The Hudson River Valley is a sometimes-forgotten wine region in New York, often losing out to Long Island and the Finger Lakes for the attention of writers and much of the wine-drinking populace. But there is an emerging group of quality-focused producers in the region. One winery making some very good wines is Benmarl Winery, which boasts what may be the oldest vineyard in the United States, dating back to the 1770s.
Today, we sit down with Benmarl's winemaker, Kristop Brown, to learn a bit more about him.
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?
That is a difficult question to answer because, like many Americans, my earliest memories of drinking included 'wine products' like Boone's Farm, which I now know to be a 'malted beverage.'
So I will skip over these
memories and fast forward to the year 2000. My wife and I (girlfriend
back then) enjoyed a bottle of Elderton shiraz at my parents cabin in Phoenicia by candle light. I don't remember the vintage but at the time the $30
price tag meant I was trying to impress.
What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
Working at Millbrook Winery in 2003 was the experience that opened my eyes to the wine industry. I was able to taste not only the Millbrook wines but also the wines from owner John Dyson's other ventures (Villa Pillo in Tuscany and Williams Selyem in the Russian River Valley). A year later I was working under Eric Miller at Benmarl (the current winemaker at Chaddsford Winery) as the assistant winemaker.
Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?
I'm going to jump ahead to the 2008 vintage because most of my favorite 2007s are sold out. We are making our first cabernet franc this year from Hudson River Region grapes and although the release date is probably not for another year I am already excited about it. It has such silky, spicy fruit and nice mouth feel. We are aging it in four-year old French oak barrels so there is no interference from the wood.
What has surprised you most about being a member of the Hudson Valley wine community?
I was surprised at how dedicated the wineries are to making regional wines despite the lack of attention the Hudson Valley receives compared to other wine regions in New York.
Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
Cheap Burgundy and Belgian ales.
Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just
can't make yourself enjoy?
I don't enjoy red wine with cheese although I'm sure there's a perfect pairing I haven't tried.
Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
Drinking Baco Noir on the hillside here at Benmarl with friends and family at around dusk. The winery overlooks the Hudson River and some of the old Baco vines planted years ago. You really feel the history of the place and of the Hudson Valley.