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TTB Approves Upper Hudson AVA in New York State

by Kerana Todorov
December 10, 2018
Photo: Northern Cross Vineyard is in the new Upper Hudson AVA. Owners Andy and Kathleen Weber in 2015 petitioned the TTB to have the new AVA created. Photo courtesy Andy Weber.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved a new American viticultural area in upstate New York.

The federal agency on Dec. 6 published in the Federal Register a rule to establish the new 1,500 square-mile “Upper Hudson” AVA north east of Albany.

Andy and Kathleen Weber, owners of Northern Cross Vineyard in Easton, filed the original petition to form the new AVA in 2015, then home to 14 vineyards and four others in development.

Northern Cross Vineyard plans to submit seven such labels for TTB approval.

“It will be amazing to finally see a bottle labelled with our AVA on it,” said Andy Weber in a recent email.
The new Upper Hudson designation on the wine label will boost visits to wineries. Customers like being part of the winery experience, Weber said.

“The Upper Hudson provides the foundation for development of a wine brand,” Weber also said, adding it will take time for Upper Hudson to have the same recognition as the Napa Valley. “It also serves as a great platform for the vineyards and the wineries to work together to develop a wine region.”

Weber has also led efforts to develop a new wine trail to spur tourism in the region. That led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign in 2017 legislation to create the first wine trail for the Capital region.

Weber now counts 20 vineyards in the Upper Hudson, including two that are not planning commercial operations. He also anticipates five to eight wineries to open over the next few years in the region.

Northern Cross Vineyard farms about 2 acres. The biggest vineyard in the region is 23 acres. However, most vineyards in the region are about 3 acres, according to Weber.

“The AVA designation will help them to grow and allow the customer to more easily recognize where the wine is from,” Weber said.

The wines must be produced with 85 percent of the fruit grown in the new AVA to have a label that reads “Upper Hudson.”

In their petition to the TTB to have the establishment of the new Upper Hudson AVA, the Webers described the new wine grape varieties that grow in the region. “These newer varieties are being cultivated in regions previously unsuitable for grape growing. Over the past decade several varieties of cold hardy grapes have been developed that show considerable promise for regions with severe winters and short growing seasons. The grapes are producing quality wines that offer a distinct product to the consumer but have distinct challenges for the wine maker,” according to the petition.

Weber had to present documentation to the TTB to create the proposed AVA, including temperature data that show differences between the regions.

Northern Cross Vineyard produces wine with cold hardy grapes sourced from its 2-acre vineyard. The varieties include Marquette, St. Croix, Frontenac, LaCrescent, Lacrosse and Prairie Star.

Marquette is a “good cold climate grape that shows a lot of promise,” Weber said in an email. Customers also like St. Croix, which Weber said “is a bit smoother than Marquette.”

The new AVA straddles portions of Montgomery, Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie and Washington counties, according to the TTB. It is not located in another established AVA.

TTB last week also proposed the establishment new AVAs as well: Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County in North Carolina, a 215-square mile AVA in Henderson County south of Asheville; and West Sonoma Coast in Sonoma County, CA. 

Comments are due by Feb. 4. Click on to comment on the proposed Blue Ridge Henderson County
and to comment on the proposed West Sonoma Coast AVA 

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