People are surprised to learn that New York ranks third among all states in wine production. It trails California and Washington, but is ahead of Oregon.
And New York may finally start getting noticed now that the Hudson Valley Wine & Grape Association has a “benchmark white” wine to promote. The organization selected Seyval Blanc – blended with a choice of Vignoles, Vidal or Cayuga White — for that designation because it consistently makes a well-balanced and enjoyable wine.
Seyval Blanc is a French-American hybrid that fares well in the Hudson Valley’s climate, with good sugar and acid balance. Vintners can make it in an array of styles, from completely dry to sweet, although the best renditions tend to be off-dry (i.e., with just a bit of sweetness).
Some of the country’s oldest vineyards can be found in the Hudson Valley. The French Hugenots planted the first vines in New Paltz (now part of Ulster County) in 1677, a century before vines were planted in what today is California.
The Hugenots discovered a unique combination of soil, climate and sun that together makes for ideal grape-growing conditions. They planted their vines on the hillsides of the Hudson Highlands and started a tradition of grapes and wine that continues to this day.
The broad expanse of the Hudson River serves a dual purpose. The flowing water helps keep the climate temperate, and the valley serves as a conduit for maritime breezes from the south. The gently sloping hills provide ideal sites for vineyards, some of which — like those around the Benmarl estate — have been planted for centuries.
In 1976, thanks in part to testimony from Benmarl’s Mark Miller, New York passed the Farm Winery Bill, paving the way for the rapid growth of the Hudson Valley as a wine region.