Saturday, May 23, 2009


Friday 1-5

Saturday 12-5:30

Sunday 12-5:30

Monday 1-4

Wines, syrups, balsamic vinegar, jams and chutneys.

“Deep roots are not reached by frost.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

She called me at work. She was crying. It was not the first time. I am sure it will not be the last. I was sure I could provide her with some solace. I was sure that I could say something, in my stupid manly way, that would make her hurt go away. She mumbled something. I couldn’t make it out.
“What? What?”
“There was a frost last night. They’re dead. They’re all dead,” Dominique wailed. I immediately dismissed it. There might have been some frost, a touch, somewhere in the vineyard. But a hard frost on May 19th? Impossible.
She said she had already emailed our winemaker and our consultant.
“What did they say?”
“Rich said it was a good time to find a bar and have a good cry. There’s nothing we can do” I chuckled. It sounded like Richard Olsen-Harbich. “They’re all gone,” she was crying.
She couldn’t stay on for long. She was crying, driving, on her way to a meeting.
Call me an eternal optimist. Call me stubborn or stupid. Other people have. You wouldn’t be the first. But it was a gorgeous day outside. It was already 60 degrees down where I was in the city. A frost of such devastating proportion was out of the question. To farm, you need to be an optimist. There’s always something going wrong. Weather, disease, infestations.
Dominique is very attached to the vines. She walks the vineyard once or twice a day. She cares for them like babies. Tends them. Talks to them. She and the dogs patrol the farm, inspecting the buds and canes. She’s also checking out the raspberries and blueberries. Any blight of any kind was enough to send her over the edge.

The vines are like our other children. We argue over them. When to spray. What to spray. When to prune. Like our sons, they are a constant source of conversation both good and bad, both pride-filled and a little ashamed. Have we done enough? Too much?
I commute into the city. With a vineyard, you need to either be rich, retired, or have a day job. I’m a working stiff. I had been thwarted by fate in the last week to see the vines up close for any length of time. I had become angry about it. I had arrived home late, due either to work or two train delays or a broken down car, all the week before. Even the weekend, I was working, bottling, working the tasting room, ferrying my children somewhere, rushing off to church or a friend’s house for dinner. Sunday, I finally got to spend some time walking the vines.
They had been pruned and tied up. This was a big year for us. Our winemaker, Steve, had pruned all the vines and tied them himself. They were now properly trained. Leaves and clusters were bursting out of every bend and crook in the vines woody boughs. This was going to be a big year. We had more tiny baby grape clusters than we had ever seen. All the different varieties were bursting with little mini grape bunches. We were headed for an awesome harvest! It was so exciting.
I assured her everything would be OK.
After I hung up, I too called Rich and Steve. It was my turn to be assured by someone else. The tone in Rich’s voice was conciliatory, almost comforting, as if I were the close relative of someone who had died.
“I heard from Dominique,” he said sadly.
“Is there anything we can do?”
“You can find a bar and cry,” he said with a soft chuckle.
“What if it was only for a short duration?” I asked, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages suddenly coming into my head.
“Any duration.”
“It only got down to maybe thirty last night. It wasn’t that cold.”
“All you need is 32 degrees. Even one point under that is enough. The cell walls, especially in the young buds and leaves, they can’t take it. They burst.”
“So what happens now?”
“You find a bar and cry?”
“And then what?”
“Not much. Everything will turn brown and fall off. The vines aren’t dead. Secondary and tertiary buds should push through. You’ll get some fruit.”
“How much? Half? A third?”
“Maybe a third. It varies.”
His suggestion of finding a bar suddenly seemed like a good one. I still had the rest of the business day ahead of me. To say the least, I was preoccupied. The train coming home couldn’t have taken longer. It seemed like it took six hours. I watched the sun as it began its descent. Would I make it home and still be able to see the vineyard. My vineyard. Our vineyard.
I got in my truck, fired it up, and raced home from the parking lot, the warm late spring air, filling the cab. She had to be wrong. She had to be.
I pulled up the driveway of the winery, stopped, put the truck in park, and with my suit jacket still on, I raced out into the vineyard. The leaves and clusters were already brown on this one. I went to another. It was green! ‘See!’ I told myself. But upon closer inspection, it too had obvious frost damage, it just hadn’t turned brown yet. One after another continued. From one group of plants to another. All of them, all of them, had been affected. It was the whole vineyard. She was right. Dominique was right.
Suddenly, I could not breath. The air had been taken out of me, and all I wanted to do, like her, was cry.
I was so angry. Like when you lose a dog or a cat, especially to an accident. How could this happen? Why us? Why now? I wanted to shout out every bad word I knew. I wanted curse someone or something. I wanted to break something.
I went inside, and there was Dominique. She looked so sad, her eyes still swollen (she had cried again), even as the boys, seemingly oblivious to the news, cackled on. We hugged.
“They’re all dead,” I said.
“I know.”
“They’re all dead. May 19th.” I shook my head. My wife was right.
“I had two couples come for tastings and tours today. I couldn’t bring myself to take them out there,” she said. “I couldn’t look.”
I sat there, for the first time in my life, speechless.
“I’ve been reading up,” she said “on frost damage. A grape grower out in California said his secondary and tertiary buds came though. He said the crop was small, but the grapes were some of the best his vineyard ever grew. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
To farm, you need to be an optimist.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


A morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers. Implements such as sticks, swords, and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two men, steps are performed near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid across each other on the floor.

There are claims that English records of the morris dance dating back to 1448 exist, but these are open to dispute. There is no mention of "morris" dancing earlier than the late 15th century, although early records such as Bishops' "Visitation Articles" mention sword dancing, guising and other dancing activities as well as mumming plays. Furthermore, the earliest records invariably mention "Morys" in a court setting, and both men and women are mentioned as dancing, and a little later in the Lord Mayors' Processions in London. It is only later that it begins to be mentioned as something performed in the parishes. There is certainly no evidence that it is a pre-Christian ritual, as is often claimed.

In the modern day, it is commonly thought of as a uniquely English activity, although there are around 150 morris sides (or teams) in the United States. British expatriates form a larger part of the morris tradition in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. There are isolated groups in other countries.

On Saturday, May 16, the Berkshire Morris Men brought their high-stepping hijinx and merriment to the Hudson-Chatham Winery! They were awesome. Watch the video and go to their hilarious website for fun and frivolity.

We hope to have a more formal presentation of their performance next year, when we can properly promote them! Thanks guys!
You can visit their website at:

The day was at hand once again. It was time to plant another vineyard. But this time we were much better prepared. We weren't plating as many vines, and it was all done within one day. And we were all thrilled. Dominique and the boys were able to handle the job!

Block three will be primarily Baco Noir, about 500 plants. We marked out the new vineyard using long lines of twine and stakes, stringing out three rows at a time. We had to leave enough space for where the posts would go, and we neeeded to leave enough of a lane so trucks and tractors will be able to get through it in the future at harvest time, when this new vineyard will someday give us more of that fabulous wine we love so much.

After the holes are marked out, we have to drill them. Ralph had this nifty little machine which did a dandy job of putting in three foot deep holes We put the vines in tubs of water to soak over night.

Then we put them in their holes and make sure the crown is somewhere very near the ground. We do that so that when we hill-up in the fall for over-wintering (pile dirt high up over the crown to fight freeze damage), it's easier and the crown is more likely to survive.

It went much smoother this time than the first time. But it's still hard work.


It was a beautiful day. The lawns and vineyards had been mowed, but the millions of dandelions continued to push up through the grass. And the buds on the vines slowly began to protrude, proving again that spring follows winter, and expressing the ever empowering miracle of life.

Reverend Gary Paul Gelfenbien, Pastor at St. James Roman Catholic Church, in Chatham, New York, blessed the vineyards in front of a crowd of approximately 20 people. We think the world of Father Gary, and of course he did not disappoint. He said a few words before the blessing, and he was both funny and poignant, and then read a beautiful passage from scripture, leading then into a small prayer and blessing.

Then everyone had a glass of Blanc de Blanc and ate cheese right there on a beautiful day smack in the middle of the blooming vineyard area.

At that point Father Gary told us that he once played trombone as a young boy, and Dawson offered it to him. Father Gary hit a few big notes, played a quick melody, and knew well enough to quit while he was ahead. He was great!

It was a beautiful day, and there was much to be thankful for. Thank you Father Gary and thank you everyone who attended.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Hudson-Chatham Winery is proud and pleased to announce that we can now be found at Hudson Wine Merchants on Warren Street in Hudson, New York.

Hudson Wine Merchants
#41½ Warren Street
Hudson, New York 12534
Store Hours: Sunday & Monday: Noon - 7pm
Tuesday - Thursday: 11am - 7pm
Friday - Saturday: 11am - 8pm

The have our Gold Medal winning Hudson River Valley Red 2007, which was named "Best in Category" at the 5th Annual Hudson Valley Wine Competition.


The 5th Hudson Valley Wine Competition took place last weekend. Lot's of very cool people were there to see what was happening in Hudson Valley wine. Lots of talented judges from the region and from all over New York state were there.

And Hudson-Chatham wines brought home the medals. Six in fact! We're very proud! Here are our winning wines!

2009 Hudson Valley Wine Competition Results

Hudson Chatham 2006 Merlot – Silver Medal
Cab Franc
Hudson Chatham 2007 Cab Franc – Gold Medal
Red Hybrid
Hudson Chatham 2007 Hudson River Red – Gold; Best in Category
Fortified Dessert
Hudson Chatham Paperbirch Castle Amber Cream – Gold Medal
Hudson Chatham Paperbirch Palladian White – Silver Medal
Hudson Chatham Paperbirch Highlands Fine Ruby – Bronze Medal

So come on down to the winery and try some!!!!