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.
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.
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.
Wine producers from across New York gather at the Putnam County Wine & Food Fest each year, bottles of their finest reds and whites in tow. A variety of local artisans join them, peddling everything from handmade crafts to fresh produce to fiery Indian snacks. As vendors hawk their wares and guests sample sips in the wine and beer gardens, live musicians send festive tunes booming across the fairgrounds.