For many people wine is just another item on their supermarket shopping list, a gallon of milk, a liter of soda, Coke or Sprite, some wine red or white. True, not so in New York which is one of the 15 states that still doesn’t allow supermarket wine sales, which by the way account for about 42% of all wines sales in the U.S. And certainly not so for wine geeks like me. Or Bob from Sonoma and Bruno Alterescu who I met today at Bruno’s new winery in Marlboro, NY. For us the wine experience is something to be revered, an adventure into pleasure that should be cherished from end to end. And brings me to places like this.
Named after himself and his grandson, Rafael, who hopefully will become winemaker here someday, Brunel & Rafael, founded just 3 years ago, is the newest on the Shawangunk Trail. Set on a small farm property the just opened tasting room is in a century old house, the winery in younger outbuildings, it is a peaceful place.
Making wine is a new profession for Alterescu, inspired out of a love of wine that grew later in life. Born in Eastern Europe, he does not come from a wine drinking family. He recalls his first wine epiphany was with a rosé wine. Many good glasses later he came to consider that making wine to be one of the noblest things man can do with nature. He might not explain it in quite these words for he is very precise. That comes from his background as an engineer.
What is with it with these engineers and wine? Bruno is the third former engineer to become a winemaker I’ve run into here. However, it does make sense. Retired from a very successful career in tech, with a love of wine and a postulate that one could create great wine using the proper research, sources and discipline, Bruno set out to do just that.
On a sunny picture perfect Hudson Valley afternoon, Bob from Sonoma, who I met as I entered the tasting room, and I sipped six wines from this winery’s first production, 2012. Maybe it is beginner’s luck or Bruno has proved his postulate, we won’t know until we taste the next production, but these wines were really good.
Bob living just down the road from some of America’s greatest, knows California Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs well, he was rightfully impressed by B and R’s wines of these grapes. The other four we tasted were a Merlot Rosé, crisp and dry; a very interesting in a good way, Gewurztraminer; a full Merlot, that I did not personally care for; and a luscious Cabernet Franc.
All grapes for these wines are sourced from New York state growers, Hudson Valley and North Fork. Bob and I were both impressed by the robustness of the Pinot Noir, delicate in nose and color, nothing like what you find coming from Washington state, yet the most full and rewarding NY Pinot I’ve tasted to date. Bob bought a bottle of that and I purchased the Cabernet Franc which has fast become my go-to grape for New York reds. This one was big in complex flavors. All the wines were very clean and well balanced. The entire winery production is tiny, in the hundreds of cases. It is good to start and often to stay small. Bruno was not sharing much about his techniques although he did make it clear that good quality grapes is the key as well as minimal processing, letting nature be as she is, was important to him. As I believe Bob said, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”
It is fascinating to experience the common passion and yet unique approach each Hudson Valley winemaker I’ve met so far has for their craft, they are all doing great work to elevate their wine and patron experiences, it bodes well for the entire region which to my mind is only going to get better.