By defeating 635 other wines from across New York State, Rivendell Winery’s 2003 Dry Riesling captured the Governor’s Cup at the 19th annual New York Wine and Food Classic this summer at the Inn at East Wind in Wading River. In doing so, it earned the title “New York’s Best Wine.”

When I heard that, I knew I needed some time in New Paltz for a little R&R – Rivendell and Riesling. And, a couple weeks later, I got my chance.

As my future wife and I drove down the New York State Thruway, heading back to the Island after a weekend visiting her family outside of Albany, we decided to pull off at exit 18 and get a taste of gold medal winner for ourselves.

Just a short drive later, we pulled into Rivendell Winery, located on 50 bucolic Hudson Valley acres. As we stepped into the hardwood-floored, glass-enclosed tasting room, we were greeted by friendly, knowledgeable staff and an impressive list of more than 75 wines from throughout New York State, including several from Long Island.

Rivendell’s owners, Robert Ransom and Susan Wine, have a passion for New York wines, also running two Vintage New York Storesin Manhattan that offer New York wines exclusively – 200 of them.

But it was the Riesling that brought us to Rivendell… and it was phenomenal. Made at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck from grapes grown in the Finger Lakes, New York’s top wine was extremely complex and seemed to change with each sip. Bone dry and full of mineral character, as I tasted it began to burst with pineapple and citrus. Simply spectacular. At $12.99, it’s a steal, and I should have bought a few more bottles because it has since sold out.

Along with the Riesling, we tried several of the other Rivendell offerings ($3 for 5 tastes). The Trilogy Chardonnay was a nice find – tropical and juicy – and at $10.99, a nice, every day Chard.

A simple, easy-drinking Merlot under their other label, SoHo Cellars, was fruity with just a hint of toasty oak ($5.99 for a half bottle), while the Rivendell Reserve Merlot ($23.99) was berry forward but much richer and concentrated, with just a little spice and a long, elegant finish.

One of the most charming wines of the lot was the City Cab by Rivendell. A blend of Long Island Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it was much more interesting and complex than you’d expect for $9.99.

For more information on Rivendell Winery, visit or, to order wine (except the Riesling of course) visit or stop in at one of the Vintage New York shops, at 482 Broome Street or 2492 Broadway (at 93rd).

Lenn Thompson is a freelance food and wine writer living in Sound Beach.