The Hudson Valley region of New York State is home to multiple breweries and wineries. While traveling in the area, we spotted El Paso Winery and were intrigued to see what they were creating. Located not too far from the Hudson River, El Paso made for an interesting and surprising visit.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I first noticed that there were no visible vineyards in the vicinity. Normally, the land around a winery is surrounded by acres of grapes, but none were to be seen. Undeterred, we walked into the small, charming tasting room and gift shop where we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable at the tasting bar. Maryl Vogel, the owner and winemaker, was managing the sales and service, and doing an admirable job of taking care of the multiple customers that came in during our visit. Maryl informed us that each person gets two free tastings off the wine list so we asked to try the driest wines that Maryl was most proud of.
- White Wine, Traminette grape
- Served ice-cold, a bit spicy with a good floral nose.
- Dry Rosé blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet
- Cool, crisp, and refreshing with a touch of grapefruit in the nose. A nice delicate, restrained strawberry character.
- Done in the classical French style.
- Slightly smoky, hints of pepper and coffee.
- Soft and mellow.
- A bit spicy, yet smooth. Complex flavors, mostly of bright berries.
- Vincent grape
- Rustic, spicy, and very juicy.
- This wine reminds Maryl of the Chianti her Grandfather used to make.
I was a bit surprised that our tastings were served out of small plastic cups, but I imagine this helps cut overhead costs for glassware and cleaning. The wine we had was decent and reflected the terroir of many different regions which I will discuss later. My favorite was the Rosé, done in the classic French style with a nice dry character accentuated with bursts of strawberry.
El Paso Winery was actually established by Felipe Beltra, an immigrant from Uruguay, over 30 years ago. During his tenure at the winery, Felipe created sweet wines with grapes grown on site. When Maryl Vogel and her husband met him, she wanted to learn the wine making process and business. After working with Felipe for only a short time, Maryl realized that this is what she wanted to do with her life, and in 1998 she and her husband purchased the winery.
Maryl has transformed El Paso into a winery that is wildly different from what Felipe created. While she still creates some sweet blends based off of Felipe’s recipes, all grape vines have been removed from the property. Maryl specializes in dry reds and gets all of her grapes from other regions of New York. I do not normally talk about the wines that a winery produces that use grapes outside the local area, but El Paso is different. Rather then be tied down to harvests that do not reveal the character of the wine she is looking for, Maryl sources from other locations such as Long Island and the Finger Lakes region of New York. More specifically, the red grapes are mostly from Long Island and the whites such as the Riesling come from the Finger Lakes.
Instead of battling a terroir which is not ideal for El Paso’s wines, the outsourcing of grapes seems like a smart choice. All the grapes are crushed before being shipped to the winery where Maryl completes the process to make wine. About 70 percent of their finished wines are dry, with the other 30 percent being sweet. The most popular wines at El Paso are the dry whites and reds. Many customers frequently come up from Manhattan as the wine is only available to purchase from the winery or through mail order.
I give a lot of credit to Maryl for establishing a winery that does not use any locally sourced grapes. I have had some Hudson Valley wines before and know that many of them can be very unforgiving if not handled properly. Choosing grapes from two other New York regions appears to work well for El Paso and allows them to create some nice wines without battling the finicky growing conditions of the area. Some of the wines have also won awards at the New York State Fair. Maryl’s favorite wine she makes is Bella Luna, a red blend composed of four different grapes. Unfortunately this wine was out of stock during our visit.
El Paso is located within a large 125 year old wooden barn filled with lots of character and charm. The gift shop has plenty of items to purchase along with the wine. Maryl also keeps pre-chilled bottles on hand if you choose to buy some and sit out on the back deck. I recommend stopping in if you are interested in seeing what a winemaker can do when they source grapes from the regions that best fit in with their vision of the finished wine.
Not too far from El Paso Winery is the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1871 and can still be toured today. It is located in the middle of the Hudson River and is only accessible by boat. I have heard that a great amount of restoration work has gone into the lighthouse and is well worth a visit if you are interested in the maritime history of the region.
El Paso Winery
742 Broadway Route 9W, Ulster Park, NY 12487
Visited August 9th, 2015
Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.