In the fall of 1998, long before the Hudson Valley was national craft beverage mecca, before the words “Napa of the East” had ever been uttered, husband and wife Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore produced their first vintage on the nascent Whitecliff Vineyard in Gardiner. This year, the Migliore family celebrates 20 years in the Hudson Valley wine-making business. “We are still going strong, an accomplishment we are proud of in a challenging farm-based business,” Yancey says.
Originally intended as Michael’s retirement plan after a career in engineering at IBM, the vineyard quickly turned into an obsession. Raised in the Bronx, Michael grew up with European grandparents who made wine in their basements, and was eager to see what flavors he could coax from the fertile land of a former dairy farm. He began planting small amounts of different varieties to test what would work well in this Northeastern climate. In July ’99, the tasting room opened to the public, boasting homemade wine and epic views of the Shawangunk Ridge.
- Yancey and Michael's son Tristan, helping around the farm at an early age. Tristan now manages the Wine Club and Whitecliff's wholesale accounts.
Over the years the operation has grown steadily. Twenty-six of the 70 acres in Gardiner are planted with grape varieties, and they recently planted six acres at a new riverside property in Hudson, where they are also opening a second tasting room.
Whitecliff has been an essential pioneer of the Hudson Valley wine industry, earning global recognition for their vintages. In 2018, they started and ended the year with a bang, earning double gold for estate wines at both the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (Gamay Noir) and at San Francisco International Wine Competition (Cabernet Franc). Yancey says candidly, “I’ve had customers tell me, ‘I came for the view, but I stayed for the wine.’”
Gold Standard Tastings
“Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of changes in how people approach and enjoy our wine tastings,” Yancey says. “More groups, bachelorette parties. It’s not just a quick taste—people are looking for an experience.” In response to the changing demand, in addition to their standard tasting flights, Whitecliff has developed the Gold Tasting.
These private, seated tastings feature a guided sampling of eight of Whitecliff’s 30 wines, chosen in discussion with the guests; cheese and crackers; and a tour of the winery. Through an in-depth conversation, participants learn about the wines themselves and the art of tasting, while developing a keener sense of their own preferences. “People can easily be intimidated by wine. But the only thing that matters is a good sense of what you like and how to ask for it,” Yancey says. “People have said to me, ‘I’ve toured in Napa and learned more in 20 minutes here.' We really enjoy the educational aspect.”
Gold tastings are $35-40 a person, depending on group size, and only by reservation. Call (845) 255-4613 to reserve.
Whitecliff Wine Club
Another way to develop an in-depth appreciation of the full range of Whitecliff’s award-winning wines is to join their wine club. Unlike other oenophile memberships, this one is free to join, flexible, and you get to choose all your wines. Whether you sign up for the half-case or full-case club, you buy twice a year in February and August, plus you receive discounts on wine purchases and free tastings all year round. It’s like having a savings card for your local supermarket.
Members can either pick up at the tasting room or get their bottles delivered by mail. They also get to participate in exclusive events all year round, like an education wine blending seminar.
Visiting the Vineyard
While the Gold Tasting and the Wine Club allow you to cultivate a deep familiarity with Whitecliff's vintages, anyone can stop by the tasting room during opening hours for a spur-of-the-moment taste. “In a way, the blooming of the craft beer and spirits industries has distracted from Hudson Valley wines, but the quality of the wine is there,” Yancey says. “When people are ready to discover it, we’ll be waiting.”
Through the end of May, Whitecliff Vineyard is open Thursday through Monday, 11:30am-5:30pm; and Saturday, 11:30am-6pm. June through October, the tasting room is open Sundays through Fridays, 11:30am-5:30pm and 11am-6pm on Saturdays.