Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making it good. In New York.

Millbrook Vineyard & Winery
Millbrook, New York
November/December, 2010 issue

By Paul Clark

It’s said that every state in the union is now making wine. And while an Arkansas chardonnay may have its moments, and an Idaho Riesling its special spot in the hearts of some, the high-quality, highly acclaimed wines being made just 90 minutes north at Millbrook Winery in Dutchess County are pleasing more palates in more places than ever... and elevating this Hudson River Valley vineyard ever higher on the short list of New York’s most accomplished wine producers.

The 130-acre Millbrook Vineyards & Winery operates on the same gently curving hills and agreeable soil that once supported a working dairy farm. Purchased in 1981 by John Dyson, the former New York state commerce commissioner responsible for the popular “I ª NY” campaign and who, as state agriculture commissioner, fashioned the passage of the farm winery act that energized the growth of New York wines, Millbrook is the centerpiece of a winery group that stretches from Sonoma to New York to Tuscany. Which, when added together, provides an enticing, competitively priced choice of wines that represent the best of many different grape-growing regions.

“In the Hudson Valley region,” says Stacy Hudson, Millbrook’s marketing director, “growing the kind of grapes that make wines comparable with those from California and France is no easy task. We’re not Napa or other parts of California. We can have cold winters, rainy summers and everything in between. It took a lot of experimenting to find varietals that could make it here in our vineyards. At one time we had 30, and over the years we’ve pared it down to the few that do really well in these conditions, good and bad.”

The few that made it are the four varietals that comprise the core of Millbrook’s estate-bottled wines: Chardonnay (oaked and un-oaked), Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc (“an upper medium-body wine with a lot going on in it”) and an Italian varietal called Tokai Fruilano, “a light, crisp white with great fruit aromas aged in stainless steel. It’s a great summer wine that has developed quite a following of its own. We typically produce a thousand cases a year and sell them all. In fact,” she adds, “we released our ’09 vintage of Tokai in the spring and we’re already sold out.”

Hudson explains that 40 percent of Millbrook’s on-site production is made from grapes grown on the winery’s property. The remaining 60 percent derives from grapes produced and brought in from their large California vineyards, and, for their “true” New York State wines, from grapes grown on-site and in the Finger Lakes area and on Long Island. In all, 12,000 cases of wine are produced per year.

Of course the best way to find out why Millbrook wines have drawn such attention and praise from leading restaurateurs, retailers and wine lovers in New York City and across the state, is to come up to the winery and see for yourself. It’s a great place to visit — “a straight shot up the Taconic,” says Hudson — with or without the kids. A chance to take a break from the everyday, drive through beautiful countryside and enjoy a glass of wine while picnicking (kids can enjoy a glass of grape juice) and take a highly entertaining and enlightening tour through Millbrook’s pristinely trellised grounds and smartly repurposed Dutch-hip dairy barn.

On the barn’s cool and industrious ground level, you’ll see the rows of neatly positioned stainless steel vats and American and French oak barrels that make up the winemaking operations. Above, an inviting and creatively constructed gallery loft lets you stroll and absorb varied displays of original work by painters, photographers and other area artists. At the end of the gallery walkway, there’s a spacious, naturally lighted tasting room for sampling choices of reds, whites and blends. Afterwards, you can pick up a bottle of two of Millbrook wine — any and all of which make great holiday gifts — in the winery store or purchase wines online any time. And to make a gift of Millbrook wine even more personal — for the holidays or any occasion — you can customize bottles with an original label of your own design using photos, type, illustrations or logos. If you prefer, Millbrook can design a label for you. Whatever you decide, the cost is only an additional $20 above the price of a case (12 bottle minimum) which you can fill with your choice of red, white or a mix of both.

So in looking ahead toward the new year, the 2010 wines now being prepared and perfected for release next spring promise to be some of the best Millbrook has ever produced. “This is going to be an amazing vintage coming up,” says Hudson, “off the charts, in terms of earliness and sugars because we had nothing but heat and next to no rain in our vineyards this past summer. Hot weather makes most farmers sad,” she smiles, “but it really makes grapes happy. We’re looking forward to a memorable New York vintage, our 25th in fact, and we’re all really excited about that.”

For more information about wine selections, tours, events, directions and more, go to

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