After driving for over a half hour and then getting lost in Poughkeepsie, Carlos and I finally made our way to the Benmarl Winery at Slate Hill Vineyards, in Marlboro, New York. Driving up the gravel road, we passed through Benmarl’s 37 acre vineyard, which grows both Baco Noir (a French-American hybrid that was introduced to New York in 1951) and Traminette (an “Estate French Hybrid white” that was introduced in Geneva, New York, in 1996). Located on a piece of land that has sustained grape growing since 1772, Benmarl is one of the oldest vineyards in America, and the producer of some very fine Hudson Valley wines.
With still one more winery to visit, we skipped the self-guided winery tour and walked straight through the gift shop (unfortunately designed and decorated to appease a tourist’s sensibility) to the crowded tasting bar. Not knowing what to expect, we paid our $5 each and were told to select seven of the twelve wines from the list that offered five whites, three reds, and four sweet wines.
Wow. My first choice, the 2006 Chardonnay, was quite a surprise. With a touch of sulfur on the nose this wine revealed honey, fig, and spice on the palate; ended a little tangy, finished long on the honey, and was overall, quite nice.
After the 2007 Riesling, dry and full of green apple and peach, though a little to acidic for my liking, I opted for the Seyval Blanc, 2007, medium-bodied wine with a most interesting nose. Having read about cat urine as an element of some bouquets, I was pleased to finally encounter an example of such an odorous wine. Fruit forward with notes of tropical fruit, especially pineapple, the Seyval Blanc ended with a somewhat pungent punch, reminiscent of durian fruit, which I absolutely adore.
The 2007 Traminette, a varietal that’s a cross of Gewurtztraminer and Joannes Seyve 23-416, was quite fruity and a little too sweet for my liking. But the 2007 Slate Hill White, made from 62% Chardonnay, 18% Voignier, 11% Riesling, and 9% Traminette, floral on the nose, with vanilla, white peach, and a touch of minerality on the palate was a very drinkable smooth summer wine.
For the reds, only the 2006 Estate Baco Noir was notable. Super buttery (think microwave popcorn) on the nose, with cherry and pepper on the palate, this red wine won the Double Gold at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Gold at the Hudson Valley Wine Competition, and surpassed the other reds (which were both jammy) by a mile.
As you can see from the photographs, the grounds are lovely, as is the view, which makes this spot an excellent destination for an afternoon. I wish we’d had a more elaborate picnic and more time to stay, but with an interesting selection of delicious white wines, all of which are quite affordable at less than $15 a pop, and a knowledgable staff (we were lucky to have Wendy pour our wines), the Benmarl winery is one destination that’s worth putting on your map.