TasteCamp At Hudson Valley: Hudson-Chatham Winery
The Passionate Foodie
November 1, 2014
by Richard Auffrey
In organizing TasteCamp
in the Hudson Valley
, Lenn Thompson
had assistance from Carlo Devito
(pictured above), an author, publisher, writer, winery owner and probably more. He and his wife, Dominique,
own the Hudson-Chatham Winery,
located in Ghent
, and it was the first winery in the Colombia County
. One of our TasteCamp visits was to his winery, where he served us lunch, sampled us through many of his wines, and ran a tasting of wines, ciders, and cassis from other local wineries and cideries
I've met Carlo before on other wine trips, and found him to be personable, jovial, self-deprecating, passionate about wine, and hard working. When you consider everything that he does, you might wonder when he finds time to sleep. For example, he has authored over 15 books, writes the blogs East Coast Wineries
and Hudson River Valley Wineries
, and operates Warren Street Books
, And he still finds time to operate and promote his winery, a winery that has garnered attention from the national media.
Carlo and his wife purchased the 14 acre property in 2006, and planted about 1000 vines of mostly hybrids. In 2007, they opened their winery and would subsequently plant more vines, so that they now have about 5 acres of vineyards, mostly hybrids. They hired Steve Casscles as their winemaker, and expanded the winery in 2012, increasing production and storage capacity, and now produce about 4000 cases annually. Besides table wines, they also make Port-style wines, Sherry-style wines, Cassis and Grappa. Carlo has a diverse palate, and wants to emulate some of the wines he loves in the best way he can in the Hudson Valley.
On the day of our visit, they were pressing grapes. As you can see, this is a very hands-on, artisan operation.
Carlo loves Spanish Sherry and has a dream of making a Sherry-like wine that will taste like amazing aged Sherry. He created his own Solera, in a small building behind the tasting room. Using mainly 25 year old, Italian chestnut barrels, he is trying to make a three stage solera, drawing no more than 1/3 from a barrel each time he takes any wine. At this time, the wine is an average age of four years, though he wants the Solera to last for many more years, even though his children might be the ones that ultimately benefit from it. He knows that his dream will take many years to accomplish but that doesn't discourage him.
The building where the Solera is stored lacks air conditioning or heat. He wants the weather to affect the wine, to let it do its worst. So far, that hasn't hurt the wine in the least. Carlo isn't seeking to emulate any specific style of Sherry, though he has previously bottled a Cream-Sherry style wine. His primary goal is consistency, to make a product that is essentially similar each year, though it might gain in complexity with time. Unfortunately, he didn't have any of his Cream Sherry available for me to taste. Carlo also wants to make Port-style wines, generally in a Tawny style. I got to taste a barrel sample and it showed promise. Carlo has very ambitious, long-term plans,
Carlo led us through a tasting of more than a dozen of his wines and spirits. His wines are about 70% dry reds, and all are produced from New York state grapes, with 85% being made from Hudson Valley grapes. All of their wines are also single vineyard, hand made, and hand pressed, Their tasting room was busy on the day we were there, and the guests seemed to be enjoying the wines very much, and buying a number of bottles. It was good to see that his wines were so well received.
Carlo believes they are making some of the best red wines in New York, especially soft, approachable reds at very good value. Carlo also told me an interesting story which provided me a clear insight into his goals for his winery. He was once asked by someone, "What is it you are trying to do here?" As he is a a big sports fans, and has written much about sports, he replied, "This I the only way I know how to say this. If we were a sports team, my goal would be to make the playoffs every year and to win a championship or multiple championships. I'm not in it for any other reasons than that. I want us to be among the best of them every year." As I said, he is very ambitious.
I was impressed with many of their reds. The 2013 Pinot Noir is the first vintage they have made of this wine, and it uses grapes from the Hudson Valley. It spends almost four weeks on the skins and is aged in French oak for about nine months. With a light red color, this wine is light in body too, with pleasant cherry and raspberry flavors and a hint of spice. Easy drinking and tasty. The 2012 Chelois is an intriguing wine, made from a hybrid grape, and saw about nine months in oak. With a little spritz, the wine presented an intriguing blend of black fruit flavors, nice acidity, spicy undertones and nicely integrated tannins.
The 2011 Empire Reserve is a unique blend of three grapes from 3 different regions of New York, including Hudson Valley Baco Noir, Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc and Long Island Merlot. It spends at least two years in oak. Smooth and easy drinking, it had a delicious and complex blend of red and black fruits, a spicy backbone and herbal notes. Good structure and acidity, it had a moderately long finish, and I'd enjoy a bottle with pork or beef. It's not a pure Hudson Valley wine, but was tasty and interesting anyways.
At the heart of the winery is their Baco Noir, another hybrid grape, and these wines have garnered lots of attention. Forget your preconceptions and prejudices about hybrids creating lesser wines compared to vinifera. If you tasted these wines blind, you would never suspect they were hybrids. These are well-crafted wines of character, possessed of excellent taste, and you really owe it to yourself to check them out.
The 2013 Baco Noir Cascades Middle Hope is from 45 year old vines, and the wine was aged for about 9 months in French oak. It possessed pleasant cherry and raspberry flavors, with an underlying spice, especially on the finish. Easy drinking, with mild tannins. The 2013 Baco Noir Reserve, Casscles Vineyard possesses more intense fruit flavors, and more ripe plum and black cherry flavors, with spicy accents throughout the taste. It was smooth, with nice acidity and a lengthy finish. Very tasty. The 2013 Baco Noir Block 3 North Creek Vineyard has a similar flavor profile as the Reserve, except that the spice notes and tannins are stronger in this wine.
My favorite of the Baco Noies was the 2013 Baco Noir Old Vines, which is made from 60 year old vines. It was complex and intriguing, presenting a delicious melange of flavors, including ripe plum, blueberry, black cherry, vanilla and baking spices. It possessed a silky feel, was well balanced and had a lingering and pleasing finish. This elegant and alluring wine is something to slowly sip with friends, savoring its complexity and quality. I bought a few bottles of this wine, and highly recommend it.
Even some of their Grappa is made from their Baco Noir! Essentially, this is a distilled spirit using grape skins, and they have the grappa produced by Harvest Spirits
. The basic Grappa
was aromatic and pleasant, with cherry and red berry flavors. The Grappa Reserve
, which sees some oak, was even better, with a smoother taste, and the red fruit flavors enhanced by spice notes. This would be a pleasant digestive after a nice dinner.
In the "sports league" of New York wines, Hudson-Chatham Winery is definitely a worthy contender.
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