Stephen Osborn at Stoutridge Vineyard
What started as a grand experiment, one with results that were successful beyond anyone’s expectations, Stoutridge Vineyard is a very unique winery. In 2001, founders Stephen Osborn and Kim Wagner set out to prove a thesis, they believed that great New York wines could be made truly locally, with local grape species, using the most simple, Old World, terrior-driven vinification processes — some call this “natural” wine making. To achieve wines that taste like they truly come from here.
Their wines are perhaps like no others you have ever had.
The best way I can begin to describe Stoutridge wine is like this. Say one evening you decide to pass on that new blockbuster movie at the multiplex and decide instead to see a film at an art cinema house. The film is vivid, different, you enjoyed it, did not quite understand it all, but scenes keep pleasantly replaying in your mind.
That is what Stoutridge is like. Like an art film. You may not like Steve’s wines, or the art film you saw and he is okay with that. But, they are both worthy of appreciation. His goal is not to make “great” wine, that critics will fawn over. Rather, Steve’s intent is to make authentic local wines that are also great. They are different, by design. Yet if you let yourself openly experience them, you could be in for a treat, have the pleasure of wines that are exciting and true. I loved five of the seven I tasted during a recent visit and tour of the winery. Frankly I can’t stop thinking about them.
It all begins with this “We’re biochemists not ‘winemakers’ Steve tells me, we approach wine making from a different point of view. Sounds a bit sci fi-ish. But think about it, wine is, from the earth to the bottle, all about biochemistry. So is the food you eat, it can be some nice raw vegetables in a salad fresh from your garden, or a genetically modified corn in some bizarrely constructed and flavored dipping chip. Steve and Kim’s approach is akin to the former, their extensive education as biochemists enables them to understand what the grapes may do from a genetic level and without alteration make truly natural wine.
They eschew techniques that other winemakers embrace, even those that call themselves natural viticulturalists. At the Stoutridge there are no pumps, it is 100% gravity feed, letting the juice flow at its own pace. There are minimal additives, an no finining or filtering to take away flavors. There is no heat stabilization, a process that can drastically affect the wine, but essential to allow shipping. Stoutridge is like a local microbrewery, where best beers are fresh from the brewing tank. It is a local micro-winery that serves and sells all its wine at very place where it is made.
So what does this all mean to you the wine drinker? To me the wines are exciting, new and fresh. They evoke expressive mental imagery and sensual pleasures that are a delight. Yet they are different, I suggest tasting them from the heart and not the mind. Enjoy them for themselves rather than comparing them to other wines you’ve had.
The tasting room is well laid out, decorated with Steve’s own art. He is all about the visual. Stoutridge hosts over 12,000 guests a year and gets very busy on the weekends. Steve poured me seven of his wines I really liked all but two.
The Hudson Heritage White was one of my favorites, a 2008, yes you’re are reading that right, 2008, it takes a long time to make these wines, the 2010 is being released soon. Each vintage is different, this one a blend of local Seyval Blanc, Cayuga White and Vida. It danced out of the glass with a gentle effervescence, still fermenting, with rich flavors of aged wine yet remarkably fresh.
Another white made with the Niagara grape, opened up as if you plucked a handful of ripe grapes off the vine and crushed them in your hands, the blooming aromas filling your nose. The first taste was a bit off putting, odd, at first, but then as I let the wine rest and wrap around my tongue, delicious wholesome flavors emerged. Steve likes wine that remind him of his youth growing up in rural New York State, he likes wines that taste like the earth here in the Hudson Valley, in Marlboro, right here.
Then, in tasting two rosés, neither like those from Provence, nor anywhere else, I was even more enchanted, was there something in the air? No just good fruit, carefully nurtured with the least intervention to make wines with unique character. The two reds I tasted were wild, not entirely to my taste, yet very good. The Frontenac, a rich and powerful wine with a lot of earth, roasted nut, and vibrant flavors, triggered for me images of bacchanalian consumption in ancient Rome, it tasted to me like wines may have tasted then.
The Stoutridge Winery is a beautiful facility in a tranquil setting. On the Shawangunk Wine Trail as well as the Meet Me In Marlborough Farm Trail. It is well worth a visit. Try these wines, open your mind and heart to something new and I think you will be very pleased.
An exciting addition to Stoutridge is there distillery that is expected to be turning out fantastic spirits, as soon as this summer. Steve has some very interesting whiskey, vodka and gin planned. This was always Plan B in case the winery failed, but I suspect it will be a very successful venture too.