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Letters to the Editor: July 2009 

A Vintner’s Response
To the Editor:
Last month, Chronogram gave significant coverage to Hudson Valley winemaking in its Food & Drink section [“Full Bottle in Front of Me,” 6/09]. As an owner of one of the Valley’s wineries, a regular Chronogram reader, and a serious fan of its philosophy of regional focus and environmental sustainability, I looked forward to reading it. What I found was a patronizing and self-important piece that did a disservice to local wineries and Chronogram readers alike by casually dismissing an entire industry as producers of “picnic wine” based on one man (and his buddy’s) wine taste.

If there is one absolute I have learned in 10 years of pouring wine, it is that taste is intensely personal. No less an expert than Steven Kolpan, an award-winning author and professor of wine studies at the Culinary Institute, points out in a current article in the Valley Table: “When it comes to judging a great wine, there is only one arbiter of that greatness. It’s not Robert Parker, it’s not the Wine Spectator, it’s not the media, it’s not the ‘experts.’ It is you.” And for that reason, more than any other, anyone in the Valley with even a passing interest in wine—let alone a taste for what is regional or local—should dismiss the willingness of Chronogram’s writer to write us off, and instead come form their own opinion of what’s being done here.

It is worth noting that Kolpan’s article, “Tasting Great Wines: A New (York) Approach,” explores the specific qualities that make for truly great wine. “The classic wines of the world have long been identified with Europe,” writes Kolpan, but that “recently I’ve been tasting some extraordinary wines from New York, and I have found some great wines that have earned a place at the table with other great wines of the world.” And no less than two out of the four “great” New York wines he chose to describe came from our own Hudson Valley vineyards.

So here are a few thoughts about what Chronogram readers really need to know about the Hudson Valley wine industry, as reported by someone who has worked painstakingly to build a 26-acre, 3,000-case-a-year winery from an empty field over the last 15 or 20 years.

This is a unique region that combines incredible history and long traditions with vibrant growth. Just a few years ago we had less than 20 wineries. We now have close to 40—many with vineyards of their own.

We are adventurous and innovative, trying our hands at delicious new hybrids like Traminette—developed in New York, for New York—and classic, lesser-known Old World varieties like Gamay Noir and Tokai Friulano, in the search for grapes that will offer a true reflection of the region.

This is an exciting time here, with established vineyards growing stronger, and new people bringing in new ideas, energy, and resources

An increased investment of expertise and support from the research scientists at Cornell is bringing a solid base in enology and viticulture to help us grow. While Chronogram’s writer implied “technical acumen” could “inhibit winemaking,” in fact wine will always require the blend of craft, art, and science that is very much present here in the Valley.

Where many of the pioneering vineyards of Long Island have been bought out by big corporations, here visitors will still meet the owners and winemakers whose passion and energy are driving the business, making unique wines on an intimate—not an industrial—scale.

And where Chronogram’s writer admiringly noted that “a wine from Long Island recently broke the $100-per-bottle price mark,” visitors here will find wines priced to put on the table every night.

The bottom line is to do yourself a favor by coming out to form a first-hand opinion. It’s your backyard; see what’s going on. Keep watching, keep tasting, and enjoy the ride as we build recognition for Hudson Valley wines.

—Yancey Stanforth-Migliore, Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery

Spin Cyclists
To the Editor:
I wanted to write to thank you for your magazine generally, which I greatly enjoy. I also wanted to specifically comment on your recent “Spinning Menace” column [5/09]. It made me laugh out loud. I have been there—the complete lack of support you felt from anyone—the authorities, other cyclists—after your recent run-in while cycling to work. That Deptartment of Health study concluding the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of “sauced-up cyclists” was fall-down hilarious. But then I realized it probably isn’t that funny, and I should write to tell you not to take it all so personally, as you may be prone to do while nursing your injuries, and to encourage you to continue bike commuting.

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