Couple Finds Success on the Vine in the Hudson Valley

Couple Finds Success on the Vine in the Hudson Valley

Ten years ago, Dominique and Carlo DeVito decided to supplement their careers in publishing with a life as entrepreneurs. They’d always been interested in wines from around the world, and had visited many wine-growing regions. They were ready to have a go at it. After nine months of searching, the DeVitos found a perfect fit for their vineyard plans in Ghent, NY – a piece of farmland that had been part of a former dairy farm.
The hilly, southern-facing slope where they envisioned planting grapes had the right combination of drainage and full sunlight, and the property itself was zoned for commercial, residential and agricultural use, which was important. Testing by Cornell Cooperative confirmed the soil conditions were conducive for growing grapes, and in early 2006 the DeVitos purchased 14 of what was once a 500-acre farm. The property’s location halfway between Hudson and Chatham led the couple to select the business name of Hudson-Chatham Winery. Theirs was the first winery in Columbia County.

“We staked out the rows and planted 1,000 vines in May of 2006. When they were first planted, we used protective tubing around them to protect them, and we put fencing around the property. Between the deer and birds, it can be a challenge to keep the grapes on the vine,” explains Dominique.

The DeVitos spent the next three years traveling back and forth from New Jersey to their fledgling vineyard on weekends and summers so that their twin sons could continue their normal school schedule. In 2008 they moved permanently into the 1790’s historic farmhouse, which is featured as their bottle label brand. The couple selected French-American hybrid grapes such as Seyval and DeChaunac that are better suited to survive in their climate, which can have frosts as late as May.

“The grapes are harvested by hand at different times depending on ripeness, made into wine, bottled, aged and stored on our property. We started out making 500 cases of wine and today we are producing closer to 3,000. “Our goal is to produce wine that is reflective of the fruit itself,” says Carlo. “We do everything by hand.”

When the DeVitos were ready to expand in 2013, they found help from Columbia Economic Development Corporation in nearby Hudson. An SBA microlender, CEDC provided the DeVitos with microbusiness training and approved the couple for a microloan. The loan enabled the couple to purchase a tractor, protective netting, and other equipment that increased profitability.

“CEDC has been very supportive of our business. I’ve even been back to speak at the microbusiness course as an owner. We’ve learned that there’s always something that will jump out at you that you didn’t expect, so having that business plan as ready as possible is important,” says Dominique.

The Hudson-Chatham Winery has garnered numerous awards, including being named the Capital Region’s Best Local Winery for three of the past five years. Bottles are carefully crafted yet competitively priced, and include reds such as their $22 2011 Merlot, rated 87 points and described as “elegantly structured” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and whites like their $16 Estate Seyval Banc. The winery has even been featured in the New York Post, New York Times, and on Food Network’s Farmhouse Rules with Nancy Fuller. The awards, high ratings in wine magazines and positive media coverage have all helped generate business leads in liquor stores and restaurants.

You’ll find other locally-made goods besides Hudson Chatham wines in their tasting room, including cheeses, salami, crackers, and other foods that pair well with various wines. Carlo and Dominique have also worked to organize and publicize the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail, bringing together owners of wineries and distilleries in their area into a prime tourist destination. The success of the beverage trail is due in part to the growing popularity of the area around Hudson, NY, with downstate tourists, who enjoy the lush landscapes, arts community and farm-to-table restaurants that are just a two-hour train ride from New York City.

In addition to the Beverage Trail, the DeVitos attract visitors to the winery with regular events. Now in its eighth year, the winery’s Sangria Festival has become well-known throughout the region, and it offers attendees the chance to enjoy five different sangrias and Flamenco guitar music every August. In December, the winery hosts its final event for the year called Bubbly Beginnings and Endings, which features sparkling wine cocktails.

In the summer of 2015, the couple opened a satellite tasting room in Tannersville, NY, near Hunter Mountain in Greene County, where Hudson-Chatham plans to introduce the mountaintop community to its selection of award-inning artisanal wines throughout the year.

“One of the most rewarding things for me is when someone visits the winery and says they’ve never had a New York State red wine they’ve liked, and I can pour them one of our wines and change their mind,” says Dominique. Though they have sold hundreds of books during their careers in publishing, running their own winery is a different taste of success: “I get a huge charge out of selling my wines. It’s an amazing experience, a great lifestyle, and you are really tied into nature,” adds Carlo.