Hudson River Valley Adventures
Rolling hills, lush vines and warm temperatures – you’ll find it all in a trip to the Hudson River Valley. It’s the right time to plan a getaway to this historic East Coast locale (not far from the Big Apple just in case you have a big city craving). The Hudson River Valley is a National Heritage Area because of its abundance of treasures.
A quick ride north from Kennedy Airport and you’re in Tarrytown, home of the medieval-style Castle Hotel & Spa. This magnificent historic landmark in the Lower Hudson is a great place to begin a valley crawl. Originally built in two stages between 1897 and 1910, Carrollcliffe, as it was known, was a private residence whose former owners entertained often and in grand style – hosting dignitaries and ambassadors alike. After several uses as a boys’ school and an investment banking business, and with new owners and an expansion, the Castle Hotel & Spa became a luxury hotel in the 1990s known for its sweeping views of the Hudson River, elegant interiors and verdant surroundings.
The rooms and suites are oversized with rich upholstery and all of the amenities that make you feel like a regal castle guest. You can even choose to stay in a tower room. Explore the beautifully manicured grounds: Discover the heated pool and Jacuzzi, and tennis court and fitness club.
Savor dinner at the prized Equus restaurant. What is more enchanting than gourmet patio dining on a balmy evening overlooking the Hudson? Begin the feast with luscious burrata served with corn and heirloom tomatoes, seasoned with tarragon. The risotto primavera with morels and asparagus was rich and creamy. Finish with Idaho brook trout served with speck, bulgar wheat, pine nuts and cherries. Pair each course with a wine from the Hudson Valley.
In the morning, fortify yourself with a breakfast of fluffy omelets and fresh fruits, juices and baked breads in the wood-paneled sunlit Garden Room prior to taking off up the Hudson. Cross the Tappan Zee Bridge to the west bank of the river and head north to the tiny town of Gardiner. There you’ll find Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, converted from an old granary adjoining a gristmill and registered as a national historic landmark.
Reviving the craft of distilling, the owners are truly artisanal, using only grains, vegetables and fruits from the Hudson. Mind you, they had never done anything like this before. After gutting and redoing the granary, installing a copper German pot still and taking some courses, they work their magic!
Bourbon whiskey (made from corn and aged three months in charred oak casks before bottling), traditional corn whiskey and rye are produced among other spirits. In fact, the Hudson Maple Cask Rye, bottled at 92 proof, was made with the Manhattan cocktail in mind. Their Indigenous Apple vodka, from local apples, comes off the still at 191 proof, but is distilled three more times for the deliciously smooth spirit that is bottled at 80 proof. Don’t be confused: This is not apple-infused vodka.
Time to taste some wine. The Hudson River Valley is home to some of the country’s oldest vineyards – with weather that can be too humid, too cold, with too much precipitation. Vines were first planted in New Paltz, NY more than 300 years ago by French Huguenot settlers. Discover the Shawangunk Wine Trail, situated between the Shawangunk Mountains and the Hudson (ten minutes from Gardiner). It is eighty miles long and home to 15 wineries. We chose Adair Vineyards.
Located in New Paltz, Adair makes some interesting wines. Try the Black Current Red wine, perfect as an aperitif. It’s a blend of their black current wine and their red wine. The Nectarine Kir is another wine that’s delicious chilled and also blended with nectarine and dry white wines. The Solitary Oak is a crisp Chardonnay.
When you’re ready to see more, head back across the river and stop in Hyde Park to visit both the Vanderbilt Mansion and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Library (Springwood). Situated on expansive manicured and landscaped grounds, these homes exemplify the country estates built by financial and industrial leaders in the late 1800s. You can stroll through the gardens, tour the opulent interiors, and enjoy the panoramic views of the Hudson while getting steeped in American history. President Roosevelt conducted official business at Springwood and both he and Eleanor are buried there in the Rose Garden.
Make your next stop on the journey about forty-five minutes southeast in the Dutchess County wine region near the quaint village of Millbrook. Choose the Millbrook Country House (MCH) as your home away from home. Lorraine Alexander and Giancarlo Grisi are your gracious hosts. This 19th century colonial is nestled among beautiful trees, wonderful sculpture and bountiful flower and herb gardens. The entire house, as well as each of the four rooms, is tastefully decorated with 18th century antiques, lovingly transported from Giancarlo’s family villa near Modena in northern Italy.
Just a short walk from MCH, wander through picturesque Millbrook and explore antique and other specialty shops. When you’re ready to relax, by-pass MCH’s beautifully furnished parlors and opt to sit under the shady Maple trees out back and enjoy afternoon tea. Lorraine and Giancarlo might even recount delightful stories of life in Italy. Both are gourmet cooks, so sumptuous dinner and breakfast will be memorable parts of your visit. The pear – lightly poached with lemon syrup glaze – and eggs with herbs fresh from the garden won’t be forgotten.
Before you leave, be sure to stop at Millbrook Winery on the Dutchess Wine Trail. Don’t miss their acclaimed Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The real treat in this area is visiting – and tasting – Oak Summit Pinot Noir. If you’re lucky, owner John Bruno will be open that day. He only produces estate bottled Pinot with grapes from his six acres. The wine is award-winning with depth, balance and richness. And wait until you see the knock-out setting!
The Hudson River Valley is steeped in history and brimming with nature's finest. It’s been said the Hudson Valley is the Napa of the east, but it’s more accurate to New Yorkers to call Napa the Hudson Valley of the west – you decide. It’s worth the trip to compare.