Fall foliage sends thousands of New Yorkers north in search of
brilliant natural beauty. But how long can you stare at trees, no
matter how colorful?
You need something to provide a little structure to the trip, and the Dutchess Wine Trail is as good a framework as any. (Grape vines have leaves, too.)
Dutchess County sits two counties up from Westchester, about 90 minutes north of New York City, and I have called it home for a year now. Sadly, I know more about Dutchess than I do about wine. After visiting the three wineries comprising the DWT, however, my knowledge of both subjects is a bit deeper -- and the research certainly was a pleasure.
Trail of Cheers
Start with a morning drive along the serpentine, wooded Taconic Parkway to the first stop along the trail, the Millbrook Vineyards & Winery.
Located in the center of the county, Millbrook is posh horse country, a haven of multimillion-dollar estates surrounding a delightful little upscale downtown. Food-wise, I'm partial to the venerable greasy-spoon Millbrook Diner (224 Franklin Ave.) for brunch. For dinner, it's the wonderful Middle Eastern-Mediterranean restaurant outside of town, Serevan.The 130-acre winery, five minutes north of town, fits right in. A converted Dutch hip-roofed dairy barn provides stirring views of the vineyards and the Catskill Mountains beyond.
John Dyson, the former deputy mayor of New York City under Rudy Giuliani and the creator of the famed "I Love NY" ad campaign, owns the former estate, as well as highly regarded vineyards in the Russian River Valley, the central coast of California, and Tuscany. Millbrook makes wines from the 30 acres of chardonnay, tocai friulano, pinot noir, cabernet franc and gamay noir onsite; it also produces wines that employ other New York and California grapes.
I learned this, and forgot much more, on a weekday tour helmed by an affable, unpretentious guide. (Tours are available daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; the other wineries offer similar weekend hours in the fall.) Free tours are available, but I upgraded to the $6 "standard loop" that included a six-wine tasting and take-home glass; the "reserve" version will set you back $15 -- quite the bargain, especially for the area.