daffodils the garden showcased wine from around New York. After all of these years, the idea of going back to the place my former self haunts caused anxiety. There’s still so much weight in the memories of those years. Anxiety gripped me. I kept trying to find a way out of this excursion. In the end, I chose to go despite this. And the daffodils were a sign again. In their blooming glory they welcomed this new me back, much the way that I welcome New York wine into my cellar.
New York Wine Tasting Notes
Whether you like red, white or rosé, varietals or blends, or still and sparkling, New York State’s wine scene has something for you. Here’s a glimpse of just some of what The Empire State has to offer.
Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery
First up were vegan wines from a vineyard that supports the environment and endeavors to use sustainable practices. All information about visiting is available on the Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery website. The winery holds events, and this is their 20th year in operation so it’s a great time to visit.
Wines of Note
Island Rosé: This was one of my favorites. The balance was incredible and the wine incredibly fresh and smooth. I know the temptation is to drink rosé super chilled but if you want to really get the full effect of this pink drink, let it sit in your glass and warm up a little before sipping.
Malbec: You might not realize the grapes were grown on Long Island when you enjoy this Malbec. But they were – a sign that New York wine deserves a second chance. 2014 vintage, malolactic fermentation and 14 months on American and Hungarian oak yield a great glass of red. The nose is primarily black pepper and berries with cherry and vanilla notes rounding it out perfectly. Another favorite from the tasting.
The Island Rose and 2014 Malbec are still available, although this is the last vintage of Malbec. In the future, all Malbec from Whitecliff will be in the Merlot Malbec, and Sky Island blends.
Whitecliff’s wines are available at liquor stores all over New York State. Owner Yancey Migliore suggests Butterfield at Hasbrouck House—an 18th Century Dutch inn—for a high quality farm-to-table experience with Whitecliff wines on the list. Another exceptional option she recommends is Beekman Arms. Not only is this a beautiful historic building where the likes of Aaron Burr and George Washington have slept but it’s also the oldest inn in America.
British-born Ben Peacock and American Kimberly Tousey started their life together in Copenhagen, Denmark, and are now making some pretty fab wine in the Hudson Valley. You can read the full story here. With a varied portfolio, there’s something for everyone. My favorite New York wine of theirs, the Hygge, is not on the website currently but keep an eye out for it in June.
Wines of Note
The Queen of Clermont: Nice and fruity; a delicious aromatic white.
Riot: A nice blend of fruit and spice. Spice, with nicely incorporated tannins to give it structure.
Cab Franc: Nice on the nose. Jammy on the palate with a soft mouth.
Hygge: Fantastic! Grapefruit, stone fruit and grapes plus a beautiful mouthfeel. If you need a sweet wine in your collection this is a great one.
In addition to visiting Tousey’s lovely family-run property, be sure to make a plan to visit one of the area restaurants that features their wines:
Terrapin, in Rhinebeck, offers exceptional, eclectic farm-to-table fare and has Tousey’s Rosé and Queen of Clermont available.
Another, more casual, farm-to-table experience paired with Tousey wine can be had at Grazin’ in Hudson. The Chardonnay and Rosé are both available and their burgers are super. Feeling adventurous? The chef has a unique burger creation available each week.
If your cuisine of choice is Italian, Ca’Mea, in Hudson NY offers Tousey wines by the bottle. They have both the semi-dry Riesling and Cab Franc.
Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
Thirty years experience and accolades from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal help define Millbrook. This is a must-visit winery that hosts a variety of incredible events. Tickets are (as of the time of this writing) on sale for their Summer Solstice Lobster Bake, an opportunity to dine between the vines. Millbrook also offers classes on Sundays, an excellent opportunity to deepen your wine knowledge.
Looking for something a little more casual, head to the winery on most Fridays for family-friendly fun including food from local food trucks and wine on tap for $6/glass. Bocce and cornhole are available, and guests should feel free to bring games of their own to add to the fun.
When in the area, enrich your experience of Millbrook Vineyards by eating at one of several restaurants that features their wines. Nothing is better than pairing local wine with local cuisine!
Wines of Note
Cabernet Franc: 75% cab franc, 25% merlot from Long Island with good structure from soft tannins, spice and incredible finish.
Overall, this was my favorite winery of the day. It is obvious they know what they’re doing as shown in their philosophy which highlights history, terroir, dirt, rocks, fruit and wine.
Wines of Note
Dry Riesling: I like dry Riesling to begin with but this terroir-driven version is exciting and fresh with surprising notes of black pepper.
Bacco: Made from 67-year-old vines this was the star of the day. If you’ve ever wondered about terroir, this wine has expressions similar to the unique garigue flavors expected in wines from the south of France.
Chelois: Another great example of terroir with a similar south of France feel to the Bacco.
Lindenwald White: Herbal and sweet with honeysuckle and white flowers.
Located on the Hudson River Valley’s only fjord, winemakers at Fjord Vineyards are working with their micro-climate to grow and produce exceptional wines.
“The Fjord is around 26,000 years old- and was created in the most recent period of the North American glaciation,” Casey Erdmann of Fjord explains. “We feel these amazing geological wonders (the Hudson River and the Fjord in which it flows through) is one of the [reasons] as to why we can grow grapes so well here,” Matthew Spaccarelli continued. “The proximity to the water and soil structure (which changes so frequently here—sometimes only a few feet will give you a completely different soil structure) will dictate which grapes can be planted and thrive. Only a few feet in elevation can change everything.”
Fjord takes their stewardship of the environment seriously and is “working with Cornell University Co-operative extension to develop a certified sustainable viticulture program that is specific to our local environment.”
Wines of Note
Dry Riesling: Very interesting nose – crisp with citrus, minerals and stone fruit. I got notes of flowers and grapes.
Chardonnay: Slightly oaked. Nice balance. Perfect for those who have been chased away from Chardonnay in the past because of over oaking.
Fjord is available at tons of bottle shops and restaurants, check out the list of places to find them here. One of the most lovely ways to explore Fjord wines is by visiting them at farmers markets. They can be found at:
- Pleasantville Outdoor Farmers Market | Every 4th Saturday
- Coldspring Farmers Market | Every 2nd Saturday
- Beacon Farmers Market | 1st & 3rd Sundays
Get in A New York State of Wine
With 11 AVAs across varied geography and microclimates there’s a good chance your next favorite wine is being made in New York State. The three areas highlighted here are a quick trip from the Berkshires and make for the perfect spring, summer or fall getaway. Pack the car or board a train, and go explore the wonderful world of delicious wine awaiting you in New York.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on the author’s blog.
Thanks so much for writing about the Hudson Valley wines and wineries you discovered at the festival this past weekend. We at Hudson-Chatham are delighted you enjoyed our wines so much. We hope to see you at the vineyard in Ghent. We have a Sangria Festival on August 10 that is lots of fun, with music, food, tarot card readings and, of course, sangria! Cheers!
Hey, Dominique! Thanks for stopping by. I’m in the city for another event that day but I love Sangria and will keep it on my radar next summer. I’ll be at the Cab Franc tasting Thursday in the HV so maybe I will see you there. Cheers!