Lots of exciting things are happening around where I grew up in Upstate New York. (I hate calling it Upstate, but since that's what most out-of-staters tend to understand as "not New York City", that's what I'll call it.) For example, we have a new food co-op, a vegan bakery, and that's just what I can think of in Troy.
And then I found a brochure for the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail, which is a collection of 5 wineries, a distillery and brewery in Rensselaer and Columbia Counties, and also just across the border in Massachusetts. The locations span north to south from Castleton to Germantown, and east to west from the Hudson River to New Marlborough, MA.
Jeff and I were able to visit two of these locations with my dad and mom (acting graciously as our designated driver). We hoped to visit the locations in Chatham as well, but we'll just have to save that for another day.
Brookview Station Winery is located at Goold Orchards, where we previously picked 15 pounds of raspberries. The winery offers a decent selection of wines made on site from non-grape fruits; mostly apples and pears. The wines I tasted from them were crisp and mostly dry, but the great thing about apples is that they tend to make a dry wine taste sweeter than a dry grape wine would taste.
Brookview Station also provides many other wines from New York wineries in the Finger Lakes region. From this selection I tasted many interesting wines ranging from a plain but ultimately very drinkable Cayuga, to a bold and spicy Baco Noir to a Cabernet Franc bursting with currant flavors.
The tasting was 6$ for 6 wines, and all of the wines that they offer for tasting are also on sale at the store.
Just down Route 9 from Castleton is Harvest Spirits Distillery in Valatie. Harvest Spirits has grown out of Golden Harvest Farms, a huge apple orchard that I would see every time we'd drive down Route 9 to visit relatives in Germantown. The distillery is actually quite a bit smaller than I envisioned, but it's quite awe-inspiring to walk inside and see hand decorated aging barrels and an enormous, beautiful copper still.
The tasting was 3$ for a flight of their spirits: Core Vodka (made from apples), Applejack and Pear Brandy. I'm really not much of a drinker of straight distilled spirits, preferring to mix in something non-alcoholic to make it more drinkable to my palate. The Core Vodka, however, was a very smooth and sugary vodka that I was able to sip without choking on. I'm not sure if it would be easily discernible from other high quality vodkas in a mixed drink, but could easily win a blind taste test with common mixers such as Absolut.
The Applejack made my eyes water as I sipped it, and honestly my taste buds were too burnt from the vodka for me to really appreciate the fine flavors of distilled apple cider. Apparently, this is a traditional drink made from freezing bottles of hard cider and removing the ice.
Finally up was the Pear Brandy, which honestly was not something I would want to taste again. I will sum up how Jeff and I felt about the beverage with this before and after shot of trying it out:
Overall, I'm glad places like Harvest Spirits exist, because usually when you think of vodka you don't think local, you think of Sweden or Russia or someplace thousands of miles from home. (Unless you happen to live in Åhus.)