September 7, 2008

Learning About Local Wines

As those of us who live here know, the Hudson River Valley is one of the most picturesque wine regions in America. The vineyards are scattered along the river ridges and rolling hills, sheltered beneath the granite peaks and rock outcroppings of the Catskill Mountains. The steep river valley acts as a funnel for warm ocean air from the Atlantic.

The Hudson River Valley, one of the earliest settled regions of the U.S., was home to Dutch colonists long before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth. It was the first region of the U.S to make wine, at a time when California was still controlled by the Spanish. The region's winemaking tradition dates to 1677, when French Huguenots in the vicinity of New Paltz made wine from native wild grapes. Those experiments proved less than successful and inspired them to import vine cuttings from Europe, graft and hybridize new varieties and lay the groundwork for the origin of today’s Eastern wine industry. The nation's first commercial winery was built on the banks of the Hudson River at Croton Point, and New York's oldest, continuously operating winery, Brotherhood, opened in 1839.

Today, the rustic farm wineries of the Hudson Valley, many housed in renovated nineteenth century barns and chalets, are nestled in the foothills spreading east and west of the river. The region is blessed with an abundance of grape varieties that range from French-American hybrids such as Seyval Blanc and Vignoles to vinifera varieties imported from Europe like Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc.

Excerpted from Visit the site to learn more about local wines and the Shawangunk Wine Trail.

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