The boutique Hudson-Chatham Winery is changing the terroir of New York wines
Inside the sun-filled Tasting Room at the Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, New York, the spirit is warm and convivial despite the bitter cold, snow-covered outdoors. Chatting with Dominique and Carlo DeVito, owners of the winery, is lively and energizing. Carlo, larger than life in presence, settles in to recollect on the trials and tribulations of starting a winery on old dormant farm land. Dominique, as diminutive as Carlo is large, elaborates on the details with finesse.
In 2006 the DeVito’s, both in publishing and commuting to New York City from Freehold, New Jersey, decided they wanted a better, more bucolic life for raising their young twin sons. Carlo grew up amidst the vineyards In New Jersey, traveled wine countries worldwide and professionally published several significant books on wine (including Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course). He says his passion for wine was the driving force behind the search for land to build a vineyard. At the time Hudson, New York was realizing a renaissance, New Yorkers were buying second homes here and the agricultural landscape of the Hudson Valley was perfect. The DeVito’s found a 14-acre farm that had been non-productive for thirty years and it was ideally located on Route 66 midway between Hudson and Chatham, New York.
The Hudson-Chatham Winery was born and the pursuit of a new venture as vintners was realized by the DeVito’s. That first year, they planted 1,000 vines with grapes from the Finger Lakes, mostly Muscat and seyval blanc. In 2007, Carlo attended a wine competition of both commercial and homemade wines. Two of the three wines that he liked were Baco Noir made by Steve Casscles, a winemaker from Athens outside of Catskill. Eventually, DeVito and Casscles bonded over many glasses of wine in Casscles’ wine cellar. It was fortuitous that Casscles would become the winery’s winemaker as he and DeVito were to begin revolutionizing the wine movement in the Hudson Valley. Using hybrid grapes indigenous to the land, baco noir and chelois, Casscles and DeVito were raising the bar on the quality of wine. The grapes are French hybrids that can tolerate the Northeast’s harsh winters as they are hardy, vigorous and disease resistant. And, as DeVito says, great wine is made with great grapes, period. The proven testament is that Hudson-Chatham Winery produces five different Baco Noirs, some made with 60-year-old vines, one the winery’s first estate Baco Noir and all 2013 releases (it is a fact that the DeVito’s Baco Noir is the highest rated in the U.S.).
Raising the standard of wine making in the Hudson Valley – and New York State – producing excellent wines – Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Baco Noirs, Pinot Noir, Merlot and, most recently, the three-year-old Leon Millot (to be released at the winery’s “Spring Fling on March 21-22) has led to receiving numerous awards and national recognition. The winery also produces dessert wines, sweet wines and a sparkling apple wine. However, with only 14 acres of land and production growing in leaps and bounds by consumer demand, the DeVito’s have vines being grown in two of Casscles’ vineyards, as well as others in the area. The winery’s production has grown from 500 cases in 2007 to 3,000 cases in 2014 and an expected 3,500 cases in 2015.
Creating a stellar winery is just another stepping stone in his terroir. Carlo DeVito has been in the publishing business for more than 20 years and most recently started his own publishing company, Warren Street Books. DeVito’s unassuming demeanor belies his talents and accomplishments. He is a prolific author of more than 15 books on wine, sports, dogs and now history. His current book, Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden – The True Story of the Founding of Arlington, will be released in May. He is considered one of the most experienced wine, beer and spirits editors in the world and has published for numerous lifestyle magazines, as well as books for Wine Spectator and Esquire; wine luminaries Kevin Zraly, Matt Kramer and Oz Clarke, and many books with writers e.g. Stephen Hawking, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Dan Rather. Also, DeVito is co-founder of the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail and president of Hudson Valley Wine Country.
And what does the future hold – for surely being the owner of a winery can’t hold Carlo DeVito down? The DeVito’s are planning joint ventures with: Hudson Valley Distillery to release Clear Mountain Gin next month; and Chatham Brewing Company’s “Barrel Reserve” beer stored in a winery baco noir barrel.
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