Home New York A Trip To Dutchess County Wine Country: New York

A Trip To Dutchess County Wine Country: New York

written by Penny Sadler

The scene: Sunshine, a mild 70 degrees, fall foliage near peak.

Driving a winding country road with the sun roof open, classic 70’s rock playing, and the fresh fall air, smelling faintly of pine and earth. A gentle breeze shakes the trees and a flurry of multicolored leaves dance in the air.  Some land in the seat with me – happiness!

I’d long wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley during fall foliage season. Normally I’m not a fan of solo road trips, but I had a super cute car to drive, and it changed my perspective for the better. I was more than ready to explore the Dutchess County Wine Country.

Millbrook Vineyards, Hudson Valley, New York

Gorgeous! Millbrook Vineyards

The Hudson Valley is very agricultural, dotted with vineyards, orchards, farms, and forests. The roads can be narrow and serpentine, often hilly, so you really can’t see far ahead.  What all of this means is you’ll want a comfortable and responsive car to drive, and the Mazda 3 Grand Touring vehicle fit the bill nicely for me. 

One of my favorite features was the multiple adjustments for the seats. I’m a petite person and it’s always a challenge to find a car that’s actually comfortable to drive. Imagine driving on a beautiful country road with almost no one else around, in a 6-speed! It didn’t take me long to go all out.

Mazda and me Duchess County

2015 Mazda 3 Grand Touring

Follow The Duchess County Wine Trail 

My first stop, Millbrook Vineyards, voted a top winery in the Hudson Valley.

A trip to Dutchess County wine Country New York @PennySadler 2014

Millbrook Vineyards

As I turned off Wing Road I thought, if a winery could win awards on looks alone, Millbrook had it made. The beautiful landscape had me itching to break out my camera, and I’d not had a sip of wine yet. Honestly, wine travel is where it’s at – it effortlessly satisfies all five senses. And even if you don’t love wine, the scenery is always stellar.

The harvest was still underway and the vines were heavy with fruit and yellow, gold and orange leaves. The sky was dark with rain clouds, and smells of earth and fruit filled the air. I could have stayed there for hours just soaking up the colors and smells – and photographing everything, of course!

A trip to Dutchess County Wine Country New York, @PennySadler 2014

Millbrook Vineyards

Located on the site of a former dairy farm, Millbrook has thirty acres devoted to wine grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet France, and an Italian varietal called Tocai Friulano.

Millbrook was the first winery in the United States to plant the tocai friulano grape. I’d never heard of this grape before. I do love anything Italian and the Tocai Friulano was no exception. It has the pronounced minerality typical of Italian wines. The 2013 Tocai Friulano Proprietor’s Special Reserve was a gold medal winner in the NY Food and Wine competition.

A trip to Dutchess County Wine country @PennySadler 2014

Cabernet Franc grapes

My tasting was hosted by Jackie, who really knows her stuff. Not only that, but she’s fun and vivacious. I had one of the most informative tastings ever. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Jackie spent three weeks in Italy as part of her education. My kind of girl!

Dedicated to growing only grapes that are suited for the soil and climate of the region, Millbrook wines have received accolades from top publications such as: Wine Spectator, The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and Bon Appetit.

Millbrook also sources grapes from their vineyards in California and Italy. Several wines from the Pebble Ridge Vineyards on California’s central coast are included in the portfolio tasting.

Millbrook is open daily from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. Do check the website for updates.

A Trip To Dutchess County Wine Country @PennySadler 2014

Clinton Vineyards, New York


Clinton Vineyards

My second stop on the Dutchess County wine trail was the award-winning and extremely picturesque Clinton Vineyards. The owner, Phyllis Feder, was busy preparing for a busload of wine and food writers when I arrived but generously spent time sharing about what makes Clinton Vineyards special.

Ben Feder (founder of Clinton Vineyards and Phyllis’ late husband), was a renowned artist who dreamed of having a world-class winery in the Hudson Valley but understood that the climate was somewhat limiting. He chose to specialize in the Seyval grape, which could withstand the Hudson Valley winters.

“Our mission is to emulate the tradition, quality, and passion of small estate vineyards in France. Happily, wine drinkers around the globe tell us we’ve succeeded.”

  — Phyllis Feder, Owner, Clinton Vineyards

The first vintage of Seyval Blanc was an instant success. From there Ben went to France and studied at the famous Bollinger Vineyards, where he learned to produce champagne in the traditional French methode champagnoise.

Clinton Vineyards specializes in producing single grape wines all estate bottled from the Seyval, another grape I’d never heard of before. (This is another thing I love about wine: there’s always something new).

Clinton Vineyards, Dutchess County, New York @PennySadler 2014

This is where you want to be!

Phyllis is a very warm person, easy to talk to and I felt as though I was with a good friend right away. My comfort level increased when she had me pour my own tasting. Has that ever happened to you?

I tasted the Jubilee Champagne and the 2012 and 2013 Victory White.  Tasting different vintages of the same wine is great way to learn that there is more to winemaking than growing grapes!! Though each wine I tasted was made from the Seyval grape, they each had their own unique aromas, flavors, and nuances.

Clinton Vineyards also produces exceptional dessert wines, and their Cassis has won many awards. It would make a divine Kir Royal mixed with one of the champagnes.

Dutchess County Wine Trail, New York

Award winning wines, Clinton Vineyards

A Trip To the Dutchess County Wine Trail, New York. @PennySadler 2014

Tasting room at Clinton Vineyards.

I think my favorite memory from Clinton Vineyards was a story that Phyllis shared with me. She told me when Ben proposed to her she said, “Yes, I’ll marry you, but I have one caveat, you have to change the color of the label.” Though Ben was an accomplished artist, he trusted her judgment, as Phyllis was quite accomplished in design herself, having worked for a prestigious New York firm. That original color can be seen on the walls in the comfortable and elegant tasting room.

Known as the Jewel in the crown of the Hudson Valley, Clinton Vineyards is open seasonally.

Updated 2019

Closed. Updated 2019

My last stop in Dutchess County was Clinton Cheese and Provisions. The owner is Italian-American and he loves food – cooking it, talking about it, teaching…and did I say talking? If you want to learn more about the Hudson Valley and Dutchess County foods and wines, no kidding, go talk to Erik. He knows everyone. I’d call Clinton Cheese and Provisions the local yellow pages.

A trip to Dutchess County @PennySadler 2014

24/7 Library, Clinton Cheese and Provisions

A fun feature of Clinton Cheese and Provisions is the outdoor library. It’s the first thing I noticed and took a photo of. To me, it is a perfect expression of the spirit of community that I saw throughout Dutchess County.

Be sure to try some Thunderhill farm fresh eggs. I also loved the beautiful dry floral arrangements by Weeds and Willow, and bath and body products from J.R. Watkins Apothecary.

Dutchess County Wine Trail, New York. @PennySadler 2014

Thunderhill Farms eggs

Many people probably pass by Clinton Provisions on their way to Millbrook or Clinton Vineyards, but don’t do that. Stop and get some provisions for before, during, or after your tasting – and if you are new to the area be sure and get the 411 from Erik.

Dutchess County Wine Trail, @PennySadler 2014

Loved the red door!

My visit was sponsored by Dutchess County Tourism and Mazda. All opinions and views expressed are my own.

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David Walker December 29, 2015 at 5:41 am

The photograph that is attached with the post is really very beautiful and I was just thinking about my Christmas vacation and now I found this place. Thank you so much for this post.

Penny Sadler December 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

Thank you so much. Glad you found something to appreciate. Are you making plans to visit Dutchess County.

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[…]  The Willow City Loop is one of the prettiest drives anywhere and I should know. I’ve driven California’s scenic central coast and the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. […]

Jennifer Martin (Vino Travels) May 6, 2015 at 11:29 am

I’ve wanted to get out to this region for years. I’ve always done the Finger Lakes in upstate NY, but after reading your post only emphasizes more why I need to get out there.

Penny Sadler May 6, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Hi Jennifer, I promise you will love it. If I can help let me k now.

Tawanna November 24, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I can’t wait to visit Hudson Valley someday soon. I love wine travel!

Penny Sadler November 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Hi Tawanna,
Thanks for visiting the blog and the comment. You’d love Hudson Valley. I have a number of other articles on wine travel scattered about. Two Napa winery reviews on this site and some Santa Barbara county tasting room reviews coming up. Please come back!

Mary @ Green Global Travel November 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm

An upstate NY wine tour looks like a lovely way to spend a day. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos of the Autumn colors.

Penny Sadler November 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Thanks Mary!

Dan @ A Cruising Couple November 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm

We’ve missed the past few falls! What a beautiful place for a joy ride 🙂

Penny Sadler November 20, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Are you from the area?

Jennifer November 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

Penny, we both wrote about wine/wineries this week, albeit on opposite ends of the country. Great minds, as they say! 😉

Lillie November 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm

This looks soooo fun, relaxing, and delicious. I’m sold on all fronts!

wandering educators November 17, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I can see we need to go visit – such spectacular scenery, and friendly people. love!

santafetraveler November 13, 2014 at 6:35 pm

We lived in Clinton Corners for almost 20 years. This brought back so many memories. The cheese store used to be the Clinton Corners Country Store. It was the place to pick up the groceries you forgot, get a sandwich or the Sunday NYT. We had friends down at the end of Wing Road. Our son went to school in Millbrook. So many memories. What I miss most is Duchess County in October when the leaves turn magnificent colors- all we get here is yellow when the aspens turn color. This makes me want to go back!

Penny Sadler November 14, 2014 at 10:26 am

Thanks for sharing your great memories Billie!


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