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La Dolce Vita in the Hudson Valley

By Michael "Ty, the Wine Guy" Taiani csw

As one can guess from its name, grappa (“grahp-pa”) is uniquely Italian, a distilled spirit traditionally made from pomace – those discarded grape skins, seeds, stalks, and stems of the winemaking process. Grappa has been around since the days of the Renaissance, thus Italians have sipped this “firewater” for centuries. Considered an after dinner drink, a.k.a., a digestivo (to aid in the digestion of a heavy meal), it’s also added to, or accompanied with, espresso coffee to create a most unusual way to start the day!

Named after Bassano del Grappa, a town of around 40,000 residents in Italy’s north eastern Veneto region where it was originally produced, Grappa remained (until recent years) the drink of the poor Italian workmen and farmers. Mainly clear, though with some faint pigments from the grape pomace, its flavors are often described like that of wine, i.e., based on the type and quality of the grapes used, as well as the specifics of the distillation process. Grappa is a fragrant product that contains 35%–60% ABV (70 to 120 US proof ). Lately, aged grappas which have taken on a yellow or red-brown hue from the barrels in which they are stored, have become more commonplace. Interestingly, the name “grappa” is now protected in the European Union (EU).

For aficionados, four distinguished categories of grappa exist: young, cask-conditioned, aromatic, and aromatized, with tastings performed in that same order. Try grappas at home with family and friends along with salted pistachio nuts and rusks (hard, dry biscuits, or a twice-baked bread) spread with acacia-blossom honey, and topped with a flake of mature Montasio or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Distillation, though an ancient practice that can be traced back to the first century A.D., has now arrived to the Hudson Valley where grappa is being made with surprisingly results – very authentico!

Try these six amazing grappas crafted in our Hudson Valley:

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery Grappa

Francesco Ciummo’s grappa is BIG, pronounced, and yet smooth. It just scored an impressive Silver Medal at the 2014 International Eastern Wine Competition, and combined with its win at the East Meets West Challenge, proves its renowned quality.

Catskill Distilling Company Bosco Monte Vecchio Grappa

From owner and master distiller Monte Sachs who first learned how to make grappa in Italy, comes a smooth grappa with a nose of citrus, honeydew melon, and licorice. Delicate and fascinating, one word sums it up best, excellent.

Harvest Spirits/Hudson-Chatham Winery Grappa

Harvest Spirits’ master distiller Derek Grout has artisanally crafted a beautiful elixir distilled from the leftover pomace of Hudson- Chatham winemaker Steve Casscles. A blend of Baco Noir and Seyval Blanc grapes distilled twice, it’s an assertive grappa that finishes warm with flavors of Thompson raisins and toffee. This grappa is beyond wonderful.

Magnanini Grappa del Nonna

A beautifully smooth experience from start to finish. Easily one of the nicest you’ll ever try, and a lovely surprise from a stalwart family vineyard (and attached restaurant) in the Hudson Valley. A genuine, “Italian-style” grappa unlike any other from the region.

Warwick Valley Grappa Grape Brandy

Winery owners Jason Grizzante and Jeremy Kidde have done a remarkable job making, branding, and selling their fine spirits. As the first to make distilled spirits in the Hudson Valley, Warwick Valley’s grappa is lovely and light, yet powerful – and a Double-Gold Medal winner at a recent Finger Lakes Competition.

Amorici Vineyard Grappa

Joseph Messina, Amorici’s owner and winemaker, uses his family’s award-winning winemaking heritage to produce this spectacular grappa. The Messina history dates back to early wine merchants on the small island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, Italy. Co-produced with Albany Distilling, small batches of grappa are crafted from a custom blend of Amorici’s select grape skins. Very elegant.


Michael Taiani Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), aka “Ty the Wine Guy,” is a food and wine consultant and marketer. Assisting people with food and wine is his passion.

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Fall 2015 issue

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