Adair Winery ~ New Paltz, New York

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Well I’m finally back on the win(e)ding roads…   Once again life has a way of interfering with fun, although to be fair it is life – or more strictly work – that pays for all of these wonderful jaunts.  So I suppose I can’t complain too much.

Truth be told, though, I haven’t actually hit the wine trail in almost two months; a fact I was bemoaning to Jean, one of my fellow SOTS, just yesterday.  But we hope to rectify that soon.  In the meantime, I still have notes, pictures and wine from the last two wineries I visited this past summer.

I finished up the month of August with a second visit over to the Hudson River Valley and the Shawangunk Wine Trail.   My first, and unfortunately only, stop of the day – Adair Vineyards in New Paltz, New York.

Producing wines since 1987, Adair Vineyards is located a few minutes off the thruway just outside the small downtown area of New Paltz.  The vineyards encompass 10 acres, growing Seyval, Vignoles, Marechal Foch and Millot grapes, and the winery produces approximately 20,000 bottles a year.

The winery is housed in an historic old barn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dating back to 1800, the building is beautifully preserved both inside and out.  I fully admit I’m a sucker for red barns; there’s something about them that just calls to me.  Particularly if they feel like they’ve been there forever – a sense of connection to the past.

Outside, the barn, which sits just off the road, fits perfectly with the surrounding fields and vineyards and welcomes visitors to stop and linger at one of the several picnic tables that dot the yard.  Inside, the Adair has capitalized on both the charm and history of the barn.  Inside the main door a small foyer with whitewashed walls opens up onto a stairway leading to the converted hay loft which now serves as the winery’s Tasting Room.   3/4 of the way up the stairs a small landing houses an antique victrola, above which hangs a lovely tapestry.

As you reach the top of the stairs, the space opens up into a large open room flanked by alcoves on the left featuring wine-themed gifts and accessories and the tasting bar running along the back and right walls.  The A-line roof is supported by large exposed oak beams, likely original to the space.   Antique farm implements are positioned around the room and the back walls are lined with pictures and advertisements from the early part of the 20th century.   Centering the room, both literally and figuratively, is a lovely wagon wheel chandelier.  The overall effect is both roomy and cozy, and despite the lack of chairs, guests are made to feel comfortable, welcome and encouraged to linger.

On the afternoon I stopped by in late August, Adair’s menu included five wines, three whites, a beaujolais style rose and a dessert wine, a blackberry kir.  Tastings are $5 and include all five wines.  Adair is open from May through December, Friday-Sunday 11:00 – 6:00, with additional hours added during the harvest months of September and October.  A member of the Shawangunk Wine Trail, Adair participates in the trail’s special events, including the current Wreath Fineries Event, but restrict trail events to groups of 10 or fewer only.

Coming next Tuesday, the Wines of Adair Vineyards

Adair Vineyards
52 Allhusen Road
New Paltz, NY 12561

Shawangunk Wine Trail ~ Hudson River Region AVA, New York

Vineyards at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains; Winery: Palaia Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

By the time I arrived home from my Maine trip that Friday afternoon in mid-August, I had visited 10 wineries in 4 states in just 7 days.  With only two days left until I was due to return to work, I decided Saturday and Sunday would be best spent at home, relaxing, doing laundry and making the mental shift from vacation back to work-mode.

But I still had the Shawnagunk Wine Trail Summer Pass in my pocket and 7 wineries left on the trail.  So the following weekend found me back on I-84 heading west.

85 miles north of Manhattan and about 120 miles west of me here outside of Hartford, CT, the Hudson River Valley lays claim to being the oldest wine region in the United States.   French Hugenots planted the first vines in 1677, and wine production has continued in the region through the present day.  The region boasts the oldest continuously operating winery, Brotherhood Winery, and the oldest continually cultivated vineyard, Benmarl Vineyards in America.

In 1982, the Hudson River Region AVA was designated, running along the banks of the Hudson River under the shadow of the Shawngunk and Catskill Mountains, from White Plains in the south to just below Albany in the North.  Today the region is home to 20 wineries, most in the southern portion of the AVA, well within an easy drive of New York City, Albany, Connecticut and northern New Jersey.

In the heart of the AVA lies the Shawangunk Wine Trail. On the western banks of the Hudson River at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains, the trail is comprised of 11 wineries that stretch between New Paltz and Warwick, New York, along some spectacular scenic drives.  The area was lovely in the height of the summer and must be absolutely stunning in the Fall.

Hudson River Valley farmland; Warwick, NY looking east towards the Hudson River

Throughout the year, the Shawangunk Wine Trail hosts special events and promotions, including the Summer Pass which had prompted my first visit to the region.  Coming up is the Wreath Fineries promotion, which runs three weekends in late November/early December.  At your first winery stop you’ll receive a Shawangunk Wine Trail wine glass, a holiday wreath crafted from grapevines, and a holiday ornament to hang on the wreath.  At each subsequent winery you can pick up additional ornaments until your wreath is complete.  1-day and 2-day passes are available, and the event runs the weekend before Thanksgiving (November 20-21) and the first two weekends in December (December 4-5 and 11-12).  Tickets can be purchased online through the Shawnagunk Wine Trail website.

That second trip to the region was a relatively short one – I left late and managed only one winery stop, Adair Vineyard, which will be featured here on Vino Verve beginning Tuesday.  But there are 6 wineries still remaining on the Shawangunk Wine Trail and at least 9 more in the larger Hudson River Valley – enough material for several months at least.

The Wines of Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery ~ Black Dirt Red

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Of Warwick Valley’s five reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Black Dirt Red, I chose the Black Dirt because the shelf notes indicated this was a 100% Baco Noir.  Never having heard of the grape, at least not to my knowledge, odds were that I’d never tasted it before either.  And what’s the point of adventuring if you don’t take a chance on new experiences?  And thus, the Black Dirt Red made the cut and joined the Chardonnay and the Riesling in my basket that afternoon.

Before trying the wine, I decided to learn a bit more about the grape.  A quick Google search turned up several articles, including a Wikipedia entry.  Baco Noir is a hybrid grape produced from a cross of the Folle Blanche and an unknown American varietal.  First cultivated in Europe, and once fairly common in France, Baco Noir grapes were introduced into North America in the early 1950s.  Today, the grape is grown primarily in cooler regions, and while you may find it grown in the mid-Atlantic states, you’ll most often find it across the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and Canada, particularly Ontario.

First the grape, then the wine…  The Black Dirt Red is a medium-purple color with flashes of ruby.  The nose is dusky and earthy and rather subdued.  Given the description, I expected the nose to be stronger and fruitier, and at first was concerned that I had perhaps gotten a bad bottle.  But no fear, the first sip dispelled any fears, and the grape lived up to its description.  I was quite taken aback by the almost overpowering presence of the fruit with that first sip, but by the second – or third – sip, it started to grow on me.

The predominant notes are tangy cherry and rich plum.  Together they give the wine both a brightness and a sweetness that is rather distinctive.  Based on my initial reaction, I expected the wine to be off-putting over time.  But I wasn’t quite ready to walk away and by the end of the first glass found the wine to be more intriguing than I had first given it credit for.  Over time the fruit layered in the mouth providing a depth I hadn’t expected.  I poured a second glass to pair with dinner, which was a simple grilled strip steak and a creamy risotto with fontina and parmesan cheeses.  The food didn’t cut or even subdue the strength of the fruit, but it did bring out a touch of warm spice on the finish, a welcome balance to the brightness of the fruit.

According to the articles I found online, New York is one of the larger producers of Baco Noir, and I wonder if this is a grape at the heart of many of the Finger Lakes Reds.   I haven’t yet been to the Finger Lakes although my good friend Greg Rogers and his family live nearby, and Greg has kindly gifted me with some of his favorite Finger Lakes wines over the years.  I’ve generally found the Reds to be somewhat sweeter than I tend to prefer and definitely very fruity.  I chalked that up to  Greg’s personal preferences or the general style of the region’s wines, but now I’m starting to suspect it may also be due to the grape.  The bright tangy cherry I’m finding in the Warwick Valley Black Dirt Red reminds me of the hallmarks of some of those wines Greg has brought me over the years.

Definitely calls for more research.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the remainder of the Black Dirt Red, and my next encounter with Baco Noir.

The Wines of Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery ~ Riesling

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

A few days after finishing Warwick Valley’s Chardonnay, I opened the Riesling.

The color is medium-yellow, and like the Chardonnay a darker, richer color than I often find in the Northeast.   The nose is subdued and earthy, really pleasant and a nice change from the floral and fruity noses I’ve been finding lately.

In the mouth, the wine is richly fruity, not what I expected given the subdued earthiness in the nose.  I definitely picked up notes of pear on the front and green apple, a very tart green apple on the back.  It’s a wonderful combination, starting off soft with the light sweetness of the pear, and then opening up in the mouth to the tart, more robust fruitiness of the apple.

A drier Riesling, this wine stands up nicely on it’s own with a nice bite of acid on the finish providing crispness.  It also pairs really nicely with food and stands up to stronger, spicier flavors.  I paired it with Tuna which worked really well with the tart crispness of the wine.  However, what really surprised me was how it held up against the sharper heat of wasabi.   But instead of clashing, the wasabi brought out more of the pear’s sweetness and helped soften the tartness of the green apple.  As a result the wine felt more full and balanced.

I definitely preferred this to the Chardonnay, and will be picking up a couple more bottles on my next visit.

The Wines of Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery ~ Chardonnay

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I don’t do well with crowds in the best of times, and the end of a long day with three wineries already under my belt does not make for the best of circumstances.  So I opted not to try to navigate my way through the throngs of the people at the bar that afternoon and instead take a chance and bring home several bottles to explore at my leisure.

The first of the three Warwick Valley wines I chose that afternoon was the Chardonnay.  The color is a beautiful, sunny yellow – one of the darker yellows I’ve seen here in the Northeast and more reminiscent of the golden yellow Chardonnays of the west coast than the paler yellow/straw-colored Chardonnays of New England.

The nose is dusky and oaky with light notes of green pepper.  In the mouth, the wine was very smooth, with no really strong notes on the front.  However, the wine opens up a bit in the mouth and notes of green pepper pull through in the back of the mouth.  There’s a nice acid on the finish with just a hint of citrus that gives the wine a nice bite.  The oak adds a butteriness without being too soft and sweet.

I paired this with a grilled, blackened chicken breast and summer salad.  The wine worked beautifully with the meal, standing up to the pepperiness of the blackened seasoning.  The smooth butteriness helped “cool” the pepper on the chicken, while the pepper, in turn, brought out even more of the smoothness of the wine.   Very nice.

Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery ~ Warwick, New York

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

A quick 10-15 minutes down the road from Applewood Winery was my last stop of the day, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery.  As I pulled into the parking area, it was pretty clear that this is the place to be on a Sunday afternoon in Warwick, New York.  Despite it being late afternoon with only 90 minutes until closing, dozens of picknickers still dotted the lawns; all available tables and chairs on the patio were spoken for, and inside?  Inside reminded me of the weekend crowds at the Long Island wineries – the crowd at the bar was easily 4 or 5 deep with more people wandering around the large retail area waiting for their turn at the bar, and people were lined up 2 and 3 deep in the café.

The winery itself is quite large, housed in a beautiful renovated apple packing house.  L-shaped, the main building houses the Tasting Room and retail area and the bottom of the “L,” the Pané Cafe, a full-service cafe serving sandwiches, pizza and salads made from local ingredients and bread baked fresh, from scratch, every day.   Locapour and Locavore – can’t beat it.  The smells from the cafe were heavenly, and I’ll definitely plan time for lunch during my next visit.

The interior space is open and inviting, and the dim coolness of the interior was a welcome respite from the sharp sun outside.  Warwick Valley is obviously well-used to the crowds and have laid out the space nicely to manage traffic flow.  To the left of the front door as you enter is a small gift area and a cooler with chilled bottles of wine for purchase.  Wine kegs are clustered around the wood support posts running down the middle of the room providing additional space for people to enjoy the wine and a snack from the cafe.  A large U-shaped Tasting Bar holds court on the back wall with plenty of space to accommodate the crowds of people I suspect they get every weekend.  And just past the bar around the corner from the gift area, the space opens up in front of a wall lined with wine racks and dozens of bottles of Warwick Valley’s current vintages.  One of the things I appreciated most about the space planning was that I didn’t have to fight my way through the crowd at the bar to get to the wine in the back.  I also loved that they posted descriptions of each wine, making the selection process much easier.  This was one of the first wineries I’d encountered that provided shelf notes, similar to those you often see in wine shops, and I’d love to see the practice catch on at other wineries.

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery is owned by Jason and Katherine Grizzanti, who bought the property in 1989.  After a particularly abundant apple crop one year they began experimenting with the production of hard cider, Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider.  Over the years, they’ve perfected the recipe and have been cited as “one of the great North American ciders” by Carlo De Vito, author of East Coast Wineries.  In addition to the apple cider, Warwick Valley also produces Doc’s Draft Hard Pear Cider and Doc’s Draft Hard Raspberry Cider.

You’d think by now that I’d have learned to read websites more carefully before visiting a winery.  Because the tasting room was so packed when I arrived, and because it was the end of the day and I was tired and didn’t want to hang around trying to fight my way to the Tasting Bar, I decided to forgo the tasting, browse the retail area and pick up a few bottles of wine to try at home.  Not knowing that Warwick Valley started with the hard cider – or that they had pear cider, which I definitely would have tried for how often can you say you’ve seen, no less sampled, pear cider? – I bypassed the ciders altogether in favor of two whites and a red.  Oh well.  I knew I wanted to come back for a full tasting in the future, so this just gives me more impetus to head back.

With the success of Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider, the Grizzanti’s continued to expand their repertoire, opening to the public in 1994.  Over the years their wine menu has grown from three wines and one cider in the beginning to 10 wines (5 reds, 4 whites and 1 dessert wine), 3 ciders, and 5 cordials/liqeuers today.  The latter are among the most recent additions to the Warwick Valley line-up, having been introduced in 2001, a logical extension to the cider production.   Warwick Valley is the first fruit distillery in the Hudson River Valley since Prohibition, and today is among the largest producers of hard ciders and fruit spirits in the region with 26,000 cases of wine and 1,500 cases of spirits annually (source: The Wine Trail Traveler)

The winery and tasting room is open year-round from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, and the Pané Cafe is open Fridays, 12:00 – 4:00 and Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 – 5:00.  Live music is featured every Saturday and Sunday afternoon with no cover charge, except for special events.  Warwick Valley also hosts four festivals throughout the year: The Apple Blossom Festival, The Bob Dylan Festival, The Blues & Wine/Black Sunday, and the Harvest Moon Festival.  Check their website for details.

Warwick Valley’s wines and spirits can be ordered through their website, and they can ship wine to 47 of the 50 states (including Illinois, Gretch!).  Their wines can also be found in stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Once again, check their website for details.

I pretty much knew as soon as I saw the crowd at the bar that I was coming back another day.  I just didn’t have it in me to compete for space at the bar. So instead, I consulted the shelf notes, shamelessly eavesdropped on two women nearby who were passionately debating their “favorites” from the tasting they had just finished, and finally selected two whites, the Riesling and the Chardonnay, and the Black Dirt Red, all of which you’ll see featured here in Vino Verve over the next several posts.

In the meantime, I’m starting to plan my return trip, which will probably be a two-fer, a stop at Brotherhood for the winery tour and a chance to try the Traditional Tasting, and lunch and the tasting at Warwick.  Wait a couple weeks for the leaves to start turning, take a Friday off to avoid the worst of the weekend crowds, and this could make for a perfect Fall day on the Win(e)ding Roads.

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery
114 Little York Road
Warwick, New York 10990
(845) 258-4858

Applewood Winery & Orchard ~ Wines & Ciders

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I was pleasantly surprised by Applewood’s wine list.  Between the name and the extensive apple and pear orchards lining the long driveway, I admit I expected fruit wines and cider.  Instead, I found a rather extensive menu of both grape and fruit wines as well as hard cider.  It made it very tough to pick only five, and I probably spent more time over that menu than any other in quite some time.  But in the end, I settled on my five, making sure to include the cider, and began with the

Seyval Chardonnay The lightest and driest of the Applewood whites, the Seyval Chardonnay is crisp and clean, with a lightly floral nose.  In the mouth, the wine has notes of green pepper with a light pop of acid on the end which helps provide the crispness.  A nice wine that would pair well with lighter foods, salads, grilled chicken or shrimp; it would also stand well on its own as a light sipping wine.

Traminette It’s funny how one good experience with a wine can flip you into a fascination with it.  Because I so enjoyed the Traminette at Northwinds, as soon as I saw it on Applewoods menu I knew it would be one of my five choices that afternoon.  Labeled as an off-dry wine, Applewood’s Traminette has a soft nose with lush notes of apricot.  In the mouth, the wine is soft and rich with strong notes of apricot and a very smooth finish.  While not a sweet wine, the strong notes of apricot do provide a sweetness that earns it the “off-dry” label.    There’s very low acid on the finish, and I found myself missing that – I wanted a bit more of a bite to balance out the smooth sweetness on the front.  That being said, I imagine this would be a really popular wine, particularly with those who tend to shy away from really dry wines, but want something that’s not too sweet.

I evenly split my tasting between two whites and two reds and in between took a quick detour with the Stone Fence Cider.   Hard cider is one of the pleasures of Fall – crisp and tangy, it just pairs perfectly with the cooler evenings and heartier foods of Autumn.  Applewood’s is a nice cider, but it didn’t win me over.  The nose is soft and very subtle, and in the mouth what really hit me was the effervescence.  It almost felt too strong.  The cider has both notes of apple and honey, and while the honey provides a nice touch of smooth sweetness, I felt that it toned down the apple too much.  I was really looking for that crisp apple tang that, to me, is the hallmark of a great cider.  Overall, it’s quite pleasant, just not quite what I was expecting.

OBR After the cider I rinsed my glass and moved on to the reds.  First up was the OBR, which unfortunately I didn’t think to ask what the initials stood for until after I left.  A red blend, the color is a medium purply garnet color.  The nose is rich and deep with strong notes of both smoke and earth.  I expected the earthiness to continue in the mouth, but instead found very bright cherry notes, which were almost too bright for my taste.  The wine also has light tannins and smoother finish than I had anticipated; I found myself wishing for a bit more on the finish, perhaps pepper or leather, something to provide a bit of heat or depth to contrast with the brightness of the fruit on the front.  The Tasting Notes indicate this pairs well with food, particularly recommending lamb.

Now that I’m a few weeks removed from my visit to Applewood, I find myself wondering the extent to which the cider influenced my experience with the OBR.  I always cleanse my palate with wine crackers in between tastings, but it may not have been enough and may have factored into my tasting.  I’ll definitely have to try the OBR next time I’m in the area, and if the experience is different, it may be worth buying a bottle, since there’s only so much one can experience from a 1oz tasting.

Cabernet Franc To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, I concluded my tasting with the Cabernet Franc.  One of Applewood’s award winners, this is a very nice wine, and my favorite among the five I sampled that afternoon.  A lovely purply ruby color, the nose has a lovely dusky fruitiness.   In the mouth, this was what I had been looking for in the OBR.  Rich and lush, with light sweet notes of blackberry and black cherry and a warm spice finish with a flash of pepper for heat that settles into the softer, earthier warmth of cumin.  Medium-bodied the wine opens up with each subsequent sip and will do better if allowed to breathe for a good 20-30 minutes before serving.  This should pair well with a variety of meats and heartier foods.

I headed out that afternoon with a bottle of the Cabernet Franc under my arm and a lifetime pass for free wine tastings in my hand.  I also looked into the Wino Club, but Applewood doesn’t ship to Connecticut.  They do ship outside New York, it just depends on the particular state and its distribution laws.  For more on that, check out Gretchen’s posts on the subject, or the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition website (link on the right of this page).

Applewood Orchards & Winery ~ Warwick, New York

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

As wonderful an invention as GPS is, it has one downside – I no longer look at maps.  And that means I don’t always have a sense of where I am in relation to other places I’ve been.  Case in point – the wineries on my recent Hudson Valley excursion.  Applewood Orchards & Winery is about 20 minutes down the road from Palaia Vineyards, and the route from one to the other takes you right past my favorite outlet mall, Woodbury Commons.  When I was planning this trip, I remember thinking that 2 hours each way was doable as that was how long it takes me to get to Woodbury Commons, and I do that as a day trip a couple times a year.  But could I make the connection and realize that the wineries and the mall were pretty much all in the same area?  Not so much.  I could say in my defense that the directions to Brotherhood, the first winery of the day, took me further west past the exit I would normally take for the mall, and that the winding backroads caused me to not realize how far south I was traveling, but the truth is, I just wasn’t paying attention.

Anyway, this post isn’t about Woodbury Commons, or even my lack of direction that afternoon, but rather the third winery of my trip, Applewood Orchards & Winery.  Given the name, I was anticipating predominately fruit wines, such as those I found at Bishop’s Orchard Winery in Connecticut.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the name, and the extensive apple and pear orchards lining the long drive, Applewood produces a wide range of wines, including Chardonnay and Traminette among the whites and Cabernet Franc and Merlot among the reds.  They also have fruit wines and hard cider.

The winery, vineyards and orchards are part of a much larger farm that is one of the oldest in New York.  Established by Samuel G. Staats in 1700, the original 5,000 acre farm was parceled into smaller units and sold many times throughout the subsequent 300 years.  In 1949 the portion of land that makes up today’s Applewood Orchards & Winery and which includes the original stone house built by Staats in 1700, was purchased by the Hull Family for their son David, who began the orchards that still thrive today.

In 1993, Jonathan Hull, David Hull’s son, and his wife opened the winery.  They winery is housed in two barn-like buildings set about 1/4 of a mile inside the property, down a long gravel road flanked by apple and pear orchards.   A tented pavilion sits between the Tasting Room and the tank room, and tables and chairs are available throughout the space.  When I arrived, a local music teacher was entertaining about a dozen people relaxing on the patio, enjoying the wine, the music and the gorgeous afternoon.

The Tasting Room is a large, open space, very simply decorated.  The Tasting Bar runs 3/4 of the way around the room, and could easily accomodate 30 or 40 people comfortably.  Plenty of staff were on hand and despite a fair number of people already present, I found I was able to find a space at the bar and begin my tasting right away.   A tasting includes your choice of five of Applewood’s 16 wines, and with your first purchase of a bottle of Applewood wine you receive a card good for Lifetime Free Wine Tastings for up to 4 people.  Not a bad deal, and a great way to keep people coming back.

Applewood’s wines are produced in limited quantities and are only available through the winery.  They are able to ship wines to many locations, and you can order wines directly from their website.  They also offer the “Wino’s Club,” where they will “ship you two bottles of fabulous Applewood wine 4 times a year at 20% discount.”  Members also receive a 20% discount on all wine purchases, whether you purchase a bottle or a case.  Membership is free, and you can get additional details from Applewood’s website.

The tasting room is open from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays from April – December, and also open on Fridays from July through October.  They are closed January through March.  To help maintain a more casual, intimate atmosphere, they have a “no buses or vans” policy and limo’s by appointment, so if you are planning to come as part of a group, best to call ahead to make arrangements.

Applewood Orchards & Winery
82 Four Corners Road
Warwick, NY 10990

The Wines of Palaia Vineyards

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Palaia produces 3 whites, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Traminette, 2 white blends, 5 reds, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, DeChaunac and Lemberger, 2 red blends, 1 blush, and, surprisingly, Mead.  All are fermented and aged in stainless steel with French and/or American oak chips added as required.

The Tasting Menu includes 20 wines, with different vintages of several wines being offered.  A tasting, while complimentary, includes your choice of five wines, and I must admit it was tough to select only five.  But with the advice of my host, I finally landed on one white, the Traminette, three reds and the Mead.

2006 Traminette Pale gold in color, the nose is bright with pretty floral notes of citrus and honeysuckle.  In the mouth the wine is very light and crisp with notes of orange blossom and a hint of peach which provides a softness.   There’s a nice acid to the finish which balances the wine.  It’s a good summer wine, crisp and clean, not too heavy; it would pair well with light foods such as salads and seafood.

2006 Cabernet Franc Both the 2006 and the 2007 Cabernet Franc were available on the Tasting Menu that afternoon, so I asked my host if he had to pick only one, which would it be – his answer was swift and sure – the 2006.  Garnet colored, the 2006 Cabernet Franc has a nice nose, with that flinty, salty tanginess I so often find in the Northeastern Reds.  Medium-bodied, the wine is fruity, but not overpowering, with notes of black cherry, some peppery heat, and a hint of chocolate on the finish.

Uva Secca After the Cab Franc, I opted for one of the two red blends, the Uva Secca.  The principal grape is Cabernet Franc, and tasting this back-to-back with the Cabernet Franc is an interesting contrast.  The Uva Secca is slightly sweeter than the Cab Franc, with a softer, less fruity nose.  In the mouth the wine is more subtle, with stronger fruit notes than I found in the previous selection.  It’s also slightly smoother than the Cab Franc, with fewer tannins, and a warm spice finish, cloves perhaps, rather than the sharper heat of pepper.  The wine opens up nicely in the mouth and layers with each sip.  Overall, I really liked this wine, definintely preferring it to the 100% Cab Franc.

Lemberger My third and final red selection was the Lemberger, not a grape I’ve encountered often.  When I first started my win(e)ding road adventures, I tended to stick with what I knew, figuring at least I’d have some frame of reference by which to evaluate the wine.  However, as I’ve spent more time on the road I’ve found myself being more adventurous, trying wines and grapes I don’t encounter as frequently.  Hence, the Lemberger.  Also a garnet color, the nose is dark and dusky, with tantalizing notes of bacon.

Now – that was a first.  Never encountered bacon in a wine before.  But, I agree with Tom Colicchio of Top Chef, bacon does improve just about anything, even wine.  In the mouth the wine is rich, dark and earthy with subtle notes of bacon on the palate as well.  There’s a light smokiness on the finish which complements the earthy bacon.   Medium-bodied with a smooth finish, this is a really interesting wine.  Not sure it will be everyone’s favorite, and I still preferred the Uva Secca, but if you’re ever at Palaia, it’s definitely worth a try.

I reserved the fifth and final spot on my tasting for the Mead.  I had first tried Mead on a trip to Ireland about 6 years ago.  Sweeter than I normally like, I did enjoy it, and usually pick up a bottle around St. Patrick’s Day to round out an irish-themed meal.  It’s not a wine you see often, anywhere, and I usually have to go to a larger wine store to find it.  So, I was truly surprised to see it on the menu here.

As it was being poured, I could already discern differences from the Irish Meads I am used to, beginning with the color which is a very pale straw, almost clear.  Next the nose is much softer and more subtle than the Bunratty Mead I usually drink, with faint notes of honey.  In the mouth, the wine has floral notes, light touches of honey, and a nice acid on the finish to balance the wine.  More delicate than the Irish Meads, it’s not bad.

Palaia Vineyards ~ Highland Mills, New York

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The word that first comes to mind when thinking about Palaia Winery is eclectic.  There’s a kind of haphazard charm to the place that speaks more to the layering of generations of family and interests, than to deliberate design.  In the front yard, classical statuary shares garden space with flags, flowers, and a whimsical stone statue of a pig in cap and waistcoat (my personal favorite).  A variety of signs dot the drive and gardens, directing folks to the tasting room entrance and admonishing them not to make off with the glasses.

The eclecticism continues in a charming and spacious tasting room encompassing the second floor of an old barn renovated and converted into the winery.  The renovation looks to have kept the barn’s original wood walls and timbered ceilings and finished off the space into a cozy, if somewhat cluttered room.  Pictures and posters line the walls, and varied keepsakes, gifts and the knick-knacks of an interesting and slightly bohemian life can be found in all corners of the room.  This is an obviously well-loved and fun space.

As mentioned above, the Tasting Room is on the second floor; the entrance leads directly into a stairway that brings you up along the back of the bar and into the main room.  The bar extends the length of two walls in a curved L-shape, and there are several bistro tables and chairs scattered throughout the middle of the room for guests who wish to linger.  A screen door at the end of the bar leads to a large porch with additional tables and chairs, and Palaia often has live musical guests on weeknights and weekends who entertain the crowds on the patio.  There is also a large open air stage next to the vineyards behind the winery where Palaia hosts stage plays and larger performances.  Guests are obviously encouraged to purchase wine to enjoy with the show, hence the plea to return the glasses.

In addition to music and theatre, Palaia also sponsors a Lucy-Look-Alike Contest, inviting contestants to dress up like Lucille Ball and participate in a re-enactment of the legendary I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy and Ethel try their hand, er… feet, in grape stomping.  The winner receives a case of Palaia wine, and looking at the pictures on the wall behind the bar as well as on the website, it’s obvious this is a very popular and highly entertaining event.  For those interested in stopping by, or entering the contest, the next “Great Lucy Look-Alike Grape Stomp” is scheduled for September 25th.

Dating back to the 18th century, the farm was originally part of a larger farm once owned by Aaron Burr.  Today, Palaia has 10 acres of grapes and plans for more in the future.  They planted their first vines in 2001, producing their first vintage in 2005.  In 2002, they received a $15,000 grant from the State of New York to restore the barn, and after 4 years of painstaking work, opened the winery in 2006.

Palaia (pronouced pa-LIE-a) produces 14 wines: 3 whites, 2 white blends, 5 reds, 2 red blends, and 2 specialty wines, one of which is a mead.  Now that’s not something you find in most wineries.  Their tasting menu includes more than 20 of their vintages; a tasting is complimentary and includes your choice of any five of the available wines.  Tough to choose only five, but there was no way I was passing on the Mead.

Palaia is open seven days a week: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm; Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm.  They feature live music Thursday through Sunday, unless they are hosting performances on the “main stage.”  All ages are welcome for outside events, but you must be 21 to enter the Tasting Room.  You can find a schedule of upcoming events on their website.

Palaia Vineyards
20 Sweet Clover Road
Highland Mills, NY 10930

Coming Tuesday, September 7th, The Wines of Palaia Vineyards