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Behind the Bottle

Behind the Bottle

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Published by Debbie
Article of Hudson-Chatham Winery that appeared in Edible Manhattan Magazine
Article of Hudson-Chatham Winery that appeared in Edible Manhattan Magazine

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Published by: Debbie on Nov 09, 2009
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11/08/2009

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BEHIND THE BOTTLE
Photograph: Courtesy of Hudson-Chatham Winery
Back to the Land to Make Baco
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2007 Baco Noir Reserve, $19.By Amy ZavattoIt’s one thing to stand in the tasting room of a winery, gazing out upon rowsof vines, pretty and pregnant with their heavy, round fruit, and get drunk onthe notion of ditching city life to tend acres of Vitis vinifera or labrusca. It’squite another to actually do it.Carlo DeVito hadn’t planned on living out “Green Acres.” He was moving andshaking in Manhattan’s publishing world at Running Press, an enthusiastwhose interest in wine led him to become the in-office expert on the topicand, eventually, to oversight of RP’s wine books. He even shepherded a seriesof Wine Spectator tomes from notion to shelf. But he started spendingweekends and vacations hitting local wineries and wine-growing regions withhis wife, Dominique. Then he wrote his own book on East Coast wineries.
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BEHIND THE BOTTLE | November/December 2009http://www.ediblemanhattan.com/november/december-2009/behind...1 of 411/6/2009 7:53 AM
 
Then, well… then he found the 14-acre parcel, once part of the old BriskleaFarm up in Chatham, which, until about 30 years ago, was home to some of the finest Ayrshire dairy cows in all the land. And that, pretty much, was that.“You see all these advertisements for wine and it looks like a great big partyand you think, ‘Oh, we’re going to have a ball!’— no!” says DeVito. “It’s thehardest thing, but there’s a sense of accomplishment, a sense of doingsomething good for and with the earth that I can’t explain, but I’ve foundnothing else to replace the experience.”The whole family—DeVito, Dominique, and their two sons—moved up into thecirca 1780 farmhouse and started the hard work of turning fallow, shale-richsoil into vineland; abandoned, dusty rooms into a home; and a Manhattanite’skooky dream into a life’s work.“In our first year, we did about 200 cases. Last year, about 1,200. This year,we’ll do 2,000 to 2,500 cases.” While at first De-Vito was trying his hand atdifferent varietals and buying grapes from other spots until his own vineswere ready, a night spent tasting older vintages of the French hybrid baconoir with the man who would become his winemaker brought his directioninto focus. He’d been buying some old-vine baco from Steve Casscles,formerly of Ben Marl, who grows the grape on the four or five acressurrounding his home and, at that point, was only making some for personalconsumption. “They are wonderful old vines that he takes care of like amother hen, walking around talking to his plants and fussing over them,”laughs DeVito. “He’s a gifted and talented winemaker.”An invitation to dinner at Casscles’s home led to a late night of tasting thatshowed DeVito the grape’s potential. “He pulled out these 15- and 20-year-oldbacos that were standing up beautifully, and I thought, ‘This is where I wantmy wine program to go.’” A year after buying the farm, DeVito and Cassclesmade the first 100 cases of Hudson-Chatham’s 2007 Baco Noir Reserve.“When I opened this bottle, my husband’s cousin, Alessandro, was visitingfrom Lombardy, Italy; he grew up helping his dad press, ferment and fillbottle after bottle of rustic reds, so I was curious to see what he’d think. Wesat at the dining room table, popped the cork and sipped. ‘You know,’ he said,‘it really reminds me of a Barbera,’ and I immediately understood what hemeant.” With its zippy acidity and medium-light body, DeVito’s 2007 baco noircarries aromas of blackberry and black cherry, and has a wild, brambly qualitythat added a rustic edge, making me hanker for a long-simmered, tomato-yveal stew.This year DeVito planted a few acres of his own baco and invested in anothervineyard a little farther south, with an eye toward growing cabernet franc, andthe source of what will be his vineyard selection baco noirs. “It’s really aboutterroir. That’s why we want to do a vineyard-designate program. It’s all aboutlocal, as far as I’m concerned,” he says, pointing out the little area’s artisanalcornucopia: two neighboring organic beef farms, a cheese maker a mile downthe road, a microbrewery and more wineries slotted to open.DeVito gets gallons of excitement from being part of this community. Hewaxes rhapsodic about their tomatoes, which they simmer into marinara
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(using their wine as a secret ingredient, of course), the maple syrup they makeeach winter, the balsamic vinegar, the port. “This is really part and parcel towhat we want to do: to make true, quality wines,” he says. “We want to turn theclock back.”
Wine, spirits and food writer Amy Zavatto just got a new stove and named it Teresa after her Calabrese grandmother who, despite coming from a family of home-winemaking Italians, preferred bourbon Manhattans.
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