Steve Casscles, winemaker at Hudson-Chatham Winery, has been growing grapes — focusing hybrids and grapes that he refers to as “Hudson Valley heirloom varieties” in and around the Hudson River Region AVA for much of his adult life. He has a clear affection for these lesser-known, under-respected varieties and it’s likely that no one in New York knows more about growing and making wine from them. He’s literally written the book on the subject.

Of the myriad grapes Casscles knows and works with — a list that includes things like Chelois, Brianna, Dutchess and grapes that are known only by number — he and Hudson-Chatham owner Carlo DeVito have put Baco Noir at the core of their portfolio. In making several single-vineyard Baco Noirs each vintage, the duo has bet big on a grape that not many think much of.

“I like Baco Noir because it is great in the field and cold hardy,” says Casscles, adding “It needs half of the spray material that a vinifera like Cabernet Franc or Chardonnay needs. So that leaves more money in the pocket of the grower, and fewer pesticides in the environment.”

Being easier or “greener” to grow doesn’t necessarily mean that Baco Noir is easy to work with in the cellar. Like many of the cold hardy red varieties, Baco can be quite acidic and without experience mitigating and balancing that acidity, it can be off putting.

“Baco has a lot of front tartaric acid,” Casscles says. To help bring balance to the wines, he also blends in some  less-acidic grapes, like Marechal Foch, which also brings some “jammy fruit that also counter balances the tartaric acids of Baco.”

Hudson-Chatham also lets its Baco Noir fruit hang in the vineyard later, which helps reduce the starting tartaric acid in them. “For many of the Bacos, we let them stay on the (crush) pad into late November, which cold stabilizes them to drop out the front tartaric acids, and maintains the tannins, that help beef up the middle and finish of the wine,” he says.

After several years of working with his different vineyard sites, Casscles really has these wines, including the Hudson-Chatham Winery 2015 Old Vines Baco Noir, dialed in. The term “Old Vines” gets thrown around a lot in the wine world, but considering the Masson Place Vineyard, a five-acre parcel at Pulteney Farm outside of Hammondsport, New York, was established in the 1950s, it’s appropriate in here.

It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that Hudson-Chatham Winery is making some of the best Baco Noir in North America. Each wine expresses it’s vineyard site transparently with very little — if any — new oak getting in the way.

Hudson-Chatham Winery 2015 Old Vines Masson Place Vineyard Pulteney Farm Baco Noir

90 points

Intensely aromatic with ripe, fruity aromas of just-crushed black cherries and blueberry preserves that are accented by subtle cola spice and vanilla notes. Juicy and bright on the palate, sour cherry and raspberry fruit flavors turn a bit spicy and earthy leading into a medium-long finish that is just a bit rustic with its acidic-but-balanced edge.

Producer: Hudson-Chatham Vineyards
AVA: New York
Vineyard: Masson Place Vineyard
ABV: 12%
Price: $25

About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

1 Comment

  1. couldn’t agree more Lenn! i have several of H-C’s single vineyard Baco’s in my cellar (along with other varietals) and am looking forward to drinking these soon! Steve and Carlo are doing a great job, not only growing and producing these great lesser known hybrids, but also setting a standard for others to follow and achieve! keep up the great work Steve and Carlo…oh, you too Lenn!

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