In the two years since it opened amid the century-old buildings of a former cotton mill and knitting factory, City Winery Hudson Valley has become a welcome destination for intimate dinners, vibrant happy hours, weekend shows, elegant weddings, and great wines.
The City Winery’s Michael Dorf already had several successful locations under his belt when he set his eyes on the former Montgomery Mills complex on the Wallkill River in the town of Montgomery, Orange County. Originally built as a grist mill in 1813, the factory’s operations changed to wool production in the late 1880s, and yarn continued to be produced there until the late 1990s. City Winery Hudson Valley still displays original hanks of yarn amid vintage looms and other factory equipment throughout the space.
The sprawling property and its brick buildings are truly stunning. Barrel staves form the handles on several doors as well as being a focal point in an overhead chandelier in the entrance to the main bar and barrel room. Sepia-toned, hundred-year-old images of the former mill operation hang on the walls. A retail wine area facing the bar offers eponymous merchandise such as apparel, bags, and travel tumblers. Later this month, a U-shaped tasting bar will open in that space.
A floor-to-ceiling, double-sided, rustic stone fireplace dominates the space between the bar and the main dining room. Next to it, wine bottles—some of them are City Winery’s own, and some are Proprietor’s Reserve from other producers—wait in a tall, climate-controlled glass case.
Wine barrel lids frame a series of taps against a chalkboard wall behind the bar. City Winery serves a dozen wines on tap and offers customizable four-glass wine flights. To the left of the bar, a door leads out to a tiered bluestone patio overlooking the 26-acre property. With a 75-seat capacity, the patio is a favorite spot for happy hours (Monday-Friday, 4-6pm) and Wine Down Wednesdays, a popular weekly series featuring local performers from 5pm to 7pm. Reservations and walk-ins are both accepted.
The showpiece of the patio is the iconic brick smokestack, two sides of which now house fireplaces for outdoor ambiance in the cooler months. Steps down from the patio lead to a courtyard with a manmade water feature. The courtyard is the place to be on Tropical Tuesdays, which features drink specials and tropical tunes, and is also a great intimate wedding space.
A long, low building next to the patio and courtyard is the distillery, the former dye-works building that now boasts an outdoor wine bar and pizza oven to serve visitors attending Concerts in the Vineyard on the Great Lawn. Concerts on the lawn are an experience: Guests are set up on a naturally sloped amphitheater facing the large stone stage, within sight of a fenced-in bounty of grapevines, herbs, vegetables, and flowers tended by City Winery staff. The flowers and produce are all already being used in cocktails and cuisine, but the grapes will need a little more time to mature before they’re harvested. Closer to the river, a ceremony space has been carved out of the woods for more intimate outdoor nuptials.
Back inside, head through a vintage wooden door into the Falls Room—a breathtaking mix of old and new that now hosts private parties and public events. Like elsewhere throughout the property, authentic equipment once used onsite has been reinvented into table bases and rustic decor. With a dance floor and stage set up, the room can accommodate 300 guests. For corporate functions, or other events that don’t require a dance floor or stage, the capacity increases to 500.
In addition to the brick walls, original wood floors, and all that rustic decor, the windows in the Falls Room reveal the reason for its name: Peek through the wavy glass to view water rushing over the winery’s hydroelectric dam. Original to the factory, the dam once powered the mills, and now, City Winery aims to use it once again.
“When we bought the property it had one turbine working and was generating about 300,000 kilowatt hours,” Dorf says. “We got a grant from NYSERDA to replace the one working turbine and the one that wasn’t working with new equipment, which we are almost finished doing. This will allow us to generate an anticipated 1.3 million kilowatt hours per year.” City Winery Hudson Valley will use only about 800,000, so about 500,000 kilowatt hours per year will be sent back to the grid, offering a source of renewable energy. “We are very happy to be a net-zero user of electricity, given the state of the world,” Dorf says.
A soundproof glass wall partitions off part of the Falls Room to create the Gallery, an intimate space highlighted by giant wine tanks. It indeed is a gallery, as guests can look down through an open space to the bottling room below. If you want a more personal look at operations, reserve a wine tour, which takes you throughout the property and into the bottling room (and includes a tasting and cheese plate). If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the two Eggs—concrete fermentation tanks, instead of the more common oak or steel. The Eggs bring out the minerality of the wine, according to sommelier Tim Ahart. The bottling room is a busy place: The Montgomery location produces 25,000 cases of wine a year, providing 98 percent of the wine for all 13 City Winery locations.
On a recent summer afternoon, David Lecomte, chief winemaker for all City Winery locations, visited the bottling room to taste City Winery Hudson Valley winemaker Travis Van Caster’s latest vintages. Surrounded by winemakers from other CW locations, Lecomte carefully pours a glass, swirls it, sips, and savors before spitting it towards a drain in the floor. “I source all the fruit for City Winery,” says Lecomte, whose thick accent has hints of the Rhone region of France. “The wine here is special, because all the grapes are special to start with.” City Winery sources grapes from vineyards nationwide, including from Washington, California, Oregon, and the Finger Lakes.
Van Caster is equally proud, especially of City Winery Hudson Valley’s line of natural wines. “We buy really nice grapes from really nice regions, and we want to show them off,” he says. He’s anticipating the release of their new orange wine, to be served to City Winery Hudson Valley patrons as soon as the bottles can be labeled, he explains as he offers a visitor a sneak taste. “It’s a completely natural wine, using naturally occurring yeast,” he says. “We use white wine grapes [picpoul, originally from the Languedoc region] and do a thousands-of-years-old, red-wine process.” The result? A wine that tastes like autumn, with a more textured mouth feel than a traditional white, without the body or weight of a red.
The orange wine, like most other CW wines, was made to pair with Hudson Valley chef Tony Moustakes’s cuisine. All City Winery locations share a core menu, but chef Tony is one of only a select few CW chefs who get a little more freedom to play with their menus. Look for Hudson Valley steelhead trout ($33) and zabuton steak ($34) sourced from a ranch in nearby Pine Bush. Other menu items include a fried green tomato BLT with a lip-smacking smoked paprika aioli ($15) and spicy andouille sausage pasta ($22) with local plum tomatoes.
Ask any of the smiling servers to help pair your food with the best wine choices. You’ll have a lot of wine to choose from, include City Winery’s OG: New York City Cab. Per sommelier Ahart, that cabernet sauvignon and the Spring Street Pinot Noir are staples at the winery. Other vintages are nods to the winery’s origins, like Montgomery Mills Riesling and the 2019 Knit Syrah. He encourages guests to sample the Au Naturel line—they’ll be surprised how different the Au Naturel pinot tastes when compared to the Spring Street pinot. But having both options is part of what makes wine tasting here so much fun.
If, after all that wine-tasting, you don’t feel like driving home, The Barn has three new suites that are a beautiful mix of vintage and rustic touches with modern conveniences, all overlooking the Wallkill River and the historic mill.