As I came to find out, the Hudson Valley was the birthplace of wine in America. So, it no surprise there are many established vineyards dotting the hillsides throughout the valley. New producers are joining the scene each year and existing producers are expanding, even reclaiming old heirloom vines. If you still think you have to go to California to get a decent wine you are way behind the curve.
Finding the wine is no problem, but getting there can be- especially for those of us living in NYC (whom are vehicle impaired). In steps the Little Wine Bus. Their motto is “Take me to the vino” and they mean it. With a fleet of tours leaving Manhattan every weekend, ranging from private Towncar to full-scale Chartered bus, they are simply the best way to safely enjoy the bounty of the Hudson Valley wine trail.
I had the opportunity to hop on the bus this Fall with owner and founder Tania Dougherty, (along with a couple dozen tipsy bachelorettes). If there was one word to express the vibe that day, it would be fun. The moment I stepped on board I was immersed in streamers, hanging grapes and chants from young enthusiasts. Tania set the tone with raffle giveaways, Mardi Gras beads, gift bags; even in-bus karaoke. These elements combine to create a relaxed, unashamed environment. I like a good formal wine tasting as much as the next nerd, but even I gave way to the Mardi Gras beads and Journey sing-along.
Clearly, the LWB is about enjoying wine the way it was originally intended, convivially to celebrate the fruit, friends and farmers that produce it.
The tasting at Glorie was casual and relaxed. Glorie is a fruit farm first and foremost, producing apples, peaches, pears and of course, grapes. Their wines are tasty and unpretentious, with entertaining names like Jibber Jabber, Rumple Pumpkin and Candy Ass Red.
We then motored a mere mile or two to Benmarl for an afternoon of pure autumn revelry. That Sunday was their annual grape stomp with food stands, live music, hand-made ice-cream vendors and a full-line wine tasting, all set before one of the most spectacular views in the entire Hudson Valley. The wine was impressive (as was the pulled pork sandwich and Merlot ice cream being served) and I made sure to take part in all of the events Tania had set up for us- including a tour of the winery and, of course, grape stomping. (Read more about Benmarl in America’s Wine Cradle)
Looming thunderstorms aside, the day was a blast.
Now don’t let the plastic grapes scare you off. The LWB may seem best suited for new comers to both wine and the Hudson Valley, but serious enthusiasts take notice. The Little Wine Bus offers private and exclusive wine events, like their “Meet the Wine Maker” Dinner. These “roundtable discussions” with the winery owners make for both an exceptional and educational wine experience.
With the variety of wine tours they offer, as well as the addition of the Little Beer Bus, it is no wonder they are a 2012 Hudson Valley Best winner.