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Fourteen Acres. The Casscles Vineyards is owned by Steve Casscles, and are not far from the Hudson River on the west bank. Casscles Vineyard, in Athens, N.Y. is on a farm called “Cedar Cliff” (after the hamlet where Steve Casscles grew up in Middle Hope NY). This farm was a recreational farm that was probably first planted in pear and cherry trees and some grapes around 1870s. It was farmed by a family (probably the Brigstocke family of NYC) that had extensive farming operations in central Florida around Orlando or Winter Haven. Because of Florida’s oppressive summer heat, and since there was no air conditioning at that time, the family came north to farm pears and cherries during the summer months. Their 1880s barn, originally a carriage house, is still used today. The first house (now the Casscles’ kitchen) was built around 1840. A more significant addition was added around 1880.
The current property was originally part of the large Thorpe farm. Thorpe Farm was subdivided, and the lot that is now Cedar Cliff was owned first by Rachel Sherman, (before 1872), then Peter Jackson 1872 – 1883), then to Catharine Van Hoesen ( 1883- 1887) to Nelson Mattice (1887 – 1891) to many short term owners who had it for less than a few years each. It was sold to the Casscles family in 1989.
Cedar Cliff consists of 12 acres that was originally part of the Thorpe fruit farm that is adjacent to this property on the north and east. Near by on Thorpe road adjacent to our property is a still existing hand dug brick lined and front cellar (about 10 ft high, and 12 feet wide that goes back about 10 to 20 ft into the hill side). It was probably used to store fruit, vegetables and wine. When the Casscles took over the property there were 40 pear trees and 10 cherry trees in the front and back orchard. The back lot was used to raise corn, and the rocky limestone and flint cliffs of Cedar Cliff were used to graze lamb and sheep. Up until the 1940s, Athens was all a fruit growing area of Greene county. The fruit trees were probably 70 to 80 years old in 1990, hence, it was probably the Brigstocke family that laid them out.
The Casscles started planting grapes in 1990 or 1991. It is an experimental vineyard that grows primarily French-American hybrids such as red grapes Baco Noir, Chelois, Marechal Foch, Leon Millot Noir, Chambourcin, and whites such as Verdelet and Riesling. The vineyard is also home to Cedar Cliff Nurseries which is devoted to selling heirloom grape varieties developed in the Hudson Valley in the 1850s to 1890s, and to hybrids developed by Edward S. Rogers (1826 – 1899) of Salem, MA. Of the more significant, but forgotten hybrids are James H. Ricketts hybrids of Jefferson, Empire State, Downing and Bacchus; AJ Caywood hybrids of Dutchess and Ulster; and Underhill hybrids of Croton and Black Eagle; Dr. Grant , Eumlean, and Iona; and ES Rogers hybrids of Salem, Agawam, Massaoit, and TV Munson hybrids of Captivator, Bell, and Golden Drop. The vineyard also concentrates on the work of French hybrdizer Joanny Burdin whose work (from 1929 to the mid-1950s) was accomplished in the Saone -et- Loire region of France. Casscles Vineyard grows more than 60 varieties of grapes.