It is not unusual that two of the four featured wineries for this article are two of the newer producers in the Hudson Valley. The region is very much changing from production of old style sweet native and hybrid wines to taking their early halting steps towards developing a
reputation as a region capable of producing consistently high quality wines. The process is slow and painful but change is always hard. It is not surprising that new wineries, without the investment in old varietals or local traditional practices, are helping to lead the way. Our next featured winery, Stoutridge Vineyards, like Oak Summit, is new kid on the block. It is also striving to produce high quality product, but that is about where the similarity ends. Oak Summit is an old world style winery mastering millennia old traditions of how a farmer crafts first quality wines. In many ways, Oak Summit, without much modification, could as easily be situated in Burgundy as the Hudson River Valley.
Stoutridge is as American as it gets. They have embraced artisanal hand crafted winemaking with a combination of low tech and some of the most high tech practices available. In true American tradition they questioned every aspect of the winemaking process redefining what a winery can be and how it can go about the business of making wine. Touring Stoutridge one gets the impression that they methodically evaluated every assumption and process and challenged themselves to find a better way. Every step is considered and nothing is taken for granted. They have embraced a "sustainable" approach to their vineyard practices and, more importantly to the entire winemaking operation. They have built and constructed the farm for the long haul.
Finding that better way to produce wine is woven into the culture of the young winery. To provide for the energy needs of the facility the south facing roof of the winery is covered photovoltaic cells providing for all of the energy requirements for the winery. The solar panels make Stoutridge a net energy producer, returning approximately 30% of the cell's production back to the grid. The winery was built into the side of a hill to avail itself of the natural fifty-five degree temperature of the earth further reducing energy requirements for heat or air conditioning. Forward looking energy management solutions are a critical component of Stoutridge's sustainable methodology.
Stoutridge espouses the concept of wine as slow food and has built the winery to be a slow winemaking facility. Slow is a reduced intervention and patient philosophy that focuses on the quality of the wine in preference to time to market requirements. The "slow" practice is particularly beneficial with cool climate fruit. Flavors and textures are more delicate and largely more complex and subtle than grapes from warmer regions. The slow process is designed to retain and maximize these subtleties. The winemaking facility is designed to be gravity driven which means that as wine needs to be moved it is always through falling and not pumping. Hoists are used to raise tanks if the wine needs to be moved this instead of being pumped. The cask cellar is below the crush pad so that the wine can "fall" into the aging casks. Gravity is more gentle reducing turbulence in the handling of juice and wine allowing it to retain more of the delicate and subtle flavors of the cool climate grapes.
To further maximize what the fruit offers, Stoutridge neither filters nor fines its wines. These mechanical processes often strip flavor and tannins from the wine, often without improving it appreciably. The small amount of retained sediment functions as an anti-oxidant helping to assuage the need for additional sulfites as a preservative. A small amount of the lees are retained in the bottle to provide additional longevity and help develop complexity over time in the bottle. As such, these wines should be decanted. The winery is beginning a program of putting the least forty cases of many of their vintages in the cellar to be released again in ten years. It takes a lot of confidence in the ageing characteristics of their wines to take such a risk. Stoutridge reasons that the presence of lees in the bottle, the higher acid content of cool weather grapes, and higher retained tannins from assuaging filtering and fining makes their wines excellent candidates for long term cellar aging.
Stoutridge Vineyard was founded in 2001 by Steve Osborne and his wife Kimberly Wagner. The winery is just outside of Marlboro about a mile west of the Hudson River. The farm is thirty five acres with eleven under vine. The vineyards are east south east facing, looking out over the river, to maximize available sunlight and to take advantage of the climate moderating effects of the Hudson. Three acres of vines were first planted in 2001 with an about additional one and a half every year since. The years 2002 and 2003 saw devastating winters that caused significant damage to the young vines. As such, Stoutridge really considers 2004 as its first year for grape plantings.
Currently Stoutridge's wines are primarily made from externally sourced grapes. The hills around the winery are planted in vines which are maturing and will soon be providing an increasing proportion of the winery's grapes. Stoutridge plans to provide about 50 to 60% of their own fruit as the vines begin to bear viable fruit. Although most of the wines currently produced by Stoutridge are hybrid or native varietals, the vineyards that surround the winery are primarily vinifera. They are planted to Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Refosco, Teroldego, and Muscat. They are also experimenting with Noiret, a new Cornell hybrid not cursed with foxy characteristics of its labrusca heritage, but possesses excellent flavor characteristics, complexity, and color. It is a very encouraging experiment. As the conversion to higher percentage of estate bottlings completes they will become member of vinifera focused winegrowers in the regions. WinesNY.com looks forward to seeing what they will produce from these noble varietals.
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