Meet Your Farmer: Terroir Tells the Truth

Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media
July 20, 2017 05:15 am

It’s the time of year that begs for fresh fruit, local vegetables and long walks on green pastures as we wait for corn, tomatoes, peaches and grapes to peak, pick and taste!


Taking in the red skies at night and the warm rainfalls that give way to rainbows anchoring the farm end to end with the pot of gold reward being the truest of blue Hudson Valley skies, this reminds us all why we absolutely love where we live — and the Hudson Valley summer!


The sun sets each night over our agricultural community dusting amber waves of grain and second cuttings of hay with a special, loving glow of light most people dream of and travel far and wide to see. The magic of Hudson Valley-famed light artists have captured for centuries we are lucky to indulge in night after night on the longest days of the year, and even longer days working on farms, calling us all to the table to enjoy a glass of local wine!


If you did not know, you are not alone: The Hudson Valley holds bragging rights as the birthplace of American wine. Agriculture is the state’s economic engine and grapes fuel that engine. The state grape, grape juice and wine industry produces more than $4.8 billion in economic benefits annually. Only two states produce more grapes than the state: California and Washington.


“The craft beverage industry is one of New York’s greatest success stories, and we are doing everything we can in state government to keep the tremendous growth seen by our wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries going strong,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “From Long Island to the Finger Lakes, these local businesses support jobs and economic activity in both agriculture and tourism, and investing in them means investing in New York’s future.”


Hudson Valley wine, as opposed to wine from the Finger Lakes and Long Island (two state wine regions finally enjoying much-deserved critical and financial success), is often spurned by critics almost reflexively, leaving many who live and drink here to wonder: Have they even tried it?


Over the last century, Hudson Valley wine has not been honored like left coast vintages or even celebrated like counterparts in other areas of the state. As we start to investigate why, it becomes clear the unique terroir of the region may hold the keys to the region’s struggles and its eventual ascendancy.


Terroir — which is pronounced /terˈwär/ — few understand and is a term that raises curiosity among many Americans. It’s defined as “the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography and climate” or “the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.” In layman’s terms: Why a particular grape whether grown in France or New York, tastes completely different.


Simply put, it’s the soil — it’s very own mineral makeup, water, air and history from people places and things that have rooted there over time.


This discovery led to the decision to share the idea with you in new book called “Hudson Valley Wine – A History of Taste & Terroir.”


And Terroir does tell the truth with a taste of history.


Although our backyard is the birthplace of American wine, Hudson Valley vintages have yet to meet with the renown of those produced by the neighboring Finger Lakes and Long Island. In the 1600s, French Huguenots arrived in the area and used their French winemaking skills to found vineyards.


Brotherhood is the oldest winery in America. Benmarl is cultivating astounding varietals from a vineyard that has continuously grown grapes since 1772.


Recently launched cooperative winemaking organizations have made strides in the region, and scientists at Cornell University have worked to determine the tastiest varietals and hybrids that will flourish in the challenging Hudson Valley terroir.


Hudson Valley wines are, at last, garnering critical acclaim in mainstream national publications and restaurants they deserve like Millbrook Vineyards & Winery. As we set out to uncover the hundreds of years, unrelenting pride, determination and ingenuity behind Hudson Valley wines, we also learned beyond the organic practice of farming is the noble craft that perfects the science of wine, compelling us all to seek, learn, drink and support local grape productions.


There are wine trails and events, tasting rooms and trials, historic homes and restaurants that beg for your attention and your taste buds to inspire conversations, connections and discovery of vistas of big open spaces and the mighty Hudson River that won’t disappoint — especially at sunset!


The Hudson Valley landscape, from which artists and farmers have drawn ideas and sustenance for centuries, represents everything we love about America: Hardworking people, fertile land, a majestic river that roams from the countryside to the city yielding a breadbasket, innovation and fresh air that shapes the freedom we believe is our birth right.


The meadows, the hills, the fields, the orchards and the mountains bend along the Hudson River and inspire people to be responsible, cultivate honest food and explore the best the Hudson River Valley has to offer and the terroir that rewards these practices.


One of the most beloved destinations in the world, visitors from New York City and beyond flock for the delectable bites, breathtaking landscapes — a pioneer spirit that is tough to replicate and impossible to fake.


Like our European ancestors, the key to America’s heart is our stomachs, by way of our palate. And we have our local producers to thank! Cheers to a happy and delicious summer!


WineOn! FarmOn!


Hudson Valley Wine: A History of Taste & Terroir

By Tessa Edick & Kathleen Willcox

Available on, Oblong Bookstores and Taste NY locations today!