Take an autumn drive on Route 40 in Washington County, past roadside stands loaded with pumpkins and pastures of grazing sheep, and you’ll come to Victory View, where grape vines march up a hill in neat rows.
In September, clusters of plump ripe fruit dangled from those woody vines and the honeybees were buzzing around, looking for a taste of sweet juice.
By the time you read these words, more than 22 tons of grapes will be handpicked by owners Gerry and Mary Barnhart with the help of their friends and neighbors, and on their seven-acre farm, they’ll turn that fruit into wines that won’t be uncorked until late 2022 or early 2023.
Now it’s October, prime time for weekend wine tastings at Victory View Vineyard and 12 other places on the Upper Hudson Wine Trail and the Capital Craft Beverage Trail. Made with grapes that are winter-hardy, wines are now produced in eight counties.
“Right now, we’re serving all 2018, and we’re going to add a 2019 to the list probably in another month,” says Gerry Barnhart.
At Victory View, they grow four red — Marquette, Marechal foch, Frontenac, Petite Pearl — and three white varieties — La Crescent, Lacrosse, Melody — that were developed for cold climates by scientists at Cornell University and the University of Minnesota.
Among the vintages to sample are Abigail, a semi-sweet white that honors the first lady to President John Adams; Charlotte, a dry Germanic style wine, named for the daughter of England’s King George and Charlotte County, which was what this land was called before it became Washington County; and Turning Point, a full-bodied red that salutes the 1777 Battles of Saratoga and their pivotal role in the American Revolution.
“We have a historical theme here because we’re so close to the battlefield. From the top of the hill, when you look to the west, you’re looking right at Bemis Heights,” Barnhart says.
“All the vineyards are excited about this fall. The harvests have been good,” says Andy Weber, president of the Capital Craft Beverage Trail and the Upper Hudson Wine Trail.
“Fall foliage is going to be there, the vineyards are going to be gorgeous, and they’ve got some great wines. A lot of these vineyards are winning medals at New York state wine competitions.”
At Victory View, the tastings happen outdoors, within sight of the vines, at tables set under a big white canopy.
“People can do a full tasting, which right now includes seven wines,” Barnhart says. “We do what’s called a curated tasting. We don’t have a holder with seven cups in it. You are served one wine at a time. We describe each wine and tell you a little bit about how it’s made.”
Guests can purchase a locally sourced cheese-and-fruit plate or bring a picnic lunch.
A tasting costs $8.
“Pretty much everyone charges you for the tasting and they don’t waive the fee if you purchase,” says Barnhart, who sits on the board of directors of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
Guests can buy bottles of wine to go, $18 for whites and $20 for reds, with discounts for larger purchases. In December, wine is available at a drive-through.
“Our peak months are September and October,” Barnhart says. “Last year we went up to the weekend before Thanksgiving. We had a great year. People were enjoying being outdoors. Because of COVID, we’re doing everything outside. We just feel safer and our customers feel safer.”
Not far from Victory View, Weber and his wife, Kathleen, welcome visitors to the tasting room at their Northern Cross Winery in Valley Falls.
“They’ll get a basic set of six wines: three reds and three whites,” Weber says. “And then we do a blend called Battenkill Red, which is a mix of two of the reds. I’ll just do that blend for them right there, with the two different bottles.”
In the tasting room, Weber describes the winemaking process, from the picking of the grapes to fermentation, filtering and bottling. “And if they want, depending on how crowded it is, we can take a walk down to the vineyard.”
As guests sip their wine, they can also look at artwork. In October, paintings by Carolyn Favor Kibbe are featured.
“When they go to a vineyard, they really become part of the process,” Weber says. “They’ll talk to the owner, they’ll get the inside scoop.”
And each producer has a different story about how they got wrapped up in grapes, he says.
“There are a lot of interesting folks with vineyards. And it’s just a beautiful time of the year.”
FALL WINE TASTING BY COUNTY
For more info and maps, go to www.uhwt.com, website of the Upper Hudson Wine Trail and www.capitalcraftbeveragetrail.com.
— Altamont Vineyard & Winery, 3001 Furbeck Road, Altamont, (518) 355-8100, www.altamontwinery.com. Charcuterie boards, tasting in outdoor pergola. 12-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
— Meadowdale Winery/Vineyard, 32 Fryer Lane, Altamont, (518) 861-3610, meadowdalewinery.com. Tasting room in historic barn. 1-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
— Stable Gate Farm & Winery, 10 Linda Way, Castleton-on-Hudson, (518) 265-5133, www.stablegatewinery.com. Outdoor patio. 12-5 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. & Sun, with brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Live music from 12-2 p.m. Sat. Call before visiting.
— Fossil Stone Farms, 331 Grange Road, Greenfield, (518) 703-1784, www.fossilstonefarms.com. Reservations online.
— Galway Rock Vineyard & Winery, 998 Saratoga Road, Ballston Lake, (518) 280-6554, galwayrockwines.com. Indoor tasting room and patio with heaters. Cheese boards, macaron sampler, outside food not allowed. Yoga and trivia. 12-6 p.m. Wed. & Thur., 1-7 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 1-6 p.m. Sun.
— Ledge Rock Hill Winery, 41 Stewart Dam Road, Corinth, (518) 654-5467, lrhwinery.com. Tasting room and patio. Dog friendly outdoor seating, small plates, live music. Drop in or reserve a table. 12-5 p.m. Fri., 12-6 p.m. Sat., 12-5 p.m. Sun.
— Hummingbird Hills Winery, 1442 Burtonville Road, Fultonville, (518) 875-6919, hummingbirdhillswinery.com. Tasting room. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat. & Sun.
— South Dominion Vineyard, 190 Brownell Road, Cambridge. Reservations on Facebook.
— Victory View Vineyard, 11975 State Route 40, Easton, (518) 461-7132, www.victoryviewvineyard.com. Tastings in outdoor canopied patio. Cheese plates. 3-7 p.m. Fri., 12-6 p.m. Sat. & Sun. Reservations required only for groups of six or more.
— Northern Cross Vineyard, 1103 Beadle Hill Road, Valley Falls, (518) 210-3877, www.northerncrossvineyard.com. 12-6 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
— Hudson Chatham Winery, 1900 State Route 66, Ghent, www.hudsonchathamwinery.com. Outdoor tastings. 12-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun., reservations online.
— Sabba Vineyard, 383 Pitts Road, Old Chatham, (518) 766-3755, www.sabbavineyard.com. Food truck, cheese plates, live music, yoga. 12-8 p.m. Fri.-Sun.
— Adirondack Winery, www.adirondackwinery.com. Wine tastings daily in Lake George and Bolton Landing, on Saturdays in Queensbury. Check website for hours. Reservations online. “Drink Pink” breast cancer awareness events in October.
The Beverage Passport
When you’re ready to hit the wine trail, you might want to pick up the Capital Craft Beverage Trail 2021-2022 Passport.
The free Passport is available at the 61 producers of beer, wine, spirits, cider and mead that are listed on the Capital Craft Beverage Trail (www.craftbeveragetrail.com). Get it stamped at each visit and you can win prizes.
Andy Weber, Trail president, says people have been using the Passport steadily since it debuted in July 2020.
“It brings them to places that they didn’t know about or that they would have never discovered by themselves,” Weber says.