Hudson Valley Wine Region Declares Signature Grape:
—Old-world Cabernet Franc heralded for the region, launching a brand identity with new opportunities for economic development, marketing, and tourism—
—Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition formed to promote signature grape among winemakers, beverage industry professionals, and wine enthusiasts—
June 16, 2016
In a bold, landmark move, a passionate group of Hudson Valley’s winemakers, growers, and promoters have declared a signature grape for the region: Cabernet Franc. This is a beautiful, black French grape best known for its role in both legendary Right Bank Bordeaux and Loire Valley wines. But the bright, juicy raspberry and cherry-scented fruit can both weather upstate New York’s harsh winters as well as produce the uniquely peppery, spicy wine for which it’s best known.
Having a signature grape can help brand a region, thus providing a unified identity around which many communities and sectors can help drive economic development, focus marketing efforts, and encourage tourism.
The Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition (HVCFC) was formed in February 2016 to coordinate efforts to promote the signature grape; the coalition is co-led by Doug and MaryEllen Glorie of Glorie Farm Winery in Marlboro, NY, and Robert Bedford and Linda Pierro of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine, Coxsackie, NY. The coalition plans to organize activities over the next year to help establish a Cabernet Franc identity in the region, create awareness of Cabernet Franc wines produced in the Hudson Valley, and to promote a long-term initiative to consumers.
“Declaring Cabernet Franc our signature grape and establishing the coalition are very exciting developments. We’re making history in the Hudson Valley,” said Doug Glorie, a founder of the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition. “The Coalition’s mission is to increase plantings of the
grape within the region among growers, and to gain recognition for the region and its distinctive Cabernet Franc wines by engaging consumers.”
“The choice of Cabernet Franc as the region’s signature grape and wine is a promising step toward greater recognition,” said Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Oregon Pinot Noir, Long Island Merlot, and Finger Lakes Riesling—these all provide dramatic examples of how devotion to a signature wine can propel a region into the international spotlight; Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc has that potential. A consistently good wine across vintages and wineries makes consumers take notice, visit the region, and try other wines.”
Susan H. Hawvermale, an Orange County-based officer of Hudson Valley Tourism, said, “‘Distinctive’ is what visitors look for no matter where they go. The Cabernet Franc grape as our signature for wine making distinguishes the Hudson Valley as a serious wine destination with the added effect of promoting our farm-to-table restaurants as well as our internationally known tourism destinations.”
Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc wines have palate-friendly levels of alcohol, acidity, and tannins, so they’re lighter and more approachable than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, which may be more familiar to consumers. The Cabernet Franc grapes are versatile and can be made as varietals, blends, rosés, and even ice wines. Their earthy, rich cherry and plum aromas balanced with complex, savory flavors make Cabernet Franc wines ideal to pair with food.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine, located in Mt. Kisco, NY, has recently rated some of the region’s top Cabernet Franc wines: 91 points for Millbrook Vineyards & Winery’s “Millbrook 2013 Proprietor’s Special Reserve Cabernet Franc” and 90 points for Benmarl Winery’s “Benmarl 2012 Ridge Road Estate Cabernet Franc” and 90 points for Whitecliff Vineyards’ “Whitecliff 2013 Cabernet Franc.”
Cabernet Franc is a cold-weather hardy vinifera (Old-World) grape that grows well in the Hudson Valley due to climatic conditions that are similar to the Loire region in France where it is a signature varietal. And, perhaps most compellingly, Cabernet Franc is actually a parent of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which is deeply significant in the rarefied worlds of grape genealogy.
Since 2008, researchers at the independent nonprofit organization, the Hudson Valley Research Lab in Highland, NY, have been examining which varieties of grapes perform best in the region; the lab, which is affiliated with Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension, has a one-acre test vineyard currently planted with multiple grape varieties, and it plans to replace the test site with a specific mix of Cabernet Franc clones so local growers can know which strains of this signature grape do best throughout the region.
The Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition (HVCFC) is a group founded in February 2016, composed of Hudson Valley winery owners, grape growers, wine makers, and wine industry supporters. The HVCFC’s mission is to establish a Cabernet Franc brand identity for the Hudson River Region; encourage more vineyard plantings of Cabernet Franc; promote Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc wines to the broader regional area; and increase the visibility of the Hudson River Region appellation, and the wineries within it.