Imagine visiting the oldest continuously-operating winery in the United States. Not far from there is a winery with the oldest vineyard in the country still growing wine grapes. The oldest residential street in America is nearby, too. One of the oldest and most famous resort hotels is in this corner of the world, and the territory is all bounded by the fabulous climbing cliffs of the Shawangunk Mountain Range on the west and the great Hudson River on the east. It extends from New Paltz in the north to Warwick in the south.
This is the home of the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which links 15 farm wineries, all family-owned. We are fortunate to have two of the 15 (Whitecliff and Robibero) in Gardiner. The Trail is member-driven, created to make it both easy and fun to visit the wineries, taste their wines, and enjoy events held at them.
The Shawangunk Wine trail was started by four of the wineries nearly 25 years ago and has been growing over the years. There are some eligibility requirements, such as that all their wines be produced locally from Hudson Valley or New York State fruit.
Members also pay a hefty membership fee which, among other things, defrays the cost of printing 120,000 brochures annually, which are distributed to the wineries, trail partners (restaurants, hotels, inns, etc.), and even nationwide. All the wineries have copies on hand, free for the taking, that serve as a Trail guide with a map and a list of restaurants, hotels, and attractions in the region.
Trail events are held in the spring, summer, and fall. For the last few years Pasta Primo Vino, a wine tasting paired with a different pasta dish at each winery, has been held in April. The Bounty of the Hudson, a 2-day wine and food event, is now being held in June at the New Paltz Fair Grounds, attracting over 1,000 visitors at a time.
Wreath Fineries at the Wineries, is on three weekends in November and December. You collect a grapevine wreath at the first winery that you visit and get a decoration for the wreath and a wine tasting at each subsequent winery.
The wineries involved are a diverse and truly interesting lot. There are very old, as well as very new and modern, facilities. Some are devoted to producing wines from native and hybrid varieties, such as Niagara or Traminette. Others devote their entire production to only Vinifera varieties that had been imported from Europe a century or so ago. Indeed, the signature red-wine grape for this region is probably the Cabernet Franc, originally of Bordeaux.
Red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines are all made, along with sweet dessert wines, fruit wines, and, in fact, a wine for every taste, including for visitors who “think” that they don’t like wine.
Many of these properties enjoy spectacular views of the Hudson River or the Shawangunk Cliffs. On weekends, many offer musical entertainment or the facilities can be rented for bridal showers or weddings. The idea is to have a good time and learn about the rich and fascinating range of delicious local wines, many of them prize-winners. There are even limousine services that cater to the wine tourist.
A special program is the Hudson Valley Wine Tasting Passport, valid from January 1 to August 31 of each year. The 2018 Passport will be available online by October. With the Passport, you may visit each of the 15 wineries of the Shawangunk Wine Trail at your own pace. It allows you to visit and taste at each winery once. The Passports can also be purchased at the participating wineries. Those who visit all 15 wineries can return their Passport for a free one for the following season.
Explore the web site (shawangunkwinetrail.com) to plan your visit and absorb all that remarkable American wine and history. It lists the 15 winery members, provides links to their own Web sites and gives their hours of operation.
Jude DeFalco is the Operations Manager; jude@ gunkswine.com.