Hudson-Chatham Empire 2012

New York’s First and Only Super Blend!

The story of this wine started in 2006, when we asked several New York wine experts why no one was openly blending a single wine that would represent the state. While terrior is an important part of wine making these days, blending too is an art. For centuries in Europe, winemakers and negociants have turned the act of blending into something almost ethereal, creating some of the great wines of the world.

But the thought was to make something uniquely New York. Something as big, and bold, and varied, and elegant as the Empire State and New Yorkers themselves. Something that smacked of state pride. Why not the first New York Super Blend, as these wine are sometimes called in other regions?

This particular wine’s journey began eight years ago, in the early spring. It started when vineyard managers first started roaming their rows during the first stages of bud break. It started in the Finger Lakes, it started in Long Island, it started that same morning in the Hudson Valley. Its journey continued as each of the dozens of different decisions in each vineyard took place – suckering, pruning, leaf pulling, and then to harvest.

There is no question that we predominantly make Burgundy-styled, cool-climate reds at Hudson-Chatham Winery. But both Dominique and myself wanted to do something bigger in body and statement. We harkened back to some of the best winemaking techniques and ideas from other cool climate regions that produce great, long term wines. So we looked at some of the best practices of Bordeaux and Rioja to make Empire. We took the idea of blending from Bordeaux and the best cellaring practices of Bordeaux and Rioja (where the aging laws are very stringent) and decided to create a wine in their image.

We worked with some of the premiere vineyards in the state to create three luscious wines. Then our staff blended them, using a mixture of new American oak and toasted French oak barrels to create a unique wine, which featured the bright spots of the three regions. We polled numerous industry experts and winemakers for their thoughts and advice, seeking to make a truly unique and different wine. This wine first melded together in these barrels, and then has had five months time to rest in the bottle. There is no fining or filtering. The wine is completely hand made.

The first several vintages the Merlot came from Raphael Vineyards on the north Fork of Long Island. Then about 2010 we switched to Pellegrini Vineyards, also on the North Fork. The Cabernet Franc original came from White Springs Estates, in Geneva on Lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes, but again, around 2010 we changed to Fox Run in Penn Yan, on Lake Seneca. Both switches resulted in Hudson-Chatham getting grapes from older vines, which resulted in a complexity of character that fulfilled our original direction.

Empire is truly something historic and meaningful. It is a wine that truly represents three of the state’s regions in a whole new way. It transcends old traditional boundaries, and establishes a new benchmark in New York state winemaking.

The first vintage received excellent reviews, and we continue to make improvements in our cellaring and barrel maintenance programs, so that we present the best possible wine every vintage. It’s also a wine we think will stand the test of time, and cellar a minimum of ten years in the bottle. That’s what it’s meant to be.

Praise for Empire….

Hudson-Chatham Empire 2008 Scents of fall foliage are prominent against a backdrop of black cherries and plums on this pan-New York blend of Hudson Valley Baco Noir, Finger Lakes Cab Franc and Long Island Merlot. Densely concentrated on the palate with sultry, ripe black fruit, it has an elegantly herbaceous finish. 86 Points — A.I. Wine Enthusiast
Astringent and wiry on the nose though notes of tobacco, wood smoke, cocoa, a touch of game and some floral aromas emerge with air, lending this a distinctly Syrah-like profile. A touch soft in the mouth, this medium-bodied wine shows a nice, polished style with flavors of Italian plums, iron, woodsy spice and cranberries on the mid-plate yielding to a bit of an earthier palette on the back end. The finish is fairly long and shows nice plummy fruit with an earthy, almost tobacco scented tannic profile. Nicely styled. 86 Points – Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth.com

The big surprise…the Empire red…from the Hudson-Chatham Winery was a hit. A blend of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc, Long Island Merlot, and Hudson Valley Baco Noir delivered pleasant aromas, a very nice mouth, and a long, dry fruit filled and smooth finish. – Joe Shirco, The Why Wine Blog

The wine has predominantly black cherry and pepper taste. It is fairly light in body with a fresh, clean finish. – Jeff Richards, Democrat & Chronicle

The nose opening with red cherry, black plum, vanilla spice, hints of herbs and a dusty earthiness…Sweet cherry flavors dominate the palate, accented by a bit more oak and spice than the nose might indicate. – Lenn Thompson, New York Cork Report

[Hudson-Chatham] wanted to showcase a New York State wine in a way not showcased before that represents the three major wine growing regions in the state…Soft, brought out the cherry flavor of the merlot, the soft spice of the cabernet franc, with hints of the cedar of the Baco Noir in the background. – Debbie Gioquindo, Hudson Valley Wine Goddess

 Empire Reserve Table Red, this one a blend of Merlot, Baco Noir and Cabernet Franc from the same three regions. Because I love the idea of this wine, I really wanted to love the taste of it (and I bought a bottle to taste properly at home), but I ended up having the same reservation about it as I did the white: that the two grapes from the lower New York regions (Baco Noir and Merlot) ended up overpowering the subtleties of the grape from the Finger Lakes (Cabernet Franc), producing a wine with notable heft and body but not enough delicacy or individuality. I hope DeVito persists with the idea of this blend, as it is, truly, a unique representation of New York State grapes; however, he might want to experiment more with the individual components, sacrificing the idea of equality for… true quality. – Tony Fletcher, iJammin!

Empire State of Wine: 10 Great Bottles…10. Hudson-Chatham Winery, Empire Reserve 2007, Hudson River – Lauren Mowery, Village Voice

Hudson-Chatham Winery Empire 2009 From a winery that is pretty far north up the Hudson Valley, this is a blend of Merlot from Long Island, Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes and Baco from the Hudson Valley. Unfiltered and un-fined, the wines are blended and then aged in three separate lots: French oak, American oak and stainless steel. When the wine is almost two years old, it is blended, bottled and aged for another six months before release. Think of this wine as a Bordeaux-style blend with a little local character. – Pameladevi Govinda , Serious Eats