A Love Letter to our Wine Industry

There is an old saying that “Life begins at forty.” I think the origin of that was in ancient Greece where the virgins guarding the temple were relieved of their duties at age forty and then permitted to take part in a fuller life.  

Happily, I was raised in the Bronx and never subjected to these restrictions.  But I did have an opportunity to start a new life when at age 50, I met and married Ben Feder, and among other things, joined the special world of wine growers in the Hudson Valley.  I was 50 years old (I mean young) and here I am looking back 36 years.  I expected life with Ben would be very special, since he was a man of many talents.   I’ve been quoted as saying that “Ben Feder could do everything except the tango”.  He did everything with the excitement that comes with taking on projects with passion and youthful exuberance.  I was very interested in what he was doing at Clinton Vineyards and luckily, he saw me as a working partner, and was generous in embracing the ideas I had for putting my design ideas into adding to the beauty of the property- working on new wines, beautiful packaging and catchy names.  It was great fun.  

Little did I know that there was lots more to come when I was invited to represent the Hudson Valley on the Board of Directors of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.  Following various assignments, I was honored to ultimately become the first woman to serve as Board Chair.  Words cannot adequately express the many ways in which my relationships with my colleagues on staff and the wider wine community enhanced my life then and now- I feel a deep closeness and pride in how the foundation has continued to grow and serve our amazing wine industry.   

Legacy means a lot to me and since Ben’s passing in 2009, I have kept his spirit alive with the love and support of many.  My hope is that in ways yet to evolve that it will be sustained.  Ben was a charismatic fellow with his radiant smile and blue eyes, he was a person you wanted to know.  He was very excited to become the first in so many things in the Hudson Valley –Method Champenoise wines, Cassis and lovely fruit wines.  It was for good reason that he was regarded as a pioneer in New York winemaking.   

Legacy is a romantic and fragile idea.  I have taken pride in preserving that legacy, but it needs good stewards for sustenance.   

Love and thanks to you and Cheers to a great future. 

-Phyllis Feder

Phyllis Feder

Phyllis Feder

Phyllis Feder has been actively involved in the developing New York State wine industry, first elected to the Board of Directors of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation and was the first woman to become President of the Board. Her leadership was recognized by receiving many awards and with the establishment of the Phyllis Feder Industry Unity Award.