“Tastemaker” is a term typically used to describe a person — either a sommelier or writer in the wine world — who decides what is good, cool or otherwise interesting. With our new #NYTastemaker profiles, I’ve decided to usurp the term to mean someone who actually makes the wines, ciders, spirits, etc. that we love. A “tastemaker” should make something, after all.
I’ve long found the Hudson River winemaking region a bit scattershot. The wineries are very spread out, which makes visiting more than a few per day difficult. Wine quality is up, but the wines are also extremely diverse — in both good and bad ways. Some wineries who focus on classic vinifera grapes and wines rely mostly or entirely on fruit purchased from Long Island and the Finger Lakes. Those who focus more on estate or locally grown fruit turn to winter-hardy hybrids, with mixed results.
At Tousey Winery in Germantown, NY, Ben Peacock and his wife Kimberly are doing something unique to the region. They focus on vinifera grapes like riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet franc and they source their fruit locally — growing quite a bit of it themselves.
Most importantly, the wines are good. Often better than good. When people ask me whose wines they need to know in the Hudson Valley, Ben’s name is often the first one out of my mouth. It doesn’t hurt that Ben and Kimberly are smart, energetic people with generosity and hospitality to burn.
Even better things are ahead for Tousey. You heard it here first.
Location: Clermont, New York
Current Job: Winemaker and co-owner, Tousey Winery
Wine of the moment: We have recently disgorged our first Blanc de Blancs so we have been drinking a lot of bubbles of late. It has nice weight and its more autolytic than I expected.
My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Sold out!
First bottle of wine I remember drinking: My first bottle of wine was drunk in the late 1990s. My girlfriend at the time was a big fan of Black Tower, a mass-produced sweet riesling with a very distinctive bottle. She lived in an old mining village in the industrial heartland of northern England (think a rainy, overcast Detroit on a smaller scale). We would gorge on Indian food and drink Black Tower and revel in how cosmopolitan we’d become.
How did I wind up here: Bit of a long story so I will condense. My wife, Kimberly, was originally born in the Hudson Valley. After a 20-year stint in Europe, she returned home seven and half months pregnant, with a one-year-old, eight moving boxes and a new husband. Luckily for us, Kimberly’s dad had a farm winery license that was going wanting.
My winemaking style — in more words: We definitely aim for a clean, fruit-driven style both in our whites and reds. We’re lucky that we happen to make wine in a region that is similar in style to the wines we used to drink, and are so prevalent in Europe. Ironically, California wines don’t carry the same weight in Europe as they do here.
Mentors: Peter Bell of Fox Run Vineyards, has been our mentor and dear friend from the start. He’s no stranger to your pages but he’s outrageously smart yet humble and hard working. We owe a debt of gratitude to the late Ben Gavitt, of the Enology Lab at Cornell, who initially recommended Peter as a consultant. That was back in 2010. I’ve been a student of Peter’s ever since. I wouldn’t say that I’m the best student that he’s ever had, but I fully subscribe to Peter’s winemaking philosophy. We tend to agree a lot on everything from wines styles to our outlook on politics.
Music playing in the cellar right now: Right now the kids have been asking for Oasis (proud father!) so I have been playing a bunch of their music. But it’s usually a combination of Pulp, Stone Roses, The Clash and Morrissey. When Kimberly walks in, it quickly changes to Zac Brown Band.
Favorite thing about the Hudson Valley wine industry: Our proximity to New York City. If we play our cards right, there is huge potential for growth both in terms of tourism and improving our reputation in the city.
Least favorite thing about the Hudson Valley wine industry: A few years ago, I would have said patchy wine quality. But the Valley has taken huge strides to improve quality overall. So now I would be inclined to say the sheer size of the Hudson Valley makes collaboration difficult. For most wineries you can’t just “pop next door for xyz.” You have to drive 30-plus minutes to the next winery.
One surprising thing that I’m really good at: When I was 18 years old, I was one of the top 15 bowlers (Ten Pin) in the United Kingdom. I managed to get three England caps, but unfortunately I didn’t do enough to make the Olympic team that year. Once I was introduced to booze and the opposite sex, the allure of bowling quickly faded away. I never played since — until recently.
What I drink: I’m particularly fond of malty beers. One of my favorites is Landlord by Timothy Taylors. My local beer store calls it the ‘Rolls-Royce of beers’. I tend to agree.
My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: Without a doubt, Belgian-style moules frites. For dessert, it’s probably too warm for jam roly-poly and custard but I will choke it down anyway. Wine-wise, I would have our pinot noir, some Kiwi sauvignon blanc and a selection of rieslings. But not Black Tower!