For all the wine I have enjoyed, which by any measure is quite a lot, I have visited surprisingly few vineyards. A few in Italy, one or two in California, some in Virginia and New Jersey. But, that has all changed since I took on the Hudson Valley Beat at the New York Cork Report. In fewer than three months I’ve visited four and there are many more on the calendar. For the first three I arrived with an appointment, a planned interview, A reporter’s tour.
On this most recent visit, I decided to go undercover, as an everyday consumer off the street. My destination — Whitecliff Vineyard in Gardiner, NY.
On our way there I was pretty sure Google Maps had us lost as it directed me through territory boldly marked as property of the Ulster County Correctional Facility. But this is not really that unusual, all the wineries I have visited so far on the Shawangunk Wine Trail have had a peculiar approach of some kind. Rural New York is not like the bucolic Italian countryside.
Nevertheless as we got close, fields of grapes vines spread out before us, almost as far as you could see. Whitecliff, a successful vineyard founded over 30 years ago by Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore, seems to grow more of its own fruit than other vineyards I have seen. This I think is a very good thing.
Slowly motoring up a curved drive we spotted the sign to the tasting room and made our way there. The grounds here are beautiful and these photos were taken a few weeks ago, much lusher now I am sure.
It seems that an essential part of the winery game in New York is to have attractions beyond the wine. On this weekend Whitecliff with Tuthilltown Spirits were offering up wine cocktails with Whitecliff Wine and, well yes, Tuthilltown Spirits.
Tristan Migliore, son of Michael and Yancey, and awesome mixologist, was in the house offering six or were there eight well-crafted wine-spirit cocktails served in small plastic shot glasses with snacks. We enjoyed a nice swallow of each, they were very good. Which brings up a word of caution, it is probably a good idea to have a designated driver on your winery tour or use one of the wine tour buses. The wine is just too tempting.
The people who serve at the Whitecliff Tasting Room could not have been friendlier and they do know their stuff. Listening in as they served other guests I noted that they spoke knowledgeably yet down-to-earth about their many wines. There are over 20 made here.
Three decades ago Michael and Yancey had a goal of creating an artisinal family run winery with a deep connection to the Hudson Valley traditions and that produced fine complex European-style wines. Years of hard work, building literally from bare ground to what they have today, has paid off. I think they have done very well. Lenn tells me that their Gamay is the best in New York State, unfortunately it was sold out the day we were there. We tried there Traminette but it was not to our taste. To each there own right. We did love the a Sparkling version of their Awosting White.
Outside is a nice deck where you can enjoy your wine if so inclined. Guests are (within guidelines) welcome to picnic here. In addition to tasting and buying wines and spirits, there are also light snacks and artisinal cheese for purchase, as well as memorabilia and gift items.
Planning to make one of Tristan’s cocktails for an upcoming party we bought a 64 oz growler of Whitecliff’s fabulous sparkling Awosting along with some of their smooth Ruby White Port. At the party we just poured the wine, an appealing blend of Vignoles and Seyval Blanc, two classic Hudson Valley grapes, fermented to fizz. It was a real hit with our party guests, who as you might expect are pretty fussy about their wine. We kept the White Ruby Port for another occasion it is quite good, I can be selfish like that.
You can only get the Sparkling Awosting at the vineyard. That is also true of many of the better wines of other Hudson Valley wineries I’ve visited. Yet another reason to make the trip.
If you are in the Lower Hudson, or coming up from New Jersey or Pennsylvania, the Shawangunk Wine Trail is a great place to start exploring New York State wineries. There are 14 vineyards/wineries on the trail, as I mentioned each one has their unique offerings so check the individual websites as well. From here we went into nearby Gardiner, NY for a fabulous late lunch at Cafe Mio and stopped by Hudson Valley Wine Market for more wine. More details on visiting Whitecliff Vineyard are here Visting Whitecliff
By the way, if your are a dog lover you are in luck, at Whitecliff well behaved dogs are welcome to explore the grounds, and they are even allowed inside the tasting room when they are not crowded. However, they better not pick a fight with the Whitecliff resident watch dog. His gentle demeanor is only for polite guests.