John Gizzi and Diann Greco, the American Wine Society–certified wine judges at Make Wine With Us, teach wine aficionados to create their own wines using grapes harvested in Californian and Chilean vineyards. At the start of the nine-month process (California grapes in the fall, Chile grapes in the spring), winemakers-to-be assemble with fellow enthusiasts to learn the intricacies of the trade. Patrons learn to crush and destem grapes in a machine called a crusher-destemmer, named after the device's favorite Germanic metal band. Following the crushing process, a hydraulic press forces juice into barrels, where it shall remain until the conclusion of its sweet, sweet metamorphosis.
At the end of the nine-month period, newly minted winemakers lean on family and friends to fill, cork, and custom-label the finished product. Budding vintners then tote home their vintages to share with family, friends, and robot butlers with built-in carafes.
More than thirty years ago, Patricia and Jack Baldwin plunged the stakes of their first vineyard into the fertile soil of their newly purchased parcel of land. By 1985, the couple was hard at work building the foundation for what was becoming a successful microwinery and began to create a many different varietals, from their velvety chardonnay to their tart black-raspberry wine. Today, the vineyard produces more than 15 wines, including its beloved strawberry wine, which has won Best Fruit Wine at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition several times. Baldwin Vineyards also sponsors a Strawberry, Chocolate & Wine Festival, which showcases the pairing of its wines with desserts during tastings, tutorials, and big-budget reenactments.
The smile on Yancey's face as she holds her double gold-winning riesling up to the camera is infectious. It perfectly captures the love, dedication, and immense pride she and her husband Michael take in crafting their well-received bottles of wine at Whitecliff Vineyard.
Their artisanal labors of love started more than 30 years ago when Michael decided to transform an empty field into a winery. Following the traditions of his winemaking grandfathers and armed with a master's degree in organic chemistry, he started experimenting with grape growing. Determined to produce wines that would rival European classics, he eventually expanded his vineyard to contain more than 20 varieties of grapes, each with an uncanny resemblance to the American flag.
Today, he and Yancey sell their wines in farmers' markets and stores from Albany to New York City. They also invite visitors to stop by their scenic winery for wine and cheese pairings or events that include art openings.
Inspired by his grandfather’s legacy of superior wine crafting, Harry Robibero took the first step in rebooting the family tradition by buying 42 acres of property in the Hudson River Valley with his wife Carole in 2003. He couldn't start harvesting any grapes just yet, however—there was already an operational winery on the premises. He bided his time, waiting for the opportunity to fill his home's glasses and well-concealed flasks with his own cask-aged creations. In 2007, the original winery announced that it was vacating the acreage, opening the door for Harry to finally cut the ribbon on his family's very own vino haven.
After years of revamping the property, the family now welcomes visitors to savor red and white artisan wines by the bottle or glass while playing board games, watching sports on the 52-inch TV, warming up by the indoor fireplace, or listening to music during one of the winery's weekly events. The Robiberos also helm tasting sessions, in which oenophiles can sample a lineup of their expertly handcrafted libations. During the warmer months, they open the outdoor patio so that their guests can sip on sangria or wine while overlooking the lush vineyards speckled across the fertile valley.
Rolling meadows spread out amid rocky slopes, with the gray-blue peaks of the Catskills Mountains looming in the distance. In front of this scenic backdrop, Millbrook Winery invites guests to immerse themselves in the verdant, sprawling landscape of its 130-acre estate. On the more than 30 acres currently under the vine, its growers cultivate varietals such as chardonnay, tocai friulano, pinot noir, and cabernet franc, which are then mashed and fermented into the estate's characteristically dry wines. Having recently surpassed their 24th vintage, the winemakers display evidence of their grape-smashing prowess with a bounty of gold medals awarded by the Hudson Valley Wine and Grape Association, as well as the New York Wine & Food Classic.
When not hiking along a newly laid one-mile walking trail that meanders through the vineyards, guests gather in the winery building—a renovated Dutch-hip dairy barn bedecked with old white-framed windows, bare-wood walls, and exposed ceiling beams. Inside, tasting guides expound on the winery's various types of wine, revealing which grapes were used, how long they spent in the barrel, and their favorite New Yorker articles. In addition to tastings, they pass on their knowledge in a range of events, such as boot-camp training for prospective wine growers. They also grant guests personalization of their vintages with fully customizable wine labels, letting them outfit bottles with their own photos and names.