Altamont Fair hosting first annual wine festival, part of a statewide trend
The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael
Grapes hang from the vine at Goold Orchards in Castleton, to be used to make wine for Brookview Station Winery, which has a year-round tasting room on the farm. Brookview is one of six New York wineries that will be represented at the first annual Altamont Fair Wine Festival next week.
New York State has over 300 licensed wine producers, and that number is probably growing. New York has some of the finest farmland in the country, which can make for some of the best- tasting wine.
Just like many other businesses, farms have felt the economic downturn. But by growing fruit to make wine, some of those farms have retrofitted their business.
Brookview Station Winery, located at Goold Orchards in Castleton, is a prime example. The nine-year-old establishment will serve samples and sell wine along with five other New York wineries at the first annual Altamont Fair Wine Festival next week.
“It’s just another way to help launch New York wines,” said Karen Gardy, Brookview’s director of marketing, on Monday. “Plus, it’s just really fun.”
On Sept. 30, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing wine to be sold at farmers’ markets, and authorizing new wine trails like the “Shawangunk East Wine Trail” and the “Niagara Escarpment Wine Trail.” This law created a new venue for New York wineries to sell their products by allowing farm markets to sell wine manufactured and produced locally.
The new law cuts through some red tape to give farms a chance to make more revenue. Without it, the Altamont Fair Wine Festival might not have happened.
“Wine is a very popular item these days, and it’s good to be promoting it,” said Marie McMillen, the fair’s director. “Promoting agriculture has always been our mission.”
On April 8, Cuomo hosted the second New York State Wine, Beer, Spirits, and Cider Summit, announcing the start of a $6 million marketing and promotional promise to raise the profile of New York’s beverage producers.
McMillen told The Enterprise that the Altamont Fair Wine Festival is “in a way” sponsored by Taste NY; the event has its logo and standards. “A taste of New York wine is a taste of New York agriculture at its best,” says the Taste NY website.
Besides Brookview Station, the other wineries represented at the festival are: Adirondack Winery, of Lake George; Cascade Mountain Winery, of Amenia; White Cliff Vineyard, of Gardiner; Thousand Island Winery, of Jefferson County; and Pazdar Beverage Company, of Scotchtown. The event will be held on Friday, Aug. 15, from 3 to 9 p.m., and on Saturday, Aug. 16, from 1 to 8 p.m., and will cost $5.
“I contacted about 25 wineries,” said McMillen. “Many of them were already booked.”
Certainly, there are more elaborate wine festivals than the one that will be happening at the fair. Gardy says that people come to these events not only to taste the wine, but also to get educated.
“People want to know about the farming,” said Gardy. “No one is slamming wine.”
Goold Orchards, founded in 1910, is the oldest family-run apple farm in the Capital Region. Brookview Station started making wine in 2005, and opened its tasting room in 2006. On Monday morning, a small light behind the bar made the stacked wine glasses shimmer in the otherwise dim room.
Sue Goold Miller, and her husband, Ed Miller, had plenty of fruit on the farm, Gardy said, and liked wine enough to want to make it. “Our juice had been given to friends; we knew we could do it.”
Brookview Station’s first wine was an apple wine because “we have a lot of apples,” Gardy said. It’s called Whistle Stop White, winning Best Hudson River Region Wine in both 2007 and 2012, and is still considered their flagship version. It’s comparable to a German Riesling.
“Sue’s family came through here in 1910, stopping at the Brookview train station, and walking up to the land,” said Gardy. “Brookview was a whistle stop for trains.”
Just six months old, Whistle Stop White was able to win its 2007 award despite going up against grape wines. Gardy said the judges didn’t realize that it was an apple wine.
“We shouldn’t have won the award; we were like a skunk at a lawn party,” Gardy remembers. “There’s this American idea that all fruit wines need to be sweet, but, in Europe, these types are meant to be table wines.”
After the Great French Wine Blight hit in the mid-19th Century, destroying many vineyards in France, and collapsing its industry, some French came to New Paltz, Gardy said. “They had root stock here, and were able to rebuild their industry. They called this area the ‘fruit basket of the new world,’ and they were able to feed New York City, too.”
Currently, Brookview Station has 12 different wines, including Pomona (Best Hudson River Region Wine 2008) and Oh What a Pear (NY Wine Classic Silver medals in 2007, 2008, and 2009). The Frontenac Estate Wine was its first grape wine, and The Conductor’s Cassis, made with black currents, is its newest style.
“You take the juice and slowly add sugar, picking the yeast based on the flavor profiles,” said Gardy of making wine. “Bringing the flavor up slowly, you add more sugar every few weeks. If you stop the yeast, you stop the alcohol level from rising.”
Wine has been produced in New York for a long time, but it might not be highlighted as much on a national level as places like Napa Valley, California, Gardy said. She loves it when people from Napa Valley come to taste Brookview’s wine.
“They think very highly of their area,” said Gardy. “We may lag behind other places in the world, but we’re stellar nonetheless. We’re proud to be from New York, and we’re happy to have people come here.”
Gardy said that New York is a diverse place for wine.
“Wine is a personal choice, but everyone coexists,” Gardy said. “Each little micro-climate of this state is different, so there’s a lot of variety.”