Cheers to 15 years! Anniversaries are a reminder of the speed of time. The time you’re toasting has seemingly passed in a flash, even if many of the minutes that made up those years felt eternal. Looking back on 15 years of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine, we can’t help but marvel at just how much the industry has changed since our first issue.
We’ve seen a growth of more than five hundred percent in the number of producers, counting all wineries, distilleries, breweries and cideries that have set up shop in the region; the number of distilleries alone has increased twelve-fold. There have been wineries that have come and gone, but some of the region’s flagships hit major milestones celebrating two or three decades in the business. Cideries have popped up in scores (there are more than 30 in the region now), but breweries by far have seen the largest growth with nearly 90 in the region today (up from seven in 2008). There are also more vinifera vines being planted, something that was less common back in 2008, with grapes like Cabernet Franc, Blaufränkisch, Grüner Veltliner, and even Albariño taking front stage. And we now have climate change to thank for more winemakers experimenting with heritage and native grape varietals—often with surprising, and tasty, results.
We hope you’ve enjoyed watching the industry flourish as much as we have. To help us mark the occasion, we reached out to a few people we’ll be watching over the next 15 years—those who continue to shape the industry and propel the region onward and upward, and those who are just entering the business and starting to make their mark.
Read on for a front-row seat to some of the region’s most pioneering craftspeople and industry professionals, and their vision for the next 15 years.
Paul Brady, Owner | Paul Brady Wine
Paul Brady’s M.O. is serving up New York state in a glass via his masterfully curated winery and bottle shop, Paul Brady Wine. “When I was 17, my family moved to Paris, and I learned to appreciate wine,” Brady says. He’s never looked back, and has never had a job outside of the food and beverage industry, working for Brooklyn Winery, Terroir Wine Bar, Hearth Restaurant, and Gramercy Tavern, as well as other stints at bold-faced establishments across France and New York.
I see people of all ages and backgrounds are coming to the Hudson Valley, many for the first time…and I see the industry responding.–Paul Brady
Brady opened his store in 2021 in Beacon, producing custom wines and serving drinks and selling bottles at the bar and shop. “I see people of all ages and backgrounds coming to the Hudson Valley, many for the first time,” Brady says. “I see that continuing, and I see the industry responding. It’s exciting hearing about the new vineyard plantings, orchards, breweries, distilleries, and lodging. This is the type of region where you can easily spend a week town-hopping while experiencing the great diversity of food and beverages along the way. I love California, but it can be sleepy. New York is a party, with a unique energy.”
Stephen Osborn, Co-founder, Owner | Stoutridge Distillery & Winery
At Stoutridge Distillery & Winery founders and owners Stephen Osborn and Kim Wagner fell in love with a historical, abandoned vineyard in Marlboro in 2000, with nothing but the four walls of the original farmhouse foundation and the back wall of the old winery foundation remaining. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since launching, the pair have sought to honor the history of the region and their particular parcel of land, which has had vineyards on it dating back to the late 1700s. Simultaneously, they’re pushing the Hudson Valley forward with a line of small-batch, chemical-free wines and spirits—125 in total.
Osborn’s winemaking and spirit production is dictated by a long-held philosophy he says his mother inspired.
“I’ve always been interested in color,” Osborn explains. “My mother was an artistic painter. Wine color and flavor chemistries are tightly interwoven, which is how I became fascinated by their intrinsic flavors, unadorned by oak or any sort of processing.”
In the spirits department, he says he is focusing on brandy, Absinthe from brandy (they currently produce 8), and Single Malt Whiskies which he argues are the ‘natural wines’ of the whiskey world. “Ours are all floor malted and kilned,” says Osborn. “I am also focusing on Mastic liqueur, which is almost unknown, but a gift of nature. A very exciting development.”
What’s next? Osborn sees huge potential for these types of spirits in the Hudson Valley region. He predicts that the brandy renaissance will continue and strengthen.
“I think the small experimental wineries which have made the Valley unique will continue to define the region,” Osborn says. “I hope we stick with Seyval and Niagara grapes, in particular. If we do, the Valley will become known for the quality of its brandy. The potential here is unlimited. We can even approximate Cognac with our grapes, as is now being demonstrated.”
Russell Moss, General Manager | Milea Estate Vineyard
Russell Moss hopes to honor the Hudson Valley’s historical roots while elevating its place in the wine world today, and tomorrow.
Moss learned to make wine in New Zealand, then moved to Oregon, where he managed vineyards. He has also taught enology at Cornell, and consulted and worked with wineries from Bourgogne to the Kingdom of Bhutan. So why is he in the Hudson Valley?
“I saw what Barry Milea was building, and called him to ask if he wanted help,” Moss says. “I knew the Hudson Valley could make world-class wine. We talked, and he decided to take me on to lead the business to a new era.”
Moss joined in 2021, and now Milea Family Wines owns Milea Estate Vineyard and Clinton Vineyards, which is getting a renovation and a rebrand and will reopen next year, focused on méthode champenoise wines. The sparkling segment is growing fast, and is predicted to grow even more, especially in cool climates like the Hudson Valley, Moss says.
“I think in the next few years, we will see wine and brand quality rise greatly across the Hudson Valley,” Moss predicts. “Also, with climate change, there will be winners and there will be losers. The West Coast’s ultra-premium wine business is facing an existential crisis with regards to climate change. And the Northeastern wine business largely stands to gain, with warmer summers resulting in reliable ripeness and warmer winters bringing less damaging events to grapevines.”
In the next few years, we will see wine and brand quality rise greatly across the Hudson Valley.—Russell Moss
The Hudson Valley, Moss predicts, will be the place to be. “I am excited to play a small role in it with all of the other great winemakers and grapegrowers in the region,” Moss says.
Joe Gaynor, Cidermaker | Angry Orchard
Angry Orchard’s cidermaker Joe Gaynor was born and raised in the Hudson Valley, where he says that fermenting things at home was just par for the course.
“It has been wild to watch the official craft industry grow,” Gaynor says. “Growing up, each town would have one or two cideries, breweries, or wineries, but now you often see three or more of each in every town.”
Gaynor joined Angry Orchard seven years ago as a part-time bartender, and found his passion for, and knowledge of, the art and science of fermentation blossom there. As head cidermaker, he is particularly excited to work with their 30+ cider-specific apple varieties, and hopes to develop new cider styles and creative ways to share the ciders with guests.
“I’m really excited to see what we can do with cider varieties like Yarlington Mill, which has soft tannins, or Porters Perfection, with a touch of tannin, complimented by high acidity and beautiful aromatics,” he says. “We’ve seen different areas throughout the U.S. become synonyms with certain products, like California with wine, Kentucky with bourbon, Colorado with craft beer. I believe the Hudson Valley is uniquely located both geographically and agriculturally to be a hub for most craft beverages in the country— but most importantly, with cider in particular.”
J. Stephen Casscles, Author, Vintner | Cedar Cliff Vineyards; Author, horticulturist, and winemaker
J. Stephen Casscles has always been an explorer interested in the wilder side of grape cultivation. “I have been growing grapes and making wine since I was 16,” Casscles says. “My first harvest was at Benmarl Vineyards in 1974, so I am almost at my 50th crush.”
For more than ten years, he served as winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Winery. He also had a successful career as an attorney for the New York State Senate, where he wrote laws that govern how wine is made, distributed and sold in the state.
Casscles’ current farm, Cedar Cliff Vineyards, is a culmination of those decades of work and exploration. He grows more than 100 cool climate grapes—many French-American hybrids and heritage grapes developed in the 19th century—with the goal of finding more naturally hardy grapes. “I hope to identify hardy, disease resistant and productive grapes so they can be grown with minimal pesticide applications, or organically,” he says. “But they also need to make quality wines.”
There is more openness with younger consumers to try wines made from hybrids, heritage grape varieties and co-fermentation products.– J. Stephen Casscles
Grapes he’s currently keen on Burdin Noir, Pallmer Noir, Jefferson and Croton. He’s also fascinated with the potential of co-fermenting grapes with beer, distilled products, and cider.
“I work with local Subversive Brewery and Brewery Lahoff on projects with heritage grapes,” Casscles says. “There is more openness with younger consumers to try wines made from hybrids, heritage grape varieties, and co-fermentation products.”
Peter Voelker, Founder, Meadmaker | Helderberg Meadworks
Co-owner and mead maestro Peter Voelker founded Helderberg Meadworks in 2010 with his wife Kirsten, and watched the market for mead slowly, but surely, grow.
When Voelker found that his side hobby as a home brewer and meadmaker was producing a better product than he could find on the market, he went into business.
“We started small with a minimal financial investment, then reinvested all of the profits,” he says. “Today, I’m at a place that I never dreamed of, with 20 employees, two tasting meadhalls and more than 200 stores carrying my mead.”
But he didn’t quit his day job as a compliance manager for a local power plant—and while he has expanded production twice and needs to again (he’s also looking into a third meadhall)—he has seen a few meaderies close their doors recently.
“I’m hoping a few new small ones will pop up,” Voelker says. “I would love to see some new faces. I’ve always tried to meet and become friends with meaderies all around the country. In some cases I’ve even helped them get up and running. When people see and understand the quality and passion of what we do, I find they’re as open to it as they are to wine.”
Tristan Migliore, General Manager | Whitecliff Vineyard
Tristan Migliore grew up at Whitecliff Vineyard—literally—and he has watched the industry transform, firsthand.
“My parents started it as a hobby, so as a kid, chores included helping during harvest and crush, and bottling and labeling,” Migliore, who now serves as General Manager, explains. Times have changed. The hobby has turned into a full-fledged business with multiple tasting rooms, and dozens of wines that more and more people want to try.
Now the interest is in quirky, or atypical wines.—Tristan Migliore
“There are so many more people relocating or splitting time between New York City and the Hudson Valley,” he notes. “The volume of traffic has gone up, and the type of customer has changed.”
“Now the interest is in quirky, or atypical wines. Whenever we release a limited or special edition, it catches people’s eyes much more than a standard release.”
Scott Ramsey, Executive Director | New York Cider Association
Scott Ramsey, the newly-minted executive director of the New York Cider Association, is making it his mission to introduce more people to the artisanal beverage the Hudson Valley grows from the ground up.
Ramsey hails from corporate media, and worked for a range of Fortune 100 firms—a far cry from the dusty back roads of apple country. He explains that he is bringing his unique boardroom C-suite of skills to the farm in a bid to help cidermakers “build and grow a strong business in New York. A lot of that entails facilitating connections between our producers and members of the industry engaged in selling cider—restaurants, chefs, servers, bartenders, and retailers.”
He is also determined to grow the market of cider lovers through focused consumer and industry educational opportunities.
And as a new resident of the Valley, he’s become an official regional booster. “I’ve become a Certified Tourism Ambassador for Dutchess County, because I love learning more about the region and how deeply significant our history here is,” Ramsey says. “It is important not just to New York State, but the entire country.”
There is no reason why New York Cider and the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes shouldn’t be what California wine is to Napa and Sonoma.—Scott Ramsey
Part of his big-picture vision is putting New York Cider on the map in a new way, which he hopes, in turn, will bring long-overdue recognition to the region. “There is no reason why New York Cider and the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes shouldn’t be what California wine is to Napa and Sonoma,” Ramsey points out. “We have the largest concentration of cider tasting rooms in the country both in the Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes regions, we lead the country with the number of licensed cider producers, and the origin story of apples and cider in this country has deep roots in New York.”
Matthew Spaccarelli, Co-founder, Winemaker | Fjord Vineyards; Winemaker | Benmarl Winery
Fjord Vineyards’ co-founder Matthew Spaccarelli knew he loved family, wine, and agriculture when his family bought Benmarl Winery and he “jumped right into the deep end,” but he had no idea just how much.
“In 2010, we made the switch to 100% New York sourced grapes, and I haven’t looked back,” Spaccarelli says. “In 2010, my partner Casey [Erdmann] and I decided to start our own label at Fjord,” where they manage 30 acres, with an annual production of 3,000 cases.
It’s complicated, but simple.
“The longer I am in the business, the more I fall in love with the vineyards,” he says. “My focus has been to not only make quality wines, but get more vines in the ground. We have a lot of potential to grow high-quality wines, and I hope to fill the void I see in locally-grown fruit, while also helping other growers find ways to grow more.”
As of now, Spaccarelli has plans to plant more Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Albariño, with the knowledge that sourcing fruit closer to home simply makes for a better product. “I can confidently say that our estate-grown wines, both for Benmarl and Fjord Vineyards, are the ones that shine in our portfolio,” he says. “They are also the ones that consumers are more drawn to.”
Travis Van Caster, Winemaker | City Winery Hudson Valley
Winemaker Travis Van Caster worked for three years at Left Coast Estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, eventually making it up the ladder to assistant winemaker. He then made his way east to Cornell University to study enology, and bopped around France and California before discovering City Winery.
“Everything about City Winery and the Hudson Valley appealed to me,” he recalls. “My passion is making high-quality reserve wine and being able to work with well-known vineyards across the country in a way that highlights the terroir of each vineyard.”
“Over the next decade and a half, we’re going to see the momentum being generated today pay off.”—Travis Van Caster
But Van Caster knows that truly understanding a region requires spending time there, which is why he is also laser-focused building out the robust events space at City Winery.
“I believe that more people coming in from the city and a general increase in wine tourism to the region is going to drive up demand for Hudson Valley wine, maybe to the point where local vineyards have a hard time keeping up,” he says, acknowledging that this is the kind of business problem every business dreams of.
“Over the next decade and a half, we’re going to see the momentum being generated today pay off, with more vineyards being planted and more recognition, especially for sparkling wines being made in the Hudson Valley.”
Megan Lamb, Assistant Winemaker | Quartz Rock Vineyard
Megan Lamb attended the Culinary Institute of America to study the pastry arts, but the wine bug bit her, and she changed her focus to enology. She says the stars aligned when Dan Heavens and Jacqui Ferrari Heavens purchased what became Quartz Rock Vineyard (formerly Glorie Farm Winery).
“They gave me an opportunity to work with them as an assistant winemaker, and in the tasting room on the weekends,” Lamb says. “I find that continuing my education with food and wine studies, while also working here, helps deepen my understanding of flavor profiles, tastes, and aromas.”
Quartz Rock’s focus on using estate-grown grapes and apples for wine and cider as well as their development of a sparkling program is the future, she believes. “I love working in the tasting room because I get to hear feedback,” she says. “Overall, people are getting excited about our sparkling wines, and seeing it not just as a celebratory drink, but something they can enjoy every day. The future is hard to predict, but I love seeing the focus on, and appreciation for, the uniqueness of each individual winery, and the lines of products they produce.” She also hopes to see more collaborative events and dinners between wineries, cideries, restaurants, and farmers.
“It’s a fun opportunity, and allows us to support each other, play off all of our strengths and bring recognition to all,” Lamb says.
Dylan Hull, Manager | Applewood Winery
The growth of the craft drinks industry in the Hudson Valley has been a very good thing for business. Dylan Hull, whose family founded Applewood Winery in 1994 as an offshoot of the family farm, says that the growth has been inspiring.
“The number of wineries, cideries, breweries, and distilleries has increased dramatically in the past few years,” Hull, who manages Applewood Winery’s tasting room, wholesale sales, and marketing, notes. While there is strength in numbers, he also notes that “going forward, it will be increasingly important to find unique ways for all of us to make ourselves stand out.”
…it will be increasingly important to find unique ways to make ourselves stand out.—Dylan Hull
Hull has been working on this approach at Applewood by experimenting with mixology, creating seasonal wine and cider cocktails incorporating their line of Naked Flock Ciders and artisanal spirits. “It’s a fun way to play around with flavors already at our disposal, while also presenting products in a new and exciting way for our customers,” he explains.
Paige Flori, Owner | Boutique Wines, Spirits and Cider
Paige Flori fell in love with the drinks industry while working for a small Italian importer. She decided to take a full dive into retail, in a bid to highlight the undersung small-batch beauties she saw around her in the Hudson Valley. She loves everything fermentable, but has a particular affinity for those gorgeous Empire apples. In 2023, she was named Pommelier of the Year, East Coast, by the American Cider Association.
The Hudson Valley is destined to become a destination for agritourism, with the wine, spirit, cider and mead business as a large part.—Paige Fiori
“I spend a lot of my time storytelling and helping customers understand some of the nuances of wine, cider and spirits,” Flori says, adding that she has expanded her selection from 35 ciders in the can and nine on tap, to 325 in bottle and can and 13 on tap.
Watching the evolution of the Hudson Valley since opening her store in 2017, Flori is bullish on the future of the Hudson Valley, particularly in the drinks sector.
“Overall, I feel the Hudson Valley is destined to become a destination for agritourism, with the wine, spirit, cider and mead business as a large part,” Flori says. “We have some world-class producers doing incredible things, driven by factors like the Culinary Institute of America, proximity to New York City, and more educated consumers seeking transparency in what they consume. I am excited to be a small part of the movement.”
Header photo: Travis Van Caster, courtesy City Winery Hudson Valley