Drink In the Prettiest Place In NY: the Hudson Valley

Garden at the CIA
Garden at the CIA

All photos by Aliza Kellerman.

New York has been getting a lot of fame for their number of ever-proliferating craft distilleries (and breweries, and wineries, and chocolates, and tea…), but what a lot of people don’t realize is that New York isn’t synonymous with New York City. A ton of fun stuff is going on in the Hudson Valley, one of the most idyllic places to get a little sauced - especially during the fall. 

Before it gets so cold you risk freezing off your fingers, please visit the Hudson Valley for some autumnal sipping. Here are some of the places I visited:

The CIA, Not the Intelligence Agency, but The Culinary Institute of America, at Hyde Park

whitecliff
whitecliff

This not-for-profit university has AA and BA programs, but even if you’re not interested in enrolling doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it just to tour. The architecture is stunning, and the grounds are filled with features like “The CIA Beverage Gardens,” which grow plants specialized for making drinks. Other highlights include the Brooklyn Brewery at the CIA and a student-run restaurant, Bocuse. You will regret your choice of alma mater after visiting.

Whitecliff Vineyard, 331 Mckinstry Rd, Gardiner, NY 12525

The wines from this beautiful couple-owned winery can be spotted at digs like Gramercy Tavern, but I implore you to check out the gorgeous grounds. The 2013 Traminette may be of particular interest to wine aficionados. Traminette, a Gewürztraminer hybrid, has a gooseberry, floral nose with a sharp tartness that’ll keep you intrigued. This particular wine straddles sweet and acidic beautifully. Now imagine sipping that with this view! 

Tuthilltown
Tuthilltown

Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, 14 Grist Mill Ln, Gardiner, NY 12525

IMG_1715
IMG_1715

Even if you don’t live in New York, chances are you’ve seen Tuthilltown’s flagship Baby Bourbon somewhere. While bourbon is all fine and well, what’s really cool about Tuthilltown is how they’re exploring more obscure, funky products like a Cassis liqueur and crème de cacao. I’m a sucker for liqueurs, so those were an instant draw. Co-founder Brian Lee gave us a wonderfully personal tour. I’ve seen Tutilltown’s spirits so often, I forget what started it all: a plain ol’, salt of the earth distillery. Incidentally, their Manhattan Rye won silver in the NY International Spirits Competition last year. 

Bad Seed Cider, 43 Baileys Gap RD Highland NY, 12528

Bad seed donuts
Bad seed donuts

If you think you hate cider, go here. Chances are, you hate cider because you think it’s too sweet, but Bad Seed aims to debunk that cider stereotype. Started by two childhood friends (one descending from a long lineage of apple farmers), Bad Seed makes really dry cider, but their Apple Pie Dry proves you can have plenty of flavor without sipping a sugar bomb. Plus, boozy donuts were also served, and I can always get behind alcohol-soaked sweets - especially when the accompanying cider isn’t cloying.

Those four highlights are a sliver of what’s up in the Hudson Valley. Black Dirt Distillery, for example, has an applejack that’s outstanding, and Hillrock Estate is the area's first "farm to glass" whiskey distillery, where they grow and malt their own grains on site. But I’m not going to rattle off every amazing hooch producer north of Riverdale. For your own safety, get on a bus, rent a car, or walk to the Hudson Valley today. Your palate (and liquor cabinet) will thank you.