“In constant motion” is the best phrase I can use to describe the dynamic team of Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore, founders and owners of Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery. I was lucky enough to catch them in the same room long enough to snap this picture.
It has been more than three decades since they broke ground on their vineyard in Gardiner, NY and now they have something new and exciting on the horizon.
Over the last thirty plus years the Migliores have created one of the most highly regarded wineries in the Hudson Valley and have made major contributions to the overall success of the wine industry here. This work was recently praised by the New York State Wine and Grape Foundation in granting Michael their 2015 Grower of the Year award.
Yet, at a point when many might be contemplating retirement Michael and Yancey have their eyes on loftier goals.
In the spring of this year they broke ground on a new vineyard located near Olana, the historic home of American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. This site is in an area of more than 1,600 acres of forests and farm fields conserved by Scenic Hudson, an organization that has the mission to protect the views that Hudson River School artists made oh so memorable in their canvases and to nurture and support sustainable agriculture in the region. A noble undertaking Michael and Yancey hold very dear.
Scenic Hudson is protecting the legendary views surrounding Olana. photo: Ted Spiegel
Views are nice but making productive use of the land is of equal importance. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the Hudson River, Yancy told me. She also explained that “the river’s tidal waters bring about a more temperate climate and the site’s slope allows colder air to drain off, while warmer air rises up from the river” making it possible to successfully grow delicate European grape varieties here.
The property selection was based on research performed by Cornell Cooperative Extension, an entity that Michael has done extensive work with over the years. Research designed to build a knowledge base that has served as a valuable guide to grape growers throughout the Hudson Valley.
By 2017 the new Olana Vineyard is expected to be yielding quality fruit for Hudson Valley riesling, a wine that Whitecliff has been producing since its founding. Today Whitecliff produces their typical riesling with grapes from three major New York regions. Occasionally one of these regions produces such a good crop that a reserve wine is made of a single region’s grapes. In 2009 Whitelciff’s Riesling won “Best of Show” at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. They are very excited about the wines that will come from this new property.
Excellent site selection, careful growing and fruit sourcing is not the only reason for Whitecliff’s success. Everything must be just right in the winery too. This next tidbit is probably only of interest to wine geeks like me, but another secret of success with Whitecliff’s white wines is the adoption of a clarification method using an interesting piece of German technology called the Kiesel Floatclear®. This machine performs a unique process that facilitates brisk clearing of the juice in a manner that preserves the grapes’ precious natural flavors.
Also of note, for vegans or anyone who cares about the purity of what they consume, you’ll be happy to know that Michael and Yancey’s son, Tristan, who is vegan, has inspired them, yes you guessed it, to make all their wines vegan. I am told that all but one are now vegan and the last, their Awosting White, they hope to be 100% vegan by 2016. This quiet change was of course made with careful attention to maintaining and improving the quality of the wine.
While Michael is busy in the fields and winery, Yancey is busy marketing and educating, I’d say enlightening, people about their wines. I spent some time with her a month ago as she enthusiastically presented her wines to dozens of people at the Garrison Art Center Riverside Craft Fair. She has a lot to share. You may see her at events all over the state and in Whitecliff’s cozy tasting room. Learn more about Whitecliff at their new website www.whitecliffwine.com