Friday, July 05, 2013

150ish THE LOCAL DISH Highlights Hudson-Chatham Winery and Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail

150ishMalfatto Driveway

May 16, 20131 | Photo Deirdre Malfatto

Marisa: “What are you doing this weekend?” Carlo: “Oh, I’ve got to run to Long Island to pick up a truck load of grapes.” That’s not a typical work-day conversation, but—full disclosure—Carlo DeVito, co-owner of Hudson-Chatham Winery, used to be Marisa’s boss. She’s been the happy recipient of many a holiday bottle of his wine and has often entertained Francesca with stories of how Carlo, publishing exec by day, managed to hold a full-time job while starting an upstate winery—let alone one that is winning high praise and high scores after less than ten years. As is often the case, he has a smart woman by his side.

Here’s the dish. Carlo and Dominique DeVito met through their publishing careers: she is a dog expert and freelance writer, a former publisher of pet books; he is a VP who developed the Wine Spectator book program and currently directs the publishing of Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. Wine lovers both, vacations were often spent visiting vineyards worldwide and, after years of tasting other people’s wines, the couple finally decided they’d rather be tasting their own.

New York’s wine history goes back way beyond the current fashion of eastern Long Island—the Dutch and the Huguenots were planting grapes in the Hudson Valley in the seventeenth century, and the area is also home to the country’s oldest continuously operating winery: Brotherhood. New York is third in grape production behind California and Washington—now, granted, around 80-percent of those grapes are Concords, but the rest are fine wine grapes like Riesling, Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay, as well as many French hybrids. A big reason behind that fine 20-percent is the New York Farm Winery Act of 1976, which allows a winery to be established whether or not grapes are actually grown on the estate.
Let’s face it, New York isn’t an easy agricultural climate, no matter what part of the state you’re in. Winters are harsh; the growing season is short. But allowing bourgeoning wine makers to purchase grapes from a variety of growers, and then blend their own wines to sell while waiting for their own vines to bear fruit, makes starting a winery here a little more practical than your average pipe dream.

Carlo and Dominique were drawn to the Hudson Valley by its history and its scenic beauty—to be successful as a destination, a winery needs good looks as well as good wine. “It took us about nine months to find the property, and we absolutely love it,” Dominique remembers. “There were several wineries further downstate, but we liked this area. It’s beautiful and we’re in good proximity to Hudson and Albany.”

In 2005, the couple purchased the remaining intact 14 acres of a 500-acre, long-dormant dairy farm in Ghent. Lucky for them, it was the land parcel on which the 1780 farmhouse still stood. Four acres were planted with Seyval Blanc and Baco Noir vines, as well as a few other hybrids. They opened Hudson-Chatham—the first winery in Columbia County—in September 2007, selling wines they made and bottled from grapes purchased close to home and state-wide.

Today, the winery offers a dozen different small-batch wines, including their own estate-grown Seyval Blanc, two well-regarded Baco Noirs, and a Chelois. Another Hudson-Chatham wine that has attracted a lot of attention is their Empire super-blend, with equal parts Long Island Merlot, Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes, and Hudson Valley Baco Noir. As Dominique explains, “the wines that we target here, they’re not very familiar, but they’re great wines that have great appeal. That Chelois is practically a cult wine.”

One of the attractions of the area to the DeVitos was Columbia County’s great reputation for local food. Immersing themselves in the community, their Tasting Room shop is a showcase for local labels. They offer one of the largest selections of Hudson Valley cheeses, including selections from Twin Maple Farm, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, and R & G Cheese, in addition to local honey, chutneys and other condiments, as well as four balsamic vinegars (regular, white, cassis, and raspberry) that they make from their own wines.

They are also among the founding members of the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail, which leads travelers to three wineries, a brewery, and a distillery, with a wealth of artisanal food stops along the way. “The Hudson Valley is really ripe for becoming a prime destination for wine lovers,” Dominique says. “The one thing that makes us different is that the wineries are more spread out and that’s a little more challenging. But there’s so much local food interest going on around us that people can make a really great weekend of it. The beverage trail is a nice loop, and guys love that it includes a brewery and a distillery. We call ourselves the libation destination!”

Comparing the Hudson Valley to New York’s other wine-making regions, Dominique reflects, “It’s nice that the Finger Lakes has Reisling and Long Island its Merlots, but there’s real authenticity to the wines that are being made here; people are true to the tradition. The Hudson Valley has some really interesting individual terroirs, and it’s great for people to come and visit because they’ll taste different things at each of the different wineries. It’s a vibrant community.”

Memorial Day weekend will see the first annual Hudson Berkshire Wine & Food Festival take place Saturday and Sunday at the Columbia Country Fairgrounds, and attendees can sample goods from the Beverage Trail and beyond in a single spot. Hudson-Chatham Winery also hosts a full calendar of events every weekend year round. This summer, look for their Gourmet Gardening series, which features a master gardener at each session discussing heirloom vegetables that will grow well in the area. Attendees receive a packet of seeds and a related recipe—all combined with a wine tasting. Their signature event is the Sangria Festival, which takes place in August, Dominique tells us. “We make five different sangrias with our wines, there are two flamenco guitar players, and this year we’ll have a dancer. Other vendors bring their products, and it’s just a great day of sangria.”

Looking back at how far they’ve come in just a few short years, Dominique tells us, “Like anything that involves hard work—and it’s been a lot of hard work—it also has great rewards. I think our wines have developed a really good reputation, and that’s been really satisfying for us. The vines have matured and the tasting room has become established. Things we were just thinking about six years ago are now coming true: we’ve expanded and we’ll be expanding further.”

Dominique remembers the couple’s sons Dylan and Dawson helping to plant the original vines, “and now they can run the bottling machines. If nothing else, we’re confident they now know enough about wine to impress their dates.”

The Hudson-Chatham Winery
1900 Route 66, Ghent, New York
Open year-round Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 12:00 to 5:00.

Visit for more information, including a list of local retailers and farmers markets where their wines are sold.

The Hudson Berkshire Wine & Food Festival 
May 25 and 26, at the Columbia County Fairgrounds, Route 66, Chatham, New York.

The Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail encompasses Brookview Station Winery, Chatham Brewing, Furnace Brook Winery, Harvest Spirits, and Hudson-Chatham Winery.

For more information about the festival and the trail, visit

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