Dutchess County, in New York’s Hudson Valley has something to offer in every season, from beautiful spring gardens and summer hiking to stunning autumn foliage and museums and historic homes in winter. But it’s the food and drink that is beginning to lure visitors all year round. The tourism bureau has even traded in their former wine trail map for a beverage trail map that includes artisanal producers of everything from bourbon to cider.
Since driving is essential to getting from one place to the next, most visitors need to limit the number of spots they visit in one day, unfortunately (or look into a Metro-North Railway package). Here is a curated list of places to visit for each type of beverage produced in this part of the Hudson Valley. We hope you eat and drink up and enjoy your weekend, but always responsibly.
The Millbrook Vineyard & Winery has steadily grown and expanded since we began visiting it in the 1990s. It’s the place to go if you’d like to make a day of your winery visit. Hike the trails that go up and around the vineyards to get an overview of the property and nice Hudson Valley views. Then you can head inside to the tasting room, which is set up with a series of small tasting bars instead of 1 big one, to make it easier for the staff to talk with tasters and ask questions.
If you’re feeling peckish by the time you finish your flight or reds and whites, buy a bottle of wine and bring your BYO picnic to one of the picnic tables sitting by a pond at the foot of the vineyard. In the warm weather you can also sit at the onsite grill for a casual meal or head to the lounge upstairs (with a terrace in summer and indoor fireplace in winter), where they sell snacks and beverages other than wine.
You can stop in even in you have kids along for the weekend. They aren’t going to stand around while you taste a flight of wines, but given the hiking and picnic facilities it’s one of the more family friendly wineries we’ve visited. Look for special events like concerts on summer evenings.
We instantly liked the vibe when we walked in to the tasting room at the Taconic Distillery in Stanfordville. It’s cozy and clubby but still friendly, with a wood burning stove in winter and an expansive patio for the warm weather. The bourbon— so small-batch that they still do much of the bottling and labeling by hand—is very good. Rather than having the usual flight of tastes and moving on, they encourage you to order a cocktail made with the house liquor and then hang out a while with it.
The tasting room is too small to bring kids into, but founder Paul Coughlin wants to get away from the idea that distilleries aren’t family friendly. You could happily settled in to one of their picnic tables with your libation, some BYO snacks and a card game (they sell soft drinks, too). Or you could just let your kids run around the enormous field in front of you while you relax with a very good Manhattan. No one will mind.
Keep your eye on: Dutch’s Spirits, off a dirt road in Pine Planes, is a new distillery and tasting room built on the remains of Dutch Schultz’s sprawling bootleg operation (they give tours of what they’ve uncovered so far). Look for an expansive tasting room and family friendly indoor and outdoor events when they’re fully up and running.
The Two-Way Brewing Company has a laid-back taproom in Beacon. They brew a handful of classic beer styles using all local ingredients. Two ways refers to the nearby Hudson River, which indeed flows both ways.
Plan B: If you want a snack with your beer try Millhouse Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie. The beers run from basic to stout and amber ale to a trendy sour beer and even cucumber. Pair it with creative bar food for an afternoon snack. And they have a kids menu in case you have young ones along.
Treasury Garden grows 80 varieties of apple on trees that can be as many as 50 years old. You can imagine the complex flavors they can cultivate from the mix of heirloom, European and modern apples. Try a flight year round in the orchard’s store or hope for a nice day where you can settle in with a glass or to in the cider garden overlooking the orchards.
At some point all this tippling will make you hungry. The Culinary Institute of America just north of Pougheepse is probably the most hard-to-get reservation in the region with good reason. The food, cooked in kitchens headed by pros, is always impressive and a good value. The student-filled staff is hustling, earnest and friendly. Bocuse offers flawless classic and modern French food and Caterina de Medici does refined Italian, but I love American Bounty for showing off local and seasonal ingredients at their best.
Plan B: For a casual lunch try the new Post Road Brew House or the the Tavern at American Bounty for lunch or dinner. Great food and service with lower prices. Plus, they serve the CIA’s own campus-brewed beers
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Eileen is a journalist whose work has appeared in the HuffPost, U.S. News, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Parents.com and many other publications. She has traveled on five continents, three of them with her daughter. She calls New York City home. You can read Eileen's blog at Familiesgotravel.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
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