Take a Tasting Tour of Places Near and Far

By Published On: June 27th, 2024

Who doesn’t like wine? Or maybe rather than being an oenophile (a connoisseur of wines), you are a zythophile (someone who loves beer and all things beer-related), or a cocktail connoisseur (a keen appreciator of spirits). 

Napa Valley has nothing on the Hudson Valley and its environs; you can barely twirl a corkscrew without it pointing to a treasure trove of places creating adult beverages. Most offer their own versions of the classics, but trying specialties can introduce a treat. We put together a sample flight (see what we did there?) of places for a short jaunt, day, weekend, or longer adventure into the land of spirits by the glass.

Bring the family, get a group together, or go yourself and make new friends. Hours vary; check websites. Most have food on-site, music, and places for kids to play, and many even allow man’s best friend. Special events are an extra reason to get out and go tasting!

Beer, wine, spirits, cider and – aliens?

Culture, scenery, history, shopping and tasting, you can’t go wrong going to the Berkshires.

Barely across the state line from NY in Richmond, tri-named Hilltop Orchards/Furnace Brook Winery/JMash Cider is a 186-acre working farm. Hike through orchards with Berkshire views, then sip apple wine, cider, or a local beer while replenishing calories with a fresh-baked-daily cider donut. In winter, a crackling fire warms after snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing. Ask about the hero dog, who saved the entire operation when fire struck on Christmas Eve a few years ago.

Bring two friends to Sheffield, drop one to taste wine at Sunset Meadows, another next door to sample spirits at Black Mountain Distillers, and take yourself to have a woman-brewed beer at Big Elm, where the concentrated list is made with ingredients “from the 413-area code.” Snap a photo of your pooch there and submit it for inclusion in the 2025 calendar! The Great Barrington taproom features trivia and karaoke nights.    

In 2007, Berkshire Mountain Distillers was the first legal distillery in the state since Prohibition. A copper vat from a still of that era is the showroom centerpiece. Serving “a sip of the Berkshires in every glass,” maple bourbon is a local favorite. Its craft beer/whiskey project triple distills beer in single batches and ages it at least five years in new, American-made white oak barrels to create a unique brew that begs a return visit when one can sample it. A series of summer events are promised.

Sunset Meadows Winery products come from 22 varieties of grapes, 98% estate grown. The owners live in the center of their largest-in-New England vineyard in Connecticut. Wines are aged in rum or bourbon barrels from the distillery next door. Special pairings will be offered over the summer, such as wine and ice cream (there’s a trip to Sheffield!) or wine and fudge.

Take time to visit the Old Covered Bridge, a re-creation of the 1837 original destroyed by an arson fire in 1994. Stories linger about an alien abduction there. This happened before the beverage spots were around, but what you experience, well, that’s up to you and your intake. 

Tasting spots abound in Columbia County

Highways and backroads are home to scads of breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries.

Old Klaverack Brewery, Hudson boasts that Spook Rock, its award-winning hazy IPA is “the smoothest IPA on the market.” Hazy because you cannot see through it, and yes, it is smooth. The Hudson-area brewery also carries an American lager, among other products and will host a Lobsterfest on August 10. 

Women-owned Cooper’s Daughter Spirits at the historic Olde York Farm in Claverack takes pride in using all-natural, all-Hudson Valley sourced ingredients. A cocktail garden is open every weekend, there’s a new indoor area, plus a B&B on site. Order an ice cream cake when you book a party, retreat, or shower.

“Truly orchard to bottle” house-made hard cider, vodka, gin, applejack, brandy, and whiskey, plus craft cocktails and vinegars at Harvest Spirits in Valatie start from a farm family-owned for generations. At the Wine & Craft Festival, its owners cited a favorite comment, “Gin makes me mean.” Get food at Harvest Smokehouse truck, and then head over to Golden Harvest farm store for a cider donut, you won’t regret it.

Clermont, close enough to Dutchess County that you won’t need a passport, boasts the trifecta of Tousey Winery and Hudson Valley Distillery across Route 9 from each other and Suarez Family Brewery just a tad north.

Tousey’s best seller is Queen of Clermont: “Not too dry or sweet, with a lot of mellow notes.” Every step of its winemaking is done on-site, with very few added sugars. Open for almost 15 years, it was one of the first wineries in the Hudson Valley. Its biggest special event is an annual Halloween party. A café serves small plates and snacks, and a room may be reserved for private parties 

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Stephen Theiss said about Hudson Valley’s family operation, where time spent getting to know customers is considered “well spent.” It specializes in ‘cocktails to take home with you,’ made from hand-distilled spirits created with valley sourced ingredients. Upcoming are a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest July 13, and a comedy show on the 20th. 

Suarez’ flagship brew is the Palatine Pilsner, but “people know us for our unfiltered lager.” The small operation uses fruit to add flavor and specializes in low-alcohol, easy-drinking beers. “People come for our pour,” described as “a beautiful fluffy head, it’s a sensory experience.” A newly opened tap room will offer indoor and outdoor ‘really divine’ spaces to enjoy a beer. 

The Greenhouse Cidery at The Chatham Berry Farm specializes in dry ciders with unique flavors that change frequently. Just introduced: ginger cider. Bottle fills are available as are cocktails. The food service, Yummy Kitchen, is in an actual greenhouse! Workshops and pop-ups such as onsai making are frequent and the season-ending Flannel Fest promises baked-goods and ice-cream extras.

Time constraints gave Dutchess County short shrift

Do not make this mistake; more exploration is already penciled in. Drives through quietly delightful scenery can lead to places with mountain or river views and some tasty stops.

Nearby Millbrook Winery has made several varieties for 39 years; one exclusive is a signature Tocai Friulano. A winery tour includes tasting and a souvenir glass. Summer events include Bernie Williams and other jazz concerts, a walk or run and enjoy wine race day, Art in the Loft, and a farmers market.

A tasting and tour led by a cider or wine maker are also offered at Rose Hill Farm in Red Hook, which only uses New York State ingredients. Food pop-ups this summer will include Oyster Party and Supreme Soft-Serve. 

Limber up and relax with Yoga in the Orchard. 

Adirondacks have a lot to offer

From top to bottom and beyond, there’s breathtaking scenery, four-season outdoor sports, cute and comfy places to stay, and a host of tasting opportunities. 

A good place to start is Lake George; its tourism credits it as the “birthplace of the American vacation.” 

Adirondack Winery’s Queensbury location houses the wine-making facility and mountain décor tasting room; the Lake George one overlooks the lake. Adirondack’s specialty is fruit-infused wines, from strawberry and peach to mango and lavender. Year-round events include candle making, paint & sip, cookie decorating, and sushi making. October is Drink Pink month, which has raised over $100,000 for breast cancer. It recently launched Extreme Heights Ciders, named after Adirondack ‘46ers’ (the 46 Adirondack mountains over 5,000 feet tall, climb them all to get your ‘46er’ badge).

Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery & Spirits in Queensbury says “Think local, drink local” and puts its product where its motto is by making everything on site, with spring water. Local beers are also available. 

Lake George has a vacation’s worth of things to do, but if your Adirondacks visit stops there, you don’t know what you’ve missed. Go North through stop-light-less towns, with perhaps a stop for white-water rafting, or a day of discovery at ADKX, The Adirondack Museum.

In Tupper Lake, sample boutique craft beers such as Maple Porter or Smoked Red Ale at Raquette River Brewing. The head brewer shared “Brewing on a small scale affords the opportunity to innovate with a variety of ingredients, some local, some exotic.” Its biggest event is Octoberfest Weekend; food trucks offer the mountain specialty poutine (French fries on steroids). Be sure to put your glass down for an afternoon at The Wild Center.

At the northeastern edge of the Blue Line (the Adirondack Park boundary), the High Peaks taper to farmland that lends itself to wine and beer ingredient growing. Keeseville offers Highlands Vineyard and Ausable Brewing Company. 

Watching a storm make its way across the stunning view of Lake Champlain one evening was an incredible show of nature at Highlands. Each wine is a crowd pleaser, they say; made with varietal grapes that withstand the area’s harsh winters.

Brothers Dan and Dylan Badger pride themselves on the deep tap list ranging from very light to dark at farm-based nanobrewery Ausable Brewing. “We have a beer for everybody,” along with cider and wine. A big event in September will celebrate their 10th Anniversary.

But wait, there’s more!

Did we give you enough choices? There are many, many more, no matter where you look, or how far you’d like to travel. Head out and enjoy – and maybe we’ll see you wherever you end up!

So oenophile, zythophile, or cocktail connoisseur – which are you?