The kitchen gardens, fruit orchards and vineyards of the Northeast have never been short of good wine and produce and there’s nowhere better to find it all in one place than at Rhinebeck’s annual Hudson Valley Wine
& Food Fest.
Canceled last year owing to Covid-19, the festival, which traditionally takes place at the Dutchess Country Fairgrounds the weekend after Labor Day, has been a fixture on the county calendar for two decades and has become the region’s premier showcase for New York wineries and specialty foods.
Over the years, the organizers have added a New York craft beer pavilion, with numerous distilleries and hard cider producers now taking part. This year, all the major Northeast wineries will be represented, as well as some fledgling start-ups, along with craft breweries, distilleries, gourmet food trucks, artisans, vendors and purveyors, all concentrated on, although not limited to, our region.
Always a big draw, celebrity chefs will also be on hand with cooking demos and food samplings. Wine seminars and live music will add to the party atmosphere and the very full wine and culinary program.
The festival’s promoter is WineRacks.com, specialists in wine storage and cellaring, whose president, Michael Babcock, made the decision with event coordinator, Jennifer Cristaldi, to cancel last year’s event because of the pandemic. It was not one made lightly but rather the result of months of evaluation, consultation and discussion. As Cristaldi said at the time, “The safety of our guests is of top priority and as difficult as it is to have to wait another year, we feel it’s in everyone’s best interest.”
Well, that year has almost come around, and the excitement is building. Already confirmed for this year’s fest are a dozen food trucks and concessions, including Ecuadorian cuisine from the popular La Ruta del Sol; Jamaican street food from Reggae Boy Jamaican Food; perogies, kielbasa and other Polish delicacies from Janek’s European Specialities; and tangy Thai dishes from the highly-regarded Thailicious Catering, which is based in Poughkeepsie. Homemade ice creams and desserts will be offered, among others, by artisanal creamery Nancy’s of Woodstock.
And when it comes to specialty and gourmet foods for purchase, whether it’s fermented vegetables or gourmet pickles that tickle your taste buds, or cupcakes, handmade fudge or all-natural toffee that sweetens your tooth, the fest has it all.
Although the final lineup has yet to be confirmed, what is assured is that more than 50 vendors will be offered everything edible, quaffable and smokable, from hand-rolled organic cigars to organic dog treats to restaurant-grade charcuterie boards, all vying for your attention — and that’s before we even get to the wine, beer and spirits, which are really the main thrust of the show.
More than 30 New York wineries are already signed up, to be joined by around 15 craft breweries and 10 distilleries — once again, all from our area. A few international wines liquors are also represented, by way of contrast and variety
With seminars and tutored tastings taking place throughout the weekend, with instruction and invaluable advice about choosing, tasting, storing and serving wine, not only does the festival provide fun in the moment, but those eager to learn something about the winemaker’s art or the brewer’s skill can actually take away something longer-lasting.
And while the participating chefs for the cooking demos have also yet to be confirmed, past veterans from “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Chef Wanted,” “Chopped” and “Iron Chef” suggest there should be more than a few well-known names and faces in this September’s lineup.
All demos, by the way, are included in the food festival admission price.
The fest is thoughtfully planned, with available tickets for purchase, including one day or weekend tasting tickets, as well as one-day or weekend “designated driver” tickets, which like the tickets for underage visitors obviously do not include alcohol.
And here’s an idea: If you want to visit over both days, why not make the festival the focus of a late summer weekend? The festival’s website helpfully gives some stayover suggestions, including the Mirbeau Inn & Spa, (which WAG reviewed in November 2019), and the charming Baker House B&B, a five- minute walk from the center of Rhinebeck, which is offering a 10% discount for Wine & Food Festival guests.
All in all, what you might call a wine-wine situation.
This year’s Hudson Valley Food & Wine Festival takes place on Sept. 11 and 12. For more, visit hudsonvalleywinefest.com.