September 24, 2011

The Check-In/Check-Out Diaries: The Hudson Valley

When planning a trip of wine tasting and farms through the Hudson Valley there is really only one rule: Do NOT drink wine the night before! Fail. Needless to say, the initial two hour drive from New York City wasn’t much fun for my wife and dog, but as we hit more vineyards and saw more crazy “farm stuff” you naturally begin to feel better. “THE HUDSON VALLEY – IT’S BETTER THAN GATORADE!”

Our first stop is Dressel Farms, near New Paltz known for their apple picking and homemade donuts. The biggest hit was watching our dog (mini-dachshund known as “hotdog”) go through grass piles. She acted as if this was the first grass pile she had ever seen. Actually this is true. In fact it is only about the third time she has seen grass. She is 100% city dog!

The first official vineyard stop was Robibero Family Vineyard, a sprawling vineyard complete with an elevated tasting room overlooking the many acres. Good white wine. Purchased three bottles. The next stop was Adair Winery, a winery with tastings in a large red barn just off hwy 30. Okay white wine. Purchased two bottles. For most of the trip radio station 101.5 was counting down the 1015 greatest rock songs. A lot of Van Halen and that strange lineup that happens with countdown shows of The Ramones followed by The Steve Miller Band followed by The Beatles. Also, I’m pretty sure “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones was played multiple times. After a quick stop at McDonald’s for cheeseburgers and chicken wraps we headed South on hwy 30 and stopped at Palaia Winery. If you ever wanted to taste wine with lesbian hippies straight from the sixties THIS is the place! Average white wine. Purchased two bottles. Next we headed to the Bed and Breakfast, located in Warwick.

Meadowlark Farms is located outside of the town itself and is small. It is also amazing! There are dogs, cats, and even a horse. The owner even took a picture of our dog, moving in close to make sure we were not included. After settling in there was a sense that we were missing something, then it hit us: Need to go to another winery. As luck would have it, the Warwick Winery was located a couple miles away. Good music and tastings made for a great end to the day. We discussed food, but instead decided on trying out an Italian place that was highly recommended. We stuck to the tastings. Great white wine. Purchased three bottles. All was good. Then it happened…

I do feel for the restaurants. Seeing the ZIPCAR sticker on the side of the Prius as it pulls into the parking lot they know there’s a good chance they are being intruded on by city folk. Add a dog and now it’s ON! This is how we arrive at the Italian restaurant, Daitaj.

We are seated in the outside seating area and served water when we are asked if we would be okay with switching tables. The waiter points to the end of the row and we oblige, get up and begin moving. What happens next is this: 1. A dining table is placed in the middle of the lawn (50 feet from any other table) 2. Chairs are added. 3. The waiter points to us and then at the table that is now 40 feet from the road and 50 feet from another table. There isn’t a lot more to say. We ate in silence, mostly because there wasn’t anyone around us. Lots of wine was consumed, lots of laughter, and there was a large bumble bee that almost turned the event into an even larger spectacle.

Back at Meadowlark Farms we split a wine on a side deck area where strange bugs and noises surrounded us in the deep covers of darkness. It felt like being on the set for Blair Witch 2.

Waking up the next morning we have breakfast and pack up. Too early for vineyards we find MONEY: The largest garden Gnome in the world is in upstate New York. We drive to Kessler Farms and there it is. I’ve seen the leaning tower of Pisa and The Coliseum in Rome. The Gnome is still third of the three, but I’m willing to discuss as a group. It’s pretty awesome! In addition to the Gnome you can find mini-golf and a “milk a cow” experience. These three items do not go together for me, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

On our way back we stop at Brotherhood Winery, create our own tasting and buy three more bottles of wine. We leave and it’s not long before we spot trouble: NEW JERSEY! The George Washington Bridge is backed up something nasty. Leave it to Jersey to try and screw up the weekend. After an exhausting two hours we make it back.

Finally home we drop off the Zipcar and unload the bottles of wine. Many bottles rest on our counter. I’m exhausted and staring at all of the bottles. After all the driving, tasting, eating in front lawns, and Jersey bridge drama I’m reminded of The Stones and the lyrics: “Wild Horses, couldn’t drag me away”…

David S. Grant is the author of several books including Corporate Porn, The Last Breakfast, and Happy Hour. His new novel, BLOOD: The New Red will be available in the fall. David lives and works in New York City. For more information go to Follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant.