HV Cider Benchmark: “God Speed the Plough”

By Christopher Matthews

In the ongoing craft (hard) cider renaissance in the Hudson Valley (HV), a structural impediment (and irony) exists: there aren’t enough cider apples to go around.

While culinary/dessert apples are widely available — New York is, after all, the second largest apple growing state in the US — many of these varieties, like Gala, Honey Crisp or Golden Delicious, just don’t make for compelling ciders, with their high sugar, low acidity, linear taste profiles and scant tannin. And even for American antique varieties that were good for cider back in the (pre-Prohibition) day, such as Baldwin or Golden Russet, they can fetch top dollar at farmers’ markets as eating or cooking apples. Combine this with a lean year for HV apples, e.g. in 2016 (due to a late frost), and a ever-more crowded cider field, and you get a scramble for the more suitable cider apples.

Enter Elizabeth Ryan, whom I ran into recently at The Corner, in Tivoli, NY. Elizabeth is a HV farming hero who, for over 30 years — way before it was cool — has pursued sustainable and organic agriculture in her various orchards and fields (primarily Breezy Hill Orchard and Stone Ridge Orchard), has been a founding member of numerous green markets across the region and a first mover in the craft cider comeback in the HV, with her Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider operation.


Elizabeth Ryan

I informed her of my own cider activity and interest, and asked her about the region’s shortage of cider apples. She acknowledged the situation, but asked me if I had tried her “God Speed the Plough”. Continue reading

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Italian Elegance: Lugana Wines

By Christopher Matthews

For wine lovers, Italy’s incredible regional diversity and myriad grape varieties – many of them indigenous, and some produced only in certain Italian locales – are the gifts that keep on giving. But that’s what also makes Italian wine difficult sometimes for American consumers to grasp, and explains, in part, the US love affair with Italian Pinot Grigio – it’s easy (in more ways than one)! Given this dichotomy, it’s important to highlight quality Italian wines that are less well-known on these shores, offering character and value.

Clearly one such precinct: Lugana, a northern Italian Denominazione (DOC) tucked in between the provinces of Brescia and Verona, on the south shore of Lake Garda. Based on mainly dry white wines produced from the Turbiana grape, the region’s wines showed extremely well at a recent Lugana event in Manhattan at La Pizza Fresca, hosted by the Lugana Consortium. These wines are worth knowing.

lugana-doc-region Continue reading

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KAS Krupnikas: Baltic Spirit from the Hudson Valley

By Christopher Matthews

Quality. Authenticity. Versatility. Highly desirable traits for most any product, not least spirituous beverages, but often elusive as a trifecta.


One such excellent potation that I recently covered for Edible Hudson Valley Magazine is KAS Spirits’ Krupnikas, a traditional spiced honey liqueur from the Baltic region (dating back to  the 16th century!) that most Lithuanian-American families make at home on stove tops – from carefully guarded recipes – and bring out for celebratory occasions. This includes the family of Kestutis J. Katinas (a.k.a. Kas), the founder of KAS Spirits. He is taking this Eastern European tradition to a wider audience via a former auto repair shop in Mahopac, NY. Call him the Lithuanian liqueur garagiste. Continue reading

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2016 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition: Fjord Vineyards Sweeps Top Awards

By Christopher Matthews

hvwga_emblemRelative newcomer Fjord Vineyards made quite the statement at the recent 2016 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition. Not only did its 2015 Albariño win Best in Show, Best Overall Hudson Valley Wine (made w/HV fruit) and Best White Wine, but it also won Winery of the Year, the first time ever that this award hasn’t gone to the HV’s perennial flagship, Millbrook Winery and Vineyards.


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Hopping Up Hudson Valley Cider

By Christopher Matthews

With its tradition of apple-producing excellence — and aided by the New York Farm Cidery license option — the Hudson Valley (HV) has become an epicenter of the burgeoning (hard) craft cider scene, supported by the Hudson Valley Cider Alliance.

And as a cider enthusiast (and maker!), I keep tabs on what is appearing in the local HV cider market place. In recent months, I’ve noticed a positive trendlet from the region’s craft producers: offerings of dry-hopped cider.

IMG_2608 Continue reading

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Killer Bordeaux Bargain: Chateau Carbonneau

By Christopher Matthews

It’s no secret that Bordeaux represents a great source of wine value, despite the outsized focus on the Grand Cru chateaux and hallowed First Growths (which certainly have their place, too). Value, of course, is a very relative thing, but sometimes the Bordeaux bargains can border the ridiculous.  Such is the case with the 2014 Chateau Carbonneau Classique, a complete knockout for…$11.00!


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A Winning Home-Brewed Cider

By Christopher Matthews

Apples have long been a touchstone here at Upstate-Downtown, whether via our farmhouse, where we “inherited” three productive Empire apple trees — a great window into the growing season — or in the Hudson Valley more broadly, through its apple-growing traditions and excellence. Part of that tradition, now experiencing a local revival, is hard cider, a topic I have covered.

Empire Tree

Our bountiful Empire apple tree

This past fall, despite an always crazy autumn work schedule — and because of an amazing 2015 apple harvest — I finally succeeded in making some hard cider with (mostly) our own apples, realizing a long-held intention (Michael Pollan, one of my heroes, would be proud!). And after years of writing about fermented beverages — wine, beer, spirits and yes, cider — I produced something not only that was drinkable the first time out, but a blue-ribbon winner to boot!


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