NYWGF: When was the moment you fell in love with wine/wine industry?
LP: It sounds cliché, but being from an Italian family there was always a love of wine. Dinner wasn’t complete without a large jug of homemade wine at the table-simple wines, usually served in a water glass. No label, no frills. I grew up on Long Island when the wine industry was in its infancy, and visiting those early vineyards piqued my interest in the agricultural aspects. Eventually my curiosity led to visiting some of Europe’s lesser-known wine regions, places like Austria, Slovenia and Greece.
But it wasn’t until a trip to Santa Cruz and a drive up the coast to the Russian River Valley and Mendocino that it all clicked. I met small (by comparison) winemakers that were different from others we had visited on the West Coast-they had a farm winery approach. It stuck with me. When I came back to New York, I knew I needed to learn more about the winemakers in the Hudson Valley. I wanted to learn more about the region’s wines and its history. And I wanted to encourage others to explore more, too. It all came together in that first issue of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine.
NYWGF: What’s your best experience/event since you’ve been part of the industry?
LP: There have been so many experiences, but one in particular made an indelible impression. We were visiting small, family-owned wine producers in Piedmont with a wine industry friend, and one afternoon a winemaker invited us to stay for lunch. We sat around a weathered picnic table on the grounds of his family’s rustic 17th-centry estate. Special reserve wines were uncorked, a plate of local cheeses and meats appeared, and piping-hot homemade Risotto was doled out of a large pot. We sipped wine for hours overlooking hundreds of hectares of vineyards laid out in neat rows. It was a spectacular fall day in Nebbiolo wine country! But it also made me appreciate the beauty and experiences we have right here in the Hudson Valley.
NYWGF: What’s the one wine you can’t live without?
LP: Cabernet Franc, of course! Terroir is so prevalent in this wine and it’s what I love most about it. It thrives in so many regions around the globe, and it takes on so many different expressions. There’s the old-world style in those from the Loire and even Italy; and then there are modern wines coming out of Oregon and the west coast. Even Cab Francs from other regions in New York are different from Hudson Valley-grown Cabernet Francs. I can’t get enough of this grape, so the more experimentation the better. Cab Franc roses, sparkling, Pet-Nats…bring them on!
NYWGF: What do you think is going to be the next big wine trend?
LP: Sustainability, biodiversity and conservation will remain key factors, so that will translate to changes in vineyard management and winemaking practices. In the Hudson Valley, winemakers like Stoutridge Vineyard, Benmarl Winery, Whitecliff Vineyard, and Bashakill Vineyards have been moving in this direction for years, but others will follow. This will lead to more experimentation in the cellar, especially for the smaller producers or those large enough to hedge some risk. Look for more natural, low-orno-intervention wines, and wines made in small batches using unconventional (For the U.S.) fermenting and aging vessels, like concrete and clay. I think consumers will start looking to taste more natural fruit flavor, rather than vessel, which will cause a shift in the American palate once again. In the short-term, we’ll also see more co-fermentation experiments with the craft beverage sector. It’s a challenging time for winemakers, but fun for consumers!
NYWGF: What do you think makes New York wines special and/or distinct?
LP: In one word, terroir. New York wines are unlike any other because they’re made in New York. You can compare weather, latitude, growing conditions, or any other aspect of New York winemaking to that of any other wine region around the world, but New York wines will always have a unique character because each region, and each sub-region-down to each vineyard block-has its distinct terroir. There aren’t many other wine regions that can compare to New York’s diversity.—-Linda Pierro is co-founder and managing editor of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine and a co-founder of the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition. For more than a decade, Linda has been an innovative and collaborative champion of New York State’s wine industry, focused on raising awareness of the Hudson Valley’s wine community through successful consumer initiatives. Her work with the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition focuses on establishing the grape as the Hudson Valley’s signature varietal through brand development, consumer promotion, and creation of the first annual Barrel Tasting event last year.
Linda was the recipient of the Phyllis Feder Unity Award at the recent 2020 Unity Awards Luncheon, presented by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. This award recognizes individuals who have volunteered their time, shown exceptional leadership, and achieved recognized results in building industry cooperation and unity.