William M. Dowd photosIf you’re standing in the middle of the Hudson River between Ulster and Dutchess counties, you’d be hard-pressed to decide which shore to head for if you wanted to experience a scenic wine trail.
Of course, if you are standing in the river, you’re a very special kind of person. That aside, you’d still have to make a decision because you’d be between the Shawangunk and Dutchess wine trails, two of the most scenic of the nine trails New York state boasts.
The Shawangunk Wine Trail covers 10 of the 17 wineries on the west side of the Hudson, dipping down into Orange County. The much-smaller Dutchess Wine Trail covers three of the six wineries on the east side of the river. Together, they take visitors deep into what is known as the Mid-Hudson Region along meandering, often-narrow roads that cut through verdant, rolling terrain filled with corn fields, evergreen farms and orchards.
Small communities with names such as Olive, Shandaken Esopus and Wawarsing in Ulster and Tivoli, Red Hook, Union Vale, Shekomeko and Spackenkill in Dutchess – places where mobile homes co-exist with lovely old brick structures -- add a certain quaintness probably long unremarkable to their residents but still interesting to newcomers.
Drive around enough in either county and you’ll come across such popular tourist attractions as the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome with its antique airplane collection and aerial shows, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s family home in New Hyde Park and the nearby Culinary Institute of America, the village of Woodstock and its various sites, and the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck.
However, the local wineries provide a more textural setting for the history of the Mid-Hudson Region, which is largely agrarian. Thus, it is something that predates much of the commonly-known tourist attractions.
A few examples of that historic flavor:
• Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville is the nation’s oldest continuously operating winery. It even stayed in business during Prohibition by producing government-licensed wines for religious and medicinal uses.
• The main building at Adair Vineyards in New Paltz is a 200-year-old Dutch barn.
• Baldwin Vineyards in Pine Bush is a 26-year-old operation founded on a vineyard site that dates to 1786.
• Benmarl Vineyards in Marlborough has been in the hands of the same owner for more than a half-century and is the place where the Dutchess grape was developed back in 1867.
• The Royal Kedem Winery in Milton offers a tasting room and shop inside a 130-year-old train station overlooking the Hudson.
Here’s a visitors’ quick guide to the region:
SHAWANGUNK WINE TRAIL --The wineries involved are pointed to by blue-and-white trail markers that help guide motorists from one to another. Some are open year-round (Baldwin Vineyards, Benmarl Vineyards, Brotherhood Winery, Rivendell Winery, Stoutridge Vineyard, Warwick Valley Winery and Whitecliff Vineyard), others seasonally (Adair, Glorie Farm, Applewood). Hours vary, so call ahead. In addition, Warwick Valley and Stoutridge operate distilleries as well as wineries. The trail is best accessed via the Thruway (I-87), Exits 16-18.
Other non-trail wineries in Ulster County include El Paso Winery (open April-December) in Ulster Park, Brimstone Hill Winery (open Thursdays-Mondays during the summer, weekends year-round) in Pine Bush, Magnanini Farm Winery (open April-December) in Wallkill, Royal Kedem Winery (open daily except Saturdays) in Marlboro, Regent Champagne Cellars (open May through mid-December) in Highland, West Park Wine Cellars-- whose neat-as-a-pin stone tool shed is shown below (open weekends March-November) in West Park, and Silver Stream Winery (April through mid-December) in Chester.
DUTCHESS WINE TRAIL -- Clinton Vineyards (whose tasting room is shown above), Millbrook Vineyards & Winery and Alison Vineyards make up this compact trail. While Clinton and Millbrook are open year-round, Alison is open for tours and tastings daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day or by appointment. The trail is best accessed via the Taconic State Parkway.
Other non-trail wineries in Dutchess County include Cascade Mountain Winery (open year-round) in Amenia, North Salem Vineyard (open weekends year-round) in North Salem, and Whitecliff Vineyards (Memorial Day weekend-October and weekends in November and December) in Gardiner.
OTHER NON-WINE ATTRACTIONS -– In addition to the aforementioned historic sites and performance venues, spectacular autumn foliage is a major drawing card in the region, which sweeps up into the Hudson Highlands overlooking the Hudson River. The leaves are best viewed via car on one of the numerous secondary roads, or by bike or on foot at any of the numerous nature centers such as the multi-trailed Mohonk Preserve complex. ... The Spaceship Discovery Center in Hyde Park has a staff that is dressed in “Star Trek” uniforms and gives kids and adults a hands-on science and technology learning experience, the bridge of a starship, robots and a time machine. … The Catskill Mountain Railroad, located in Phoenicia, offers scenic rail rides along the Esopus Creek with special fall foliage weekend schedules. … The Huguenot Street Historic District in New Paltz is a National Historic Landmark neighborhood that preserves what is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited street in America with its original houses. The principle structures were built by Dutch immigrants in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Each house today is presented in a different time period from the 18th through the mid-20th centuries. The neighborhood is open for public tours that begin at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center on Huguenot Street.
LODGING -- Speaking of history, the Mohonk Mountain House (845/255-1000) that looms up on Mountain Rest Road in New Paltz is a 265-room Victorian-style castle sprawling along Lake Mohonk. It was built in 1869, offers old-fashioned luxury, 85 miles of hiking trails, golf, tennis, boating, ice skating, horseback riding, children's programs and dining for both guests and mealtime visitors. It is part of Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Shawangunk Wine Trail offers connections to about 30 B&B's, inns and chain hotels/motels as well as three campgrounds, all affiliated with the trail.
Or, you can access Bear Systems for information on a variety of motels, B&Bs, cottages and cabins.
The Dutchess County Tourism site has a nice lodging search engine.
ON THE WEB
• Shawangunks: New York's Unknown Mountains
• NY May Get A Second Wine Center
• Dowd's Guide to American Wine Trails
• Dowd's Guide to New York Wine Trails
• Dowd's Guides