The Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville NY makes an excellent day trip, rain or shine. Tour one of the oldest wine cellars in America, go for a tasting, and stock up on Hudson Valley Wine at a great price.
It was a warm winter day, foggy with snow melt, so we dropped our plans to photograph the views at the Catskill Mountain House Site.
My wife, Ana, suggested we go to the Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville NY instead. And what a great idea it was!
Judging from the website, I couldn't tell if they did tours and tastings in the winter, but they do.
We arrived at the winery around 1:30 pm on a Saturday and headed into the Grand Monarque Hall - an old dutch style building made of stone.
We purchased $10 tickets which included a tour and tasting. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
The tour begins outside of Grand Monarque Hall...
The guide points out the short brick building across the way, the oldest on the grounds, which was built in 1839.
This was where they originally aged and bottled the wine.
It is now the Vinum Cafe - a snazzy bar/restaurant.
As you continue, you'll see the Chapel - which was moved to this site from the town of Washingtonville, pulled on oxen, by Jean Jaques - the original founder of the winery and a great lover of religion.
From there your guide takes you past the modern bottling station, which can process 3,00 gallons of wine per hour. The Brotherhood winery now outsources its bottling services to other beverage companies.
Before you enter the cellar the guide has us look out onto a small lot of vineyard. It's not much. You wonder, is this really where they grow all their grapes? The guide answers: No.
For a long time now, Brotherhood winery has imported their grapes, and the vines are now here for show. Their White Wine grapes come from Hudson New York, Red grapes from North Fork, Long Island, and the Catava grape comes from California or Texas.
Into the Cellar...
After looking out onto their vines-for-show, we head down into the cellar, hand dug almost 200 years ago, which passes under most of the complex in a U-shape.
Down here the guide explains much of the history of the Brotherhood Winery, from Jean Jaques and his sons and on down through the ages.
On display in the first room, there are barrel presses, corkers, original antique wine bottles and one "old medicinal port" which won the grand prize at the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis.
It is down here, in this musty cellar, where we learn why Brotherhood Winery calls itself the oldest continuous running winery in America.
They've had a run at this game since 1839. However, unlike most other wineries, Brotherhood never shut down during prohibition; they provided alter wine to many of the churches in New York City.
Our guide tells us, though the name "brotherhood" conjures up pious monks crushing grapes with their bare feet - other than providing alter wine for churches - the religious affiliation stops there.
Still in the cellar, we come upon the giant oak casks where the wine was originally aged. To clean it, back in the day, a man would climb inside and scrub it for hours by hand with only the light of a candle.
Before we come back up for air, into the light - the guide adds an interesting aside... The cellar is a locally registered fallout shelter and could be used in the event of an emergency.
After leaving the cellar, the tour concludes at one of the tasting bars at Grand Monarque Hall.
When you purchase the ticket, you decide if you want a traditional sweet tasting or a dry tasting.
Ana went for dry; I tried the sweet.
We got our little score card and pencil and had fun noting the ones we liked and which ones we didn't.
Tara our guide, was filling our glasses, and filling us with little interesting tid bits, like the movie "Sideways" boosted Pinot sales by 60% in the US.
All in all we tasted about 5 - 6 different wines.
They poured generously and gave us crackers and water to go along with it.
My wife, who is more wine savvy than I, was definitely impressed with the experience and the wines.
And, we got to keep the glass!
After the tastings we shopped around and bought 3 different bottles. They were as follows:
The Brotherhood Riesling was only $9.99 ($15.99 for the big bottle). I love Rieslings and they make a good one at Brotherhood Winery. It's their best-selling wine.
Carpe Diem at $12.99 is a great choice. Made from Italy's Moscato grape, it's a sweet sparkling wine, much like champagne.
Rosario - $7.99 ($11.99 for a big bottle) is a light red wine. This is the wine they used for the church as an alter wine. Fruity and sweet.
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