The Hudson Valley’s Best Wine Spots
Hudson Wine Merchants, Hudson
The small city of Hudson is one of the most artistic and culturally diverse spots in the Hudson Valley right now. But rewind 12 years, when many of Hudson’s historic townhouses were boarded up. Hudson Wine Merchants, now the city’s most beloved wine shop, used to be a crack den. In the early days, when many suppliers were still figuring out how to get wine upstate, Hudson Wine Merchants served as a community nerve center. “People would leave their house keys here for a visiting friend,” says owner Michael Albin. It’s still a neighborhood hub today: In addition to wine tastings, art shows and theater performances are held in the vast, airy space above the shop. The wines themselves are equally varied. (Albin’s father was an original member of the International Wine and Food Society and Albin still has a few bottles from his dad’s original cellar for sale.) While he professes a penchant for well-made natural wines, Albin stocks everything from classic Burgundy and top Barolo to those from lesser known regions like Hungary and the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
341 Warren St, Hudson, NY; hudsonwinemerchants.com
Brunette Wine Bar, Kingston
Wine lovers in historic Kingston, located 90 miles north of Manhattan on the west side of the river, have good reason to count their blessings. In less than three years, this small city has welcomed not one but three excellent wine venues. The most recent addition, Brunette Wine Bar, opened in August 2015.
Looking to spend more time upstate and less in Queens, owners Jamie and Tracy Kennard purchased a run-down barber shop and transformed it into this meticulously designed, light-filled space. The attention to detail spills over onto the wine list, which is small but filled with handcrafted and unusual natural wines made with as much love and care as the Kennards have put into creating their bar.
Brunette is open weekly Thursday-Sunday.
33 Broadway, Kingston, NY; brunettewinebar.com
Artisan Wine Shop, Beacon
Just 60 miles from Manhattan, the small town of Beacon has positively exploded in popularity over the past few years, with trendy new places to eat, drink, and shop popping up seemingly monthly on the now bustling main street. (Housing prices are rising equally quickly.) This, then, would make the 10-year-old Artisan Wine Shop seem comparatively geriatric were it not for owners Tim Buzinski and Mei Ying So, whose passion, knowledge, and creativity keep the shop on the cutting edge.
With wines arranged by style rather than by region or grape variety, customers are encouraged to shop more adventurously. And they’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the unusual, the interesting, and the small batch. In the owners’ words, Artisan Wine Shop stocks everything from “simple well-balanced reds for Tuesday night pizza, to naturally fermented skin-contact whites from the new wave in California, to wild-foraged hard apple ciders, to our favorite small grower Champagnes—and everything in between.”
180 Main St, Beacon, NY; artisanwineshop.com
Blink and you’ll miss it, but you’ll be disappointed if you do—for in the heart of this charming little town sits one of the Hudson Valley’s food and wine gems.
After working for years in some of New York City’s top restaurants, Nick and Sarah Suarez escaped the city to open Gaskins in June 2015. This contemporary country tavern now serves as a welcoming community gathering space (the Suarezes even live upstairs).
Nick’s humble but expertly made American comfort food is sourced primarily from local farmers, while the equally unpretentious 45-bottle wine list is Sarah’s labor of love. It’s filled with small batch wines from highly regarded natural producers mostly from France and Italy, along with a smattering of refreshing cocktails. It also features several beers from the Suarez Family Brewery, owned by Nick’s brother in a neighboring town.
2 Church Ave, Germantown, NY; gaskinsny.com
Ester Wine & Spirits, Kingston
A welcome addition to the city of Kingston’s historic Stockade District, Ester Wine & Spirits was opened in September 2014 by Robert Provenz, who brings his wealth of wine experience from Brooklyn to the Valley with free monthly tastings, informal educational classes, and a selection of thoughtfully chosen wines “from small family wineries that farm ethically,” says Provenz.
While you can find wines from around the world—including some rarities like naturally-made Australian Pinot Noir—there is a strong local leaning that also applies to spirits. Provenz is proud of the relationships he’s built with local distillers and winemakers while still remaining selective. “I don’t automatically take them because they’re local,” he says. The result is a small but stellar selection of the best of New York State and beyond.
57 N Front St, Kingston, NY; esterwine.com
Copake Wine Works, Copake
On the eastern edge of the Hudson Valley, just four miles from the border of Massachusetts, the tiny town of Copake has struck vinous gold. Christy Frank, owner of the cozy, lovingly stocked Frankly Wines in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, saw the opportunity to open a second shop upstate—filling a void she saw in the area’s wine retail scene. The shop opened in July 2015 in what was formerly a pharmacy, and while aesthetically it hasn’t changed much, Frank has plans for a renovation. In the meantime, both locals and weekenders alike are thrilled to have a place to taste and buy both large and small batch wines and spirits at affordable prices.
69, Main St, Copake, NY; copakewineworks.com
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills
There’s no denying the impact that Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills (30 miles north of NYC on the lower east end of the Hudson Valley) has had on the American farm-to-table movement. Since 2004, the Barber family—Dan, Lauren, and David—have been at the forefront of the conversation about ethical eating. With a multitude of awards and a lengthy reservation wait list, Blue Hill is a special occasion, multi-course, four-hour-eating-marathon kind of a place; a celebration of the land and the people who farm it. As for the wine list, it's unsurprisingly celebratory of the fermented grape.
Spearheaded by Wine Director Charles Puglia, the 94-page, 2,000-bottle tome offers up a dizzying array of wines, from cult classics to left-of-field producers and everything in between. Puglia has a soft spot for regions like Burgundy, Piedmont, and Germany/Austria, but he’s also worked hard to build up the American section of the list, showcasing the best from the west coast as well as from New York State. Most producers Puglia lists farm at least lutte raisonnée (with minimal chemicals), and a good number farm organically and biodynamically. “As a service approach, we are really trying to talk about the vineyard, the land and the climate, as well as the people who farm the land,” says Puglia. “That includes occasionally dropping a soil sample on a table, while trying not to get too geeky.” For wine lovers, however, geeking out over this exceptional list is half the fun.
630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills, NY; bluehillfarm.com
The Reed Street Bottle Shop, Coxsackie
With a Kevin Costner Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come” mentality, ex-Brooklynites Susan Baldaserini and Shai Kessler have taken a giant leap of faith in choosing the town of Coxsackie (in the far north of the Valley, west of the river) as the site of their new wine shop. The beautiful buildings along the town’s historic Reed Street have seen livelier days, but with a gorgeous riverfront, bucolic farmland, and an extremely affordable cost of living, Coxsackie seems poised for rejuvenation.
“Our goal is to help lead a (second or third) renaissance on Reed Street,” says Baldaserini. The shop itself sits within a lovingly restored historic townhouse, drawing customers with weekly tastings and a selection of carefully chosen small batch wines and spirits from both far and near. From humorous tasting notes to craft cider in a can, Baldaserini and Kessler have gone the extra mile to make Reed Street the kind of place both locals and tourists alike will flock to.
34 Reed St, Coxsackie, NY; reedstreetbottleshop.com
Fish and Game, Hudson
Since opening in May 2013, Fish and Game has rapidly become one of the Hudson Valley’s finest restaurants, with ingredients sourced from a multitude of local farms and crafted into deliciousness by chef and co-owner Zak Pelaccio, who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast this year. The wine list pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s artisanal theme, focusing on “terroir-expressive wines produced with minimal intervention” (also known as “natural” wines).
“From the get-go, I began buying with a focus on natural wine,” says Pelaccio. “After a couple years, we promoted Mike Rice to Beverage Director and he has taken the program even further in that direction and cultivated one of the best wine lists anywhere in the world."
Fish and Game’s wine menu does indeed read like a who’s who of the natural wine world. Coming in at just 12 pages in length, it’s compact enough to be approachable while also containing cult names, rare vintages and large-format bottles to keep the hard-core wine nerds happy.
13 S 3rd St, Hudson, NY; fishandgamehudson.com
Kingston Wine Co., Kingston
It’s hard to believe that Kingston Wine Co. has only been open since January 2014. A staple of the increasingly hip “Rondout” area of downtown Kingston, the wine shop’s many loyal customers stretch across the region and into New York City and Boston. It helps that owner Michael Drapkin has over a decade of experience in the wine retail scene and stocks his shop with small batch, artisan wines from producers and regions he truly loves (he has a special affinity for France after having worked a harvest in Minervois). It also helps that his wife Theresa Drapkin is a professional designer who has beautifully crafted a cozy, welcoming space within a historic building. Additional draws include weekend tastings, free home delivery on orders over $100 anywhere within the Catskills (there’s a $10 fee for orders under $100), and a clever “Wine Share” program—self-described as a “wine CSA”—that comes with recipes and profiles on the growers of the wines included with each monthly share.
65 Broadway, Kingston, NY; kingstonwine.com