Sunday, August 30, 2009

A visit to New York's wine country

This weekend, Vronsky and I had the lovely pleasure of taking a weekend getaway with our friends Pat and Yelena to the quaint little village of Warwick, NY in the Hudson valley to embark on a little regional wine tourism.

New York's wine country is not as glitzy or as internationally renowned as Nappa, but it is the location of America's first wineries and V and I found the smaller scale extremely charming and manageable, not to mention a whole lot more affordable. $5 would buy you a full flight, and many of the servers were extremely generous and would give us large samples of up to nine different wines.

Cabernet Franc grapes seemed to be the most popular and best tasting of the Reds we tried, although there was a fabulous Chambourcin at the Ventimiglia Vineyard that I took home with me. Reislings and Chardonnay Reserves were also the forte of many of the wineries, along with various ciders, this being apple country.

Two of the vineyards we visited were actually just across the NJ border, and defying the stereotypes, they were by far the most friendly and knowledgeable. The Westfall Winery was hosting a Louisiana-Style BBQ during our visit, complete with Jambalaya, Brisket and pulled pork, which was arguably the best pulled-pork I have ever tasted. Even Vronsky, hailing from Virginia and North Carolina himself, had to agree.

The New York vineyards we visited included the Applewood Winery, the Warwick Valley Winery, (great cider, if a bit curt when it came to service), and the Demerast Hill Winery (so-so wine, but excellent balsamic vineger, which I now have a large bottle of and am planning some dishes around).

No country escape would be complete with out some good eatin', and I had a field day with the various jams and preserves at the various orchards we visited and would have spent all my wine money at Warwick's farmer's market, home of the "Clam N' Jam" and an odd little petting zoo which had one baby calf, cute little goats, ducks, chickens, bunnies, and a giant llama who spent the whole day giving people the stink eye. The apples there were almost the size of melons and as crisp and delicious as one could ever ask for. It was a good thing that we only rented a tiny little Ford Focus, otherwise I would have come back with a bucket of those beautiful apples, sweet corn, fresh eggs, various hard cheeses, squash, berries, and at least 4 pies. All I managed to make out with though was some deliciously thick wildflower honey which is so rich it is almost black. It will make my yogurt & granola breakfast tomorrow morning that much sweeter, even as I mourn the lack of all that other fabulous local produce.

The four of us stayed at this odd little B&B run out of this woman's house. Julia was quite the eccentric, but very welcoming and kind and cooked a mean breakfast, including home-baked bread and pancakes, and a delicious "Mexican breakfast" she learned from her travels in Mexico, which included hand-made Chorizo, salsas, local eggs, and tortillas. She also had an endless supply of fresh fruit and local cheese, as if we weren't already full enough.

All in all, great little escape for us city-slickers that will allow you to educate your "pallet" at a bargain while supporting local farms and wineries. Bring your running shoes however, as you'll need to work up a good appetite to appreciate all that hearty food!

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