For several years there was a winery called Rivendell at 714 Albany Post Road in Gardiner. In 2003, Harry Robibero and his wife, Carole, purchased the 42-acre property with the hope that someday the winery operation would become theirs.
In 2007, the owners of Rivendell did give notice, and Harry mentioned this over family dinner. “Did you hear? Rivendell is leaving. Do you guys want to start your own winery? Should I look for another tenant?” Harry and Carole’s daughter, Tiffany, replied, “Let’s do it. Let’s start a winery.” Harry and his family were soon busy refurbishing the building. In May of 2010, Robibero Family Vineyards opened for business, with Tiffany as one of the owners along with her parents.
When I first visited Robibero and tasted some of their wines shortly after they’d opened, I was frankly disappointed. The wines I tasted, made from purchased fruit, were thin, sharp, and unbalanced. I told them so and did not return for a couple of years. Eventually I returned, and it was evident that the wines were improving, so much so that in 2014 Robibero won a Double Gold for their 2012 Cabernet Franc.
The change in quality is due, in large part, to Cristop Brown, the winemaker who was hired soon after they started. Cristop first worked at Millbrook Winery as the tasting room manager. After a few years he went to Benmarl in Marlborough which has the oldest working vineyard in the country, and it was there that he learned to make wine. Cristop became a very accomplished oenologist and is committed to making clean wines marked by varietal typicity and good balance.
The winery’s cellar is very small, but adequate for the level of production that they have at present. The wine is made from fruit purchased from the Finger Lakes, Long Island, and from their own small vineyard.
Most are made from vinifera varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and so on. However, one of their most popular wines, Rabbit’s Foot (non-vintage) has a base of 75% Baco Noir, a hybrid variety, plus Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have Bordeaux-style blend, 87 South, made with Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The 2013 New Yorkie Rosé is also a Bordeaux blend which quickly sells out.
Robibero has won a Best in Category White Wine in the 2014 Hudson Valley Wine and Spirits Competition for their 2013 87 North as well as Gold Medals for their 2013 Traminette and New Yorkie Rosé.
The tasting room is ample, well-organized, and offers a very good space for parties. A large veranda invites people to sit outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and the pleasant view.
Because too many visitors seem not to understand that a small operation like Robibero’s depends on the sale of all manner of beverages, including wine, a local craft beer, and even water, signs are prominently displayed telling visitors not to bring in their own drinks of whatever kind. But this is a problem all small wineries face.
Robibero Family Vineyards and its wines have arrived, and the results are impressive. It is certainly worth a visit and a taste, or two or three.