2nd Half - Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail
We've Got Style, Grace & A New Appreciation For Wine
By: Becky Dolan and Jessica Morrissey | Winter 2014
As editors of Saratoga.com, we had the pleasure of attending the second half of the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail with a small group of Saratoga.com employees and friends. This past summer, our colleague Rick Marchant was able to attend the first half of the tour, which you can read about here »
As you'll find, Rick focused more on the wines themselves, but we decided to take a different approach. We have compiled here our experience, focusing on the wineries and the winemakers.
Disclaimer: we are NOT wine connoisseurs by any means... but, we absolutely loved the experience! Therefore, if you're a wine rookie like us, you'll enjoy the Wine Trail too!
As neither of us had done a wine tour before, we really had no idea what to expect. With the help of Premiere Transportation, we were able to have an experience that we will truly never forget! Our driver, Chad Yetto, was absolutely fabulous - not only did he make us laugh, but he was super accommodating as well. Plus, we got to cruise around in this sick ride pictured on the right! Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, in our opinion. On this tour, we were able to visit 4 wineries and sample 22 different wines - you could say we were pretty "wined" up!
Halfmoon Cellars Winery
Note: Halfmoon Cellars Winery closed its storefront in 2016.
The first winery we visited was Halfmoon Cellars in downtown Saratoga. The winery was the cutest little shop, beautifully decorated, and really put us into the holiday spirit. We were greeted by John Reyes, the co-owner and "chemist" of the winery, who quickly made us feel comfortable. Halfmoon Cellars is a relatively new winery, as it opened this past July (just in time for track season in Saratoga!). Not only is it a winery, but they also sell great local gifts including chocolate from Saratoga Sweets in Clifton Park, beautiful local photography, and wine gift baskets perfect for the holiday season.
The wine tastings began with each of us choosing if we'd prefer a wine & cheese pairing or a wine & chocolate pairing. Can you guess what the two of us girls wanted? No surprise, we jumped in glee at the word "chocolate." We were then given four truffles, provided by Saratoga Sweets, that we were instructed to sample along with the 4 different wines.
Our Favorite Pairing: The Cabernet Sauvignon with the Milk Chocolate Caramel & Sea Salt Truffle
Our colleagues who tried the cheese tasting also preferred the Cabernet!
Not only did we love our chocolate & wine, but we also learned a great tip (and began our journey to becoming wine experts!):
TIP: Swirling wine before you taste helps really bring out the flavor! Also, drinking wine from different glasses makes the wine taste different (ex. drinking out of a wine glass vs. drinking from a plastic cup).
We then traveled along to Schaghticoke, NY to meet with Gerry and Mary Barnhart of Victory View Vineyards - the sweetest couple on the planet! This family-owned farm/winery greeted us with a gorgeous navy barn and acres of grape vines. Victory View has 3.5 acres of vineyard, with the ability to eventually expand up to 20 acres. The Barnharts grow cold climate grapes and produce their farm-bottled wines using their own fruit. Gerry and Mary purchased the property in 2004 and soon established their winery. They made their first wine in 2010. As a "mom and pop" operation, Gerry and Mary rope in family members and friends to help out during picking season, selecting their "crush team" to help with getting their grapes harvested and prepared to be made into wine.
Our tasting consisted of 7 different wines, all with great history behind their names. Since the vineyard is located directly across from the site of The Battle of Saratoga and Gerry is a huge history buff, it came as no surprise that each wine had a great story behind it, and historical value.
Our Favorite Wine: "Abigail" - a white wine with a sparkling finish. The wine is named after Abigail Adams, and is also the name of Gerry and Mary's granddaughter (so sweet!).
Gerry had a great tip, and one that we both definitely agreed with, as we both tend to prefer sweet wine:
TIP: "Dry wines make your reputation, sweet wines pay the bills." - Gerry Barnhart
After leaving Schaghticoke, we road in style to Northern Star Vineyard in Valley Falls, NY! This cute, farm-style vineyard just opened a month ago - so needless to say, we were excited! As it was only a short drive from Victory View, we were prepared for some more wine! We were greeted by Kathleen Reilly Weber (Wine Peddler), the cutest welcome sign made specially for our group, and a gorgeous tasting area. The tasting room was quaint and had a rustic barn feel with beautiful woods and local paintings lining the walls.
As a newly opened winery, Northern Star has already made a splash locally. They not only make their wine on premise, but they also harvest their own grapes and are super popular at local farmers markets!
We soon began our tasting, which consisted of all dry wines. We were able to sample five wines while chatting with Kathleen about the vineyard and looking around the shop. Not only does the winery sell wine, but they also sell jellies made from the same grapes as their wines (free of alcohol, of course!) and provide beautiful, festive, customizable gift baskets!
Our Favorite: The Frontenac - this red wine was the perfect amount of dry, and warmed us up inside!
Northern Star even shared some very encouraging news via their Facebook page:
TIP: Scientists say that drinking wine is better than going to the gym!
We can DEFINITELY roll with that, Northern Star!
Our fourth and final stop was Amorici Vineyard in Valley Falls, which again, was a nice quick ride from Northern Star! We were greeted by owner and winemaker Joe Messina, who from the very start, we could tell had a deep love for wine. Joe entertained us with his storytelling and overall passion for harvesting honest, organic wines.
The quaint, cozy tasting room was a perfect ending point to our wine tour. We were each given a checklist of all of the available wines, and were instructed to choose 5 wines to try.
While we sampled everything from dry reds to sweet apple wine, Joe told us the story of his parents. The Messina history of winemaking dates back to early wine merchants on the island of Ischia, in Naples, Italy. Joe even told us that he was a product of wine - as he was conceived on the evening his parents created their first bottle of wine (check out the picture of his parents to the left)!
After tasting some great wines, Joe showed us his winemaking room and also around the property. The vineyard offers great outdoor seating by fire pits and gazebos in the fields that customers can enjoy for free - definitely a perfect spot for some summertime wine tasting!
Joe even shared a great wine tasting tip with us that we needed to take into consideration!
TIP: Cleanse your palate after trying a sweet wine and and before you try a dry wine. You want to be able to taste each wine's distinct flavor!
Final Report = Success!
After a full day of tastings, we can report that the second half of the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail was a success! We look forward to being able to follow Rick's footsteps and complete the first half of the trail in the near future. And for two girls who aren't wine connoisseurs - we'd say we are well on our way!
Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail Passport
If you're planning on checking out the Wine Trail for yourself, you'll definitely want to purchase the Wine Trail Passport! Your $30 Passport has a $400 value and will get you one FREE wine tasting at 12 wineries on the Trail plus 10% off wine purchases and exclusive offers from a local brewery, a distillery, a limousine service, restaurants, lodging, and more! Your Passport will be stamped when you redeem special offers at each winery and is good for one year from the purchase date.Purchase your passport here »
Special Holiday Offer
In honor of the holiday season, the Upper Hudson Valley Wineries have teamed up with the Upper Hudson Valley Tree Farms to bring you a "wine and trees" pairing! If you purchase a bottle of wine from one of the wineries AND a tree or wreath from one of the tree farms, you'll receive a FREE limited-edition wooden ornament! These ornaments make great stocking stuffers, gifts, and keepsakes! Check out this special holiday offer »
Members of the Upper Hudson Valley Tree Farms include:
- Bailey Family Christmas Trees - Buskirk, NY
- Bob's Trees - Hagaman, NY
- Brown's Tree Farm - Warrensburg, NY
- Ellms' Christmas Trees - Ballston Spa, NY
- Fogg Hollow Farm - Charlton, NY
- Kuzmich Christmas Tree Farm - Greenwich, NY
- McDonough's Farm - East Greenbush, NY
- Reilly Farm - Nassau, NY
- River Bend Tree Farm - Lake Luzerne, NY
- Sunnyside Gardens - Saratoga Springs, NY
- Thompson's Trees & Wreaths - Salem, NY
Check Out MORE Photos From Our Wine Tour!